Wisdom from our Elders (Tammy Martens) 4.28.19

I thought today would be a perfect day, as we celebrate the rite of confirmation, to listen to the voices of our elders and have them share with us their wisdom about Christian commitment and what it means to belong to a Christian community.

audio version of Wisdom from our Elders

I thought today would be a perfect day, as we celebrate the rite of confirmation, to listen to the voices of our elders and have them share with us their wisdom about Christian commitment and what it means to belong to a Christian community.

I interviewed 6 elders. I’d like to introduce them to you. Fern Hernandez, Dick Rossmiller, Lois Rossmiller, Jeanne Garnett, Dorothy Peterson, and Jean Rush. All of them either were confirmed or joined a church when they were approximately 14 years old. That would have been between 70 and 75 years ago. To our youth being confirmed, add 75 years onto your age and try and imagine what that might look like. In addition, these elders have belonged to a church for their entire lives. All of them have been members of this church for over 55 years. Jeanne Garnett, a charter member of this church, has been a member for 64 years.

These are the questions I asked them: In what church were you confirmed? What year: Describe one teaching you remember from your confirmation experience or church experience. How long have you been a member of ORUCC? What are some reasons you have made church a part of your life? Name something of your faith/understanding of God that matters to you?

What I noticed in the answers of our elders is their description of an inward component of faith and an outward expression of action and these aspects of their religious life were nurtured, challenged, and encouraged in a church community.

Within all of us is an inner sanctuary of the soul—a place we connect with the Divine, an inner spiritual well where we draw strength, forgiveness and comfort. Our elders expressed a connection to this place. Fern shared that during confirmation she learned about prayer. She shared that “Prayer is the conversation of the heart with God for the purpose of praising him and thanking him for whatever he gives us.” This was part of her confirmation training and has fed her soul all through her life. Dorothy also shared about prayer and said “I learned about prayer and how necessary, comforting, and sustaining it could be in daily life.”

Jean Rush spoke of a Bible story that helped her understand God’s forgiveness. She shared that “In the Bible the story of the Prodigal Son spoke to me. The love of the father for his 2 sons never changed no matter how the 2 sons lived. It certainly showed complete forgiveness to the son who had left home according to his own wishes.” In addition, Jean shared that “knowing that God loves me is so assuring in my life.”

Lois shared that she “finds strength in John 14:3—And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself. That where I am there you may be also.”

And Jeanne Garnett shared that “God is all around me and takes care of me. I don’t have to worry about anything.”

We can see that throughout the decades our elders have been nourished by God’s Spirit of love, forgiveness, comfort and strength.

In addition, our elders spoke of their beliefs that have been definitely shaped by their understanding of the Christian faith.

For Dorothy she believes that “love is the greatest gift of all, and the second is forgiveness.”  She also shared that the older she has become the more she has learned patience and believes that everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.

Both Jeanne Garnett and Fern shared that God’s love for all children and the Golden Rule have been guiding principles for how they live their lives.

Dick shared that “God is unknowable, but we should try to live a life that honors what we believe God’s will is.”

Our elders also expressed their strong belief in being part of a church that was active in social justice issues. Richard and Jean Rush both shared that it’s important to be “part of an active Christian Church that tries to do the “right thing” and has a strong active outreach program.”

They all shared how important it has been for them to be part of a church community and how their parents and grandparents were part of a church community.

Dorothy shared “Church has always been a part of my life. My maternal grandparents joined the Belleville church about 1900 and it was where my mother was baptized, confirmed and married, as was I. My husband and I were married in 1951 and became members of First Congregational Church in Madison for six years. We build a house in Orchard Ridge in 1957 and joined ORUCC a year later. I loved attending church, teaching Sunday School and VBS, and even in high school gave some thought to becoming a minister someday. Our two children grew up at ORUCC, baptized and confirmed and attended Sunday School. Our church gave us spiritual comfort, friends, and a special “family.”

Jean Rush shared that “Church helps me to try to live my life as well as I can. Being honest, helpful, loving, forgiving are attributes I strive for.”

All of these elders were baptized in the church, grew up in a church, got married in a church and continued to be members of a church throughout their lives. They have run the race of faith and continue to do so, bearing witness to God’s mercy and forgiveness and God’s call to live out our faith in community. We are recipients of their commitment to Christ, their commitment to this church, and their witness to be spiritually alive, joyfully inclusive, and committed to justice. We as a church are deeply grateful.

On this day of Confirmation we not only celebrate our young people but also these elders and all the other elders in our congregation who have shown us how to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

Fern

St. Stephens UCC, Merrill, 1943

What is prayer? Prayer is the conversation of the heart with God for the purpose of praising him and thanking him for whatever he gives us.

If I make it to my 90th birthday it will be 90 years as a member of the UCC denomination.

God’s love for all his children.

 

Richard

St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1942

Jesus died for our sins.

Member of ORUCC—57 years

Reasons—Be part of an active Christian ministry that tries to do the “right thing.” Friendships formed over the years that persist today. The church’s active outreach program.

God is unknowable but we should try to live a life that honors what we believe God’s will is.

 

Lois

Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church, early 1940’s

1962

We found ORUCC was a good choice for us and our family. WE found we were accepted and could be active participants.

Find strength in John 14:3—And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself. That where I am there you may be also.”

 

Jeanne

First Congregational Church. Not confirmed. Joined in either 1936 or 1937.

Golden rule

Charter member, September 1955

  1. Church has always been a part of my life. There was never any doubt that I wouldn’t be a Christian.

God is all around me and takes care of me. I don’t have to worry about anything.

 

Dorothy

Evangelical and Reformed Church of Belleville. April 14, 1946.

Each confirmand was given a personal Bible verse. Mine was John 3:16 and it has been my favorite verse ever since.

I learned about prayer and how necessary, comforting, and sustaining it could be in daily life.

61 years, 1958

Church has always been a part of my life. My maternal grandparents joined the Belleville church about 1900 and it was where my mother was baptized, confirmed and married, as was I. My husband and I were married in 1951 and became members of First Congregational Church in Madison for six years. We build a house in Orchard Ridge in 1957 and joined ORUCC a year later. I loved attending church, teaching Sunday School and VBS, and even in high school gave some thought to becoming a minister someday. Our two children grew up at ORUCC, baptized and confirmed and attended Sunday School. Our church gave us spiritual comfort, friends, and a special “family.”

 

Jean

First Methodist Church of Appleton, 1944, May 19th. I hadn’t been baptized so I was baptized before the confirmation ceremony. That made me a full member of the church. I joined the senior choir and attended all through high school. In college I joined Wesley Fellowship at Oshkosh’s Teacher College.

In the Bible the story of the Prodigal Son spoke to me. The love of the father for his 2 sons never changed no matter how the 2 sons lived. It certainly showed complete forgiveness to the son who had left home according to his own wishes.

July 1962. 57 years.

Church helps me to try to live my life as well as I can. Being honest, helpful, loving, forgiving are attributes I strive for. ORUCC is a very special church reaching out to those in need, while being open to those in the congregation.

Knowing that God loves me is so assuring in my life. Having loving friends around me at church and elsewhere helps to keep my spirits up.

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