So much loss. So many holes where loved ones used to be.

We’ve wondered how we can acknowledge all the grieving that people in our ABC congregation are going through because of the COVID disease among us. Some of us have had to settle for a last conversation by phone or FaceTime with someone we’ve loved all our lives. Nurses in our congregation have had to stand in for family members, holding the hands of people in their care while they take their last breaths. And we haven’t been able to have proper memorial services where we can share together what they’ve meant to us.

Our idea for a Community Memorial Garden on the ABC lawn started small, but it is growing continually:

  • First we focused on those who have lost a battle with the COVID-19 virus, beginning with Arthur Hendrix, whose wife, daughter and granddaughters are all part of the ABC family. Names of others were gradually (and sadly) added. Each individual is represented by a small yellow flag planted on the church lawn and the names are listed in a memorial book placed nearby.
  • Then we found that the COVID virus was not our only mortal enemy. Other families had lost loved ones to other critical diseases, including the natural erosion of old age. We encouraged these grievers to add their flags. Some wished to remember loved ones from years past. Our family planted a flag with the name of our son Steven, who passed away in 1985, but is still remembered lovingly.
  • We told others in our circle of caring, including spiritual leaders who are part of ACTS (Altadena Congregations Together Sharing), and they joined in supporting our effort. So we reached out and invited our neighbors to participate, including the folk who reside at Monte Cedro, the retirement community across the street. We’ve also informed the families of Altadena Children’s Center on the church property.

This is a personal invitation to YOU to join in placing flag(s) in honor of your own departed loved ones. Come up any time and follow the simple instructions located in the walkway next to the church lawn. Or, you may call me personally (Pastor George), and I’ll plant your flag and enter your loved one’s name in the memorial book.

Our Community Memorial Garden experience will culminate with our GOOD FRIDAY evening Zoom service (see announcement). On Saturday, the day after, we will replace the flags with Easter lily plants that people are donating, following our long Easter tradition. This will symbolize our faith, on behalf of our loved ones, in the power of life over death, an affirmation of our belief that we will meet them again in our eternal home. It will be a moment in which we express our solid belief in God’s love, grace and salvation, which is what binds us together as a church family.

Please be part of our Community Memorial Garden shared experience.

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Meanwhile, if you want to experience this time of preparation for the celebration of Holy Week in a new way, I have a suggestion. I’ve found that it helps me to look at an old tradition from a new perspective, so I’m planning on following the “Stations of the Cross” this year for my pre-Easter devotions. This is a spiritual discipline that developed in the Roman Catholic Church, and some of its elements come from traditions that are not found in the Bible. There are fourteen “stations” as Jesus carried his cross to Calvary, where he was crucified. The worshiper pauses at each station to meditate on what Jesus was going through.

I’m recommending a series of YouTube videos developed by Catholic praise leader Donna Corsi, in which she sings one of her devotional songs while showing images of what Jesus likely experienced at each station. Each video is about five minutes long. If you start this Saturday, March 20, with the first video (click here) you’ll end the devotional series on Good Friday. I hope you grow through walking this journey with Jesus.

– Pastor George Van Alstine