Old South Church
Boston MA 02116
Our Journey With God
by Lael P. Murphy
Excerpts from the sermon delivered
November 9, 2003
There’s a children’s church school poem that goes something like this:
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in the sycamore tree, the Savior for to see.
And when the Savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree,
He said, “Zacchaeus, come down from there, come down and speak to me.”
So Zacchaeus came right down and said, his face lit up with glee,
“I’ll give my money to the poor and a better man I’ll be.”
I love the story of Zacchaeus. I love it because it lays out a beautiful account of spiritual hunger, of Christ’s compassion, and of God’s transforming powers. Here, in these ten simple verses, we get a glimpse of what it means to follow Jesus even if -- when -- we may not feel we are worthy of God’s love. The story of Zacchaeus is an invitation to all people to journey with God.
For as we sit here in worship I believe that’s where we really are: up in that sycamore tree with Zacchaeus. Gathering in this place I sense we’re all hoping to catch a glimpse of God, clutching the trunk and branches of that tree as we touch these pews, hold our hymnals, turn the pages of the bulletin. Like Zacchaeus we peer with anticipation, recognizing that we may also be short in stature as we carry our burdens of the past, our present problems, our anxieties for the future into this house of prayer. We’ve realized there’s got to be more to life than the accumulation of money and material things and so we perch with that man, hoping for a vision of eternal truth and purpose.
At least I know that’s why I’m here. I confess to you today that I worship Sunday in and Sunday out because I seek a foundation for my life that’s filled with meaning and hope, one that offers mercy and love and inspiration. That’s how my journey began in this place nearly twenty years ago as some of you might remember I once worshipped at Old South, not up front like I am now, but rather in those far back pews - right where you people are in that left hand corner. I came here, newly out of college and working for a software firm, curious to find out how I might come to know and follow Jesus, eager to understand more about God. I came and I went, never saying a word to anyone around me. But I was listening intently, writing notes on my copy of the bulletin, getting inspiration from the words of Jim Crawford and Bob Christianson. Oh, don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t here every week! Eleven o’clock was often much too early for my lifestyle back then! But when I did attend church, here and in other places around this city, I know that I was climbing up that sycamore tree, sharing a limb with that chief tax collector. At five foot eleven I realized I was short in stature and I wanted to grow.
Yes, God works in mysterious ways. Like Zacchaeus Jesus called me down from that tree. In 1987 I left the corporate sector to help people in need, becoming an advocate for the elderly at Boston City Hall. My still very private faith continued to grow and in 1992 it became more public as I entered seminary, thinking I’d study to be a hospital chaplain. As the process unfolded I found myself returning to Old South to serve as your Pastoral Associate. By then it was 1995 I was no longer silent about my faith. I was staying for coffee hour and fellowship group dinners and retreats and work days. I was sitting with you in committee meetings and hospital rooms, in sewing circles and at cabarets. My singular experiences of seeking moved from private yearning to public learning as Jesus hollered to me over and over again, “Zacchaeus - Lael - come down from that tree!” I came down and walked cautiously. Here and in other places of faith I came down and learned to travel on the path of Christian service and discipleship in community.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu’s wisdom is so appropriately applied to the spiritual dimension. Step-by-step and day-by-day God forms us into devoted Christian disciples. With patience and love Christ shows us the way.
And this is why I now share with you one of my favorite aspects of this historic sanctuary - this grand and blessed treasure that is your church home. My favorite thing is not the cupola painted with stars high above us but rather the worn wooden floor boards down at your feet. Look in your pew: you’ll see the varnish faded by footsteps and scuffing, portions of the wood lightened and rough. You’ll see small marks in some places or larger patches in others and with them lies proof that it’s here we climb that sycamore tree, gathering together for a glimpse of God. Those markings are not an indication that the members of the Operations Committee have another project on their hands. No, that’s not my point at all! The worn floorboards of this place show the faithfulness of this congregation and they touch my heart and soul. They are your steps and mine on our journey down that road in Jericho.
