Will This Be My Last Greatest Generation Farewell?

I am not sure how many more members of the Greatest Generation I will get to bury. If it turns out that the one who died at age 87 this month was the last in my congregation, it will have been a magnificent way to end the chapter.

Ernie was an unassuming man. He was decorated for valor, but did not go on to have an “important career” in any worldly sense. He died six miles from where he was born and like many who determined to stay in this quiet corner of New Hampshire, had to cobble together an assortment of jobs to provide for his family. He had a bad heart and a big sweet tooth. He was a man of few words, but always a Sunday morning presence in his pastel sports coat.

The town came out for Ernie on Tuesday. We had to start the service late because on the long line of people waiting to get into the Meetinghouse. The librarian closed the library for an hour so all could come to the service. The innkeepers sent over punch and a milk crate full of glass punch cups. The café owner made sure we had a mountain of pastry.  One of the school bus driver delivered tuna sandwiches  by yellow bus. Even the sexton of the cemetery arrived from his other duties of the day with brownies he and his daughter had baked. Church members had been busy for days organizing food platters and weeding the ground-cover out front. We all wanted to get it right for Ernie.

Four of Ernie’s children and grandchildren spoke at the service. They told wickedly funny stories to remind us of serious things.

The lesson I won’t forget? The story of a father who had earned a Silver Star during WWII and  whose oldest son was already in uniform during the Vietnam era, who nevertheless did not question his second son’s decision to register as a conscientious objector.

I still deal with families that fractured and never completed healed as result of their disagreements they had during the Vietnam Era. I wish those families had known the wide embrace this quiet man with a knack for accepting people just as they were.

This week I was proud of my church and proud of my town and proud to have taken part in our farewell to one of the Greatest.

No, I Am Not the Vicar of Dibley (But She Could Be My Cousin)

Last week someone stopped to help me carry yard sale donations from my car into the Vestry.  As we moved the bird-feeders and muffin tins and embroidery books, he asked “Hey, have you ever seen that program The Vicar of Dibley? This kind of reminds me of that.”

You would be surprised how often that comes up in this PBS-loving community. And the answer is yes.  I was a big Vicar of Dibley fan when it was on the air. I once even ordered the VHS boxed set to give as an ordination present.  Given my profession, what’s not to love about a British comedy about the arrival of the first female vicar in a small English village?

There are some parallels between my world and the Vicar of Dibley’s. Geraldine and I both have bangs. We both love the churches we serve and worry about their finances. When we are alone, we both speak to God with a bluntness that borders on irreverence.

But the Vicar of Dibley is younger and funnier than I am and gets more marriage proposals. She is a chocoholic, whereas for me it’s all about licorice. And while my Church Council is a dedicated and entertaining crew, its members are nowhere near as eccentric as those in Dibley.

But there’s a little of Dibley in Hancock, I think. My work as the minister here is sometimes wildly unpredictable, and yet has certain comforting rhythms–times and purposes for every season under heaven. And not a week goes by when I don’t meet someone or hear something that restores my faith in the ordinary, faith in the wonders and surprises that keep surfacing, even out of our foibles and false starts.