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A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also
lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with
perseverance the race that is set before us…
–Hebrews 12:1

Spiritual writer and teacher, Henri Nouwen wrote of an experience he had in Peru at a cemetery on All Saints’ Day. When he entered the cemetery he said that there were literally thousands of people gathered around the graves of their loved ones. They had spread blankets on the ground, covered with bananas and oranges and urpo, a special kind of bread baked especially for that day. Walking to and fro through the cemetary were pairs of “praying boys” who would approach and ask if they could be permitted to pray at the grave of the deceased family member. Nouwen said the sound of the earnestly praying boys was “a strangely pleasant rhythm that seemed to unite all that was happening into one great prayer.” After the boys finished praying, they would open their sacks to receive their compensation for the prayers—a banana, a few cookies, a piece of cake. This scene was repeated over and over again throughout the cemetery.

Nouwen made this observation about his experience:

In front of my eyes I saw how prayers became food and food became prayers. I saw
how little boys who had to struggle to survive received life from the dead, and how the
dead received hope from the little children who prayed for the salvation of their souls.
I saw a profound communion between the living and the dead, an intimacy expressed
in words and gestures whose significance easily escapes our practical and often skeptical
minds.

The three day celebration encompassing All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day is one of the feasts of the Christian year. It is marked by a reverence for and remembrance of those who have died in the faith and gone before us into the communion of saints. Every year at this time, we observe this ancient feast of the church by lifting up those from our own community of faith who have died in the Lord since the last feast observance.

There are two opportunities for you to participate in this meaningful Christian spiritual practice. On Thursday, November 1st, All Saints’ Day, we will have a quiet meditative vespers service in the chapel at 6:00 pm. This service has been especially meaningful for family members who have lost someone in the last year. It is open to all who wish to participate. On Sunday, November 4th, we will gather to worship God with beautiful worship that focuses on the meaning of All Saints’ Day in the Christian year. We will celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper by intinction. As you come forward to receive the gifts of bread and cup from Christ, you will have an opportunity, if you wish, to light a memorial votive candle for someone special to you who has died and joined the communion of saints. In this way, we connect the communion we share with Christ in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with the great cloud of witnesses, the communion of saints that surrounds and inspires us to dedication and perseverance in our faith day by day. Please plan to join us for this meaningful time.

Grace and Peace,

Jeff

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