Yes, “a journey…begins with a single step.” The story of Zacchaeus reminds us today that we are all invited to travel with God, no matter what our standing in life, no matter what our age or race, our gender or sexual identity, our I.Q. or our occupation. Through the conversion of this “wee little man” we see that God’s healing grace is offered to everyone. That’s the invitation presented to us, just as it’s offered throughout the gospels in the stories of the women at the well, the return of the prodigal son, the cleansing of the lepers, and curing of the blind. Over and over again the authors of Matthew and Mark, Luke and John show us that God’s grace is extended to the world in new and miraculous ways through the merciful acts of Jesus. Can we believe it? Can we admit that we are being invited down from this sycamore tree to walk with God?
I will always be grateful for our time together in this perch. I give God great thanks for the many ways we’ve come down from this tree to walk with Jesus. We have traveled far together. By the grace of God we’ve shared in times of worship and study, fellowship and service, making meals and banners, palm crosses and Christmas ornaments, our hands and hearts joined in Christian discipleship and love. Through the Spirit of Christ we’ve reached out to the hungry in body and soul at Saturday’s Bread and Hale House and Habitat for Humanity. At many, many committee meetings we’ve wrestled with ways to offer educational, financial and spiritual programs that might give life to the gospel here and in God’s wider world. Yes, together we’ve traveled from the manger to the cross and over to the empty tomb, sharing the joys of birth and baptism and the sorrows of sickness and death, always strengthened by our faith in a God who offers eternal and resurrecting power. For the last eight years our journey with God has been filled with grace and purpose and joy and I will always be grateful for it.
And so, as we come to this fork in the road I say to you through other images that have touched me deeply here:
With the second miracle window here on my right: “Damsel - woman and man - I say unto thee, arise.” Be healed by the love of God, made strong by Christ’s resurrecting power, that you may then, as shown in the center image on my left,
“Go and do thou likewise,” that following the example of our most loving and compassionate Lord you may go forward in your most personal lives to share that healing power of God with others.
For as it is etched in stone above the portico, the phrase celebrated here at Old South so joyfully, “Behold, I Set Before Thee an Open Door.” Today, with the story of Zacchaeus clear in our minds, we remember that the door that so lovingly welcomes each of us into God’s realm is one that also swings the other way, as it opens wide and beckons us back out into the world that we might spread the good news of the love and community we know here.
It’s with this image that we part today. Passing through that open door
we remember that while our time together here has come to an end, our journey
with God moves forward. You, the community of Old South, move forward with
God’s blessing and grace, continuing Christ’s great mission in this city
and world. You, with the leadership of Carl and Jennifer, Gregory and Guy,
Russ and Ely and Dwight, move into a new era that’s bright with hope and
promise. How could it be otherwise? For the God who has brought us this
far will continue to sustain us. And so I pray that your journey will always
be faithful, your hearts filled with Christ’s compassion, your souls filled
with God’s undying love.
Editor: Lael P. Murphy was called to be Minister of the Payson Park
UCC church in Belmont, where she began her new ministry on January 4, 2004
after her 9 wonderful years at Old South Church.
It All Starts with One Family
by Audrey Savikas, St. Marys Womens & Infants Center
A lot can happen to a family in one short year. Few people know this better than Brenda Rosario.
On December 22, 2002, Brenda and her two children moved from Puerto Rico to the United States. In the short time between then and today, they’ve faced challenges that many of us won’t confront in an entire lifetime.
They’ve been homeless. They’ve struggled to find shelter and support without knowing the English language. They’ve navigated through a difficult human services system seeking the most basic education and work training skills. Still, despite all of the obstacles, Brenda says she always maintained hope that things would improve: “Everything has a purpose, everything.”
Brenda didn’t know it at the time, but her family was just what The Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation had in mind three years ago when they began sponsoring a program called The One Family Campaign. Meant to “end family homelessness, one family at a time,” the program links faith-based organizations and family shelters to promote family self-sufficiency and to raise public awareness about the issues of family homelessness.
According to the One Family Campaign’s Web site: “(The current) level of family homelessness is unacceptable, and it is solvable. … Our extensive and direct experience bringing families home has taught us that ending family homelessness is not rocket science. It’s the kitchen table work of bringing together existing resources and new partners to help all families thrive.”
In Brenda’s case, The One Family Campaign brought together a long-standing Dorchester-based human services agency, St. Mary’s Women and Infants Center, and the Old South Church.
