All Saints Day is the Sunday in the Christian calendar to remember, celebrate, and honor those saints who have gone before us, who create the great "cloud of witnesses."
Saints are not the model of Christian and human perfection.
Saints are those flawed, broken people (everyone) who God used to do holy things (all the things).
All Saints is the liturgical reminder that nothing, neither life nor death, can separate us from each other and from God.
Church of the Pilgrims has an All Saint's Day service that includes the lighting of candles and sharing the names of those who have died, particularly in the last year.
This year at Pilgrims we set the invitation to invite folks to come forward and light a candle, possibly saying the same and something about the person they are lighting the candle for. This happens in replace of a sermon.
At the end of the service this year, we created a memorial garden in our urban garden. This was inspired by many things, including a ritual that took place outside of worship a few weeks prior for a woman whose lost a baby from a miscarriage. As part of the ritual, we planted an azalea in the garden as an act of remembrance.
Creating this memorial garden was surprising simple. I asked several folks who had experienced loss in the past year to help out----buying pansies (which thrive in the cold), rocks and helping with the liturgy. Andy, our young adult volunteer, prepped the garden by loosening up the soil.
After communion, as we were gathered around the table, these words were spoken:
We have remembered the communion of saints through song and prayer, Word and sacrament. Now we remember by creating beauty in our garden.
Together, following the sound of Rachel’s drumming, we will gather up these pretty pansies, the rocks, and walk to the garden. There we will create a memorial garden for our cloud of witnesses by planting the flowers and writing on the rocks names of those who have died.
In the planting and in the writing of names we will create a space where love and relationships and memories are planted. It will be a place where we can visit and remember.
The plants and rocks won’t last forever. But neither do we. Hopefully those we remember with the rocks and the plants, in this creation of a memorial garden, will feel a bit closer to us.
As Rachel starts to drum, follow her. Rachel’s drum will sound like heartbeat, reminding us those who have died are still close to us.
For those who need a shorter distance to walk with no steps to climb, follow Andy.
Help take the flowers and rocks and markers out to the garden.
Let us go, plant, and remember.
Then we walked back to the garden with the beat of a drum.
Once we gathered in the garden, these words were spoken:
From ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and soil to soil. As we plant our flowers and write names on the rocks, we honor the lives of the dead. We honor they are now our ancestors, our communion of saints, a community of deep time.
As we plant and name, their spirits become imprinted upon our garden and linked to this land and Church of the Pilgrims.
While the mystery of death remains hidden from us, the living, we can be aware of death in our lives and how death can drive the beauty of this garden.
We can still be guided and cared for by our invisible community of the dead, made visible in these flowers and rocks. It is they who can remind us of the sacred responsibility we have as the living to protect and care for all of Creation—the home of the living and the dead. We can remember, as we plant the flowers in the soil and place the rocks, that life doesn’t disappear; it just changes shape and form.
If you don’t have a plant to plant for someone or the name of anyone to write on a rock, help someone else plant their plant. Help them place the rock gently on the soil after they’ve written a name.
Let us show each other we aren’t alone in our remembering.
Let us plant and name. Let us remember.
And with those words, we planted and wrote names on rocks. It took about 10 minutes. Some were silent. Some talked. Some hugged. Some helped others plant. Some just witnessed.
You don't need an outdoor garden to create a memorial garden. You don't need an architect or a master design plan.
You could plant in pots or various containers. Plants could be for indoor or outdoors. You could just use rocks.
To create a memorial garden you will need: Your body. Your tenderness. Your intentionality. Your body as memory maker. Your love. The living. The dead.