Since my age regularly reminds me that I have far more miles on my odometer in the past, than I have left in the future … yes, because I am “seasoned” … there are certain times of the year that I look to the days of old, more than I do to the future. All Saints’ Sunday is one of those “rear-view mirror” days. Not so much to remember the “good ol’ days”. Because each and every day is “good” whatever happens within those 24 hours. No, I look to the past to remember people that I cherished deeply when they were alive, and now miss because they are saints in the Church Triumphant.
A saint that I remember regularly is Mae Breneman. I think of her often, because I pass her home on the Lititz Pike numerous times a day. It is now the home for Strausser Surveying and Engineering, Inc. I love that one of our church member families has their business in Mae’s old home … with its pocket doors, a servant staircase, and a dining room that used to house an old dining table that could seat more than a dozen people.
I remember Mae, because she was remarkable. Everything about her spoke to the past. She looked a bit spinster-ish, even though she was a widow. Her home had that seasoned grace that only an old house possesses. She loved to serve beef heart to a young vicar and his wife, when she invited us to Sunday dinner. And she had a grape barber in her yard. Everything about Mae spoke to the past, and to things that had a few years under their belt. EXCEPT … Except … except … her perspective on life. In proof of that statement, I will share my favorite story that illustrates Mae’s progressive spirit.
One month into this your vicar’s internship, I was invited to the annual summer youth retreat at Stone Harbor, New Jersey, where we rented an old choir college that slept 40 people for about $200 a week … yup … in Stone Harbor … right on the bay inlet. Pastor Geib was senior pastor in those days, and my intern supervisor. He decided I should lead the topic for the summer beach retreat on … wait for it … “human sexuality.” I could not have been more terrified to open up that topic with 35 high school students I didn’t even know. The retreat was fine … the topic was one that survived this young vicar’s naivete. It was forgettable at best, but not harmful.
The part that was memorable occurred after I returned home. A friend of Mae Brenneman’s in the church, had a grandson on the retreat. As soon as he got home and told his Grammy what the youth discussed, Mae’s friend Jane called her to complain about the vicar and his topic. Mae shared her response with me, and I have never forgotten it. Mae said to her long-time friend … “I can’t think of a better person to talk with our children about sexuality that our pastor’s, and that includes our vicar.” Just a few words, but ones that both put Jane in her place, and gave credence and support for the new vicar. I miss Mae. She died too early in life in a car accident. But her affirmation and support became an indicator of the kind of generous support with which I would be blessed in my years at St. Peter’s.
And yes … this particular saint still walks with me regularly in my memories and in my spirit. And for that, I am grateful … to Mae … to God … and to the church on earth that remains connected to the Church Triumphant … on all Saints’ Sunday … and every day.