Only a month after their move to the U.S., Brenda and her two boys, ages 6 and 5, became homeless and sought help at St. Mary’s Women and Infants Center family homeless shelter program known as Margaret’s House. There, they received shelter, meals, library materials, a playroom for the boys, and a wealth of support and encouragement. The boys continued going to school; Brenda enrolled in an employment training program at St. Mary’s known as Women@Work. They worked on improving their English skills. They began their arduous search for an apartment. Lack of affordable housing and a decline in funding for subsidized housing means most homeless families in Boston remain in shelters close to a year before moving into an apartment, and Brenda and her family were no exception.
It was August -- nine months after she came to the homeless shelter -- before Brenda’s opportunity for independent living materialized and she found a two-bedroom apartment starting in October. But looking back, Brenda says it was meant to be that way, because it was also at that time that St. Mary’s finalized their collaboration with Old South Church for their first One Family Campaign sponsorship.
In her essay application for assistance from the Old South Church, Brenda wrote, “I have various goals to reach, but first is that my children are emotionally stable. I want them to be proud of themselves and proud of their mother. I want to teach, through my sacrifices, my efforts, and my actions that everything in life is possible as long as one travels down a good road and perseveres through difficulties.”
It was clear to St. Mary’s staff and the Old South Church volunteers that Brenda fit their criteria for selection under the One Family Campaign. She was a client in good standing, working toward self-sufficiency. She consistently followed a savings plan; she was motivated and paved a clear path of continued education, training and vocational advancement. She had a clear need for external resources and support.
When Brenda was first informed of her selection, language barriers prevented her from fully understanding what she had earned. She said she knew something good was happening, but it wasn’t until her case manager translated the words of the administrators to Spanish, that she began crying tears of joy.
“It was more than just them helping me, giving me things,” she said. “It was so much more than that. It was that I knew who was doing the work behind the good people.”
Still, it would have been much more difficult for Brenda to transition to independent living without the donations from the Old South Church. Volunteers paid for her moving expenses and her phone installation. They purchased a monthly transportation pass so she could continue attending Women @ Work. They also donated essential household items like a microwave, dishes, towels and even a personal computer.
Today, when asked about the best aspect of having her own apartment, Brenda responds, “My kids feel safety now. They have a place with fewer restrictions. They have space. When they get home, they just run and run.”
Brenda acknowledges that she and her family will continue to have challenges,
but this past year has taught her one important thing: “If I want to get
another level higher, nothing can stop me.”
Brenda Rosario will complete an internship at Blue Cross Blue Shield and will graduate from St. Mary’s Women@Work program on Dec. 22. She attends church regularly and has recently been invited to sing in her church choir. She is very thankful for the support and contributions from Old South Church, The One Family Campaign and St. Mary's Women & Infants Center.
St. Mary’s Women and Infants Center provides a comprehensive continuum
of care to homeless families, pregnant and parenting teens, children who
have been victims of abuse and neglect, and other women and children in
need. St. Mary’s operates three residential programs and an education and
Outreach with the Personal Touch
by James Earley
Chair of the Christian Service & Outreach Committee
“It was more than just them helping me, giving me things. It was so much more than that. It was that I knew who was doing the work behind the good people.” -- Brenda Rosario
There is no outreach like outreach with a personal touch. One of our members, Denise Olivera, asked if rather than just giving money, she could actually take Brenda and her two boys shopping for new winter coats.
Denise is orignally from Brazil. She came to this country when she was 9 years old. She grew up in Wash. D.C. and moved to Boston in 2000, where she is now employed by the Nixon and Peabody law firm. She started attending Old South at that time and became a member in October, 2001. The Christian Service & Outreach Committee arranged for Denise to speak directly with Brenda. They agreed to meet on Sunday, November 23rd immediately after they all returned from church.
They met at Downtown Crossing, since Denise recalled that she had purchased her own winter coat at Macy's last year. The two boys tried on numerous flashy, not warm coats, before Mom and Denise prevailed and convinced the boys to choose nice, warm coats. They then purchased boots for both the boys and Brenda.
While Brenda and her family will no doubt be very grateful for the many
donations and help given to her through the One Family Campaign, it is
the donation made with the personal touch from Denise, that she will likely
Helping the Garden Bloom: A Framework for Action
By Janet Eldred
How can churches build on existing good practice, correct shortcomings and establish mutually helpful connections with older women? How can older women empower themselves in their relationships with their churches?
