This past Saturday, thousands of people stood in the rain to enter a church and synagogue to honor the wonderful man who was the minister of our church for our 30 years. The doors of the synagogue were graciously opened to the overflow crowd. I think that would have pleased the man who we all came to know in special ways and to whom we were saying a final goodbye.
Actually, it is my son's church and The Reverend Frank Forrester Church was his minister. But my husband and I, although not members, have always supported the work of All Souls Unitarian in New York. I know many of you will understand the kinship that a man of God can have with a congregation. This particular man held out arms long and wide. One of the stories shared on the church web site was of a little girl coming to church for the first time and being asked what she remembered. She replied it was "wizard" in the flowing red robe. And so he was to many, but not to himself. Forrest, as we all called him, just did his work the best way he knew how. But indeed he was a gifted teacher, counselor, and friend.
This coming Christmas I will miss the story that Forrest always worked into his sermon. It was amazing to me over the years how he found new and refreshing ways to tell it. One of his ancestors was the Frank Church who, as a newspaper editor, wrote the now famous letter, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. It seems that belief is something that Forrest inherited.
After the service ended and the hymns were sung and tributes given, an elderly woman in a wheel chair was among the first to come up the center aisle. Bethine Church, Forrest's mother, blew kisses to the crowd with a lovely smile on her face. A beaming smile was also something Forrest had inherited. She had lost a son at 61, but she had gained the love and devotion of all those to whom he meant so much.
From this day, I share with you the simple but profound philosophy Forrest so often expounded: "Do what you can; want what you have; and be yourself." The rain was over when we left the church. My coat on the back of my chair had dried, but not the tears on my cheeks.