Remember Mary’s comment that for her, not having a church connection would be ‘like spring without flowers’? One of the great joys of spring is to watch flowers emerging from the earth, blooming with color and completely transforming our gardens. How different spring would be without flowers! For there to be flowers in the garden come spring, however, we need to prepare the earth and tend the flower bulbs and seeds. We need to prune, plant and protect and provide for the flowers in order to gain their blooms.
In the same way, how incomplete the church community would be without older women. Yet, in order for older women to “bloom” and for the church community to truly experience “spring”, churches also need to prune, plant and protect and provide in their “gardens”. They need to care for and care about older women in a conscious, deliberate and committed way. Older women, on their part, need to empower themselves and make their voices heard within their local churches. What follows is a framework for action to help churches and older women together build community, maintain connections and enact caring-and help their gardens bloom.
In Chapter 2, I noted that segregation was one way in which church communities estrange older women. Bringing the generations together in meaningful ways not only serves to integrate older women into the life of the church but also provides younger people with positive role models of how to “be older”. Consider these ideas:
· Older women can be guest speakers to Sunday
school classes of young children, talking about not only their younger
days but also what keeps them busy and interested in life now. Sharing
their faith stories is a possibility in this context.
· Older women can be partnered with pre-teenagers and attend a “match-up” event or activity, such as a church supper, together. This becomes an opportunity for younger and older church members to share about their lives and to develop bonds beyond their respective families.
· With appropriate supervision and communication, teenagers can be pastoral visitors “in training”, teaming up with experienced older women as they make visits. In certain cases, this may give the younger person a chance to learn about the variety of ways of being older today.
The women with whom I spoke were very determined to remain part of their local churches. They expected to continue to participate in the church’s own work of community, connection and caring irrespective of their age, physical health or living situation. Many of the women felt on the fringes or excluded sometimes, but they were not going to give up lightly. (This may be due to either a strong sense of community and connection or because carving a place in that particular community involved so much effort that the alternative-seeking another church home-would be too much work and of doubtful success.) Continuing to attend services and meetings may not be an indication that all is well but rather a sign of a bond with the past or a reluctance to change. An older woman’s devotion to a particular institution may outweigh her frustrations and disappointments, forcing her to cope but not be satisfied. Older women’s loyalty is too often taken for granted and their silence taken for assent.
One of the simplest ways any church can tap into the resources of older women is to visit, talk to and especially listen to them. Their experiences are a great gift, one of many potential gifts they have to offer. Some women may not be accustomed to having their views sought and treated seriously and may be reluctant to step into the spotlight, even this small one. Be ready with encouragement. This dialog could provide an opportunity for older women, fellow worshippers and clergy to examine the details of the churchgoing experience. Ask frailer older women what sorts of contributions they feel capable of making; think creatively. Keep in mind that some older women will wish to step down from long-held offices, while others may have a strong desire to continue in particular roles.
Once a church has attended to the basics, how does it carry forward
its work with older women? A good place to start is for the church to ask
· What do we do that enhances community, connection and caring?
· What do we do that diminishes community, connection and caring? (Remember both sins of commission and omission!)
· How can we restore community, connection and caring when it has been damaged or is lacking?
Let’s consider each of these in turn.
ENHANCING THE 3 C’S
Rituals are important to mark the significant events of growing older, such as retirement (from paid employment or from church volunteering), moving home and passing on a precious memento to a cherished grandchild. Does your church acknowledge milestones, transitions and important events, both celebrations and sadnesses, in older members’ lives? Do you regularly honur older members who have given long service to the church community? Do you celebrate ageful lives? If not, what would older members themselves like to see happen?
Churches need to send out a clear message that older women are a welcome and valued part of the faith community-even if some of those women disagree with changes. Do you remember to keep older members who are housebound or who live in care homes up-to-date on church events? Is their input sought on important decisions? When your church makes changes-organizational, liturgical or in policy-do you first acknowledge and honour the past and then explicitly show older people how they can engage with the new picture?
Churches need to be more vocal about supporting older people, especially women, in their various non-church communities where they are more likely to encounter ageism. Many older women consciously strive to take their Christian principles into these communities, such as family, neighborhood and volunteer groups. Is the church standing with and encouraging them?
A range of pastoral care, from both clergy and laypersons, is important. Veeve elaborated: "I think what a number of older people lack is a feeling that there’s anybody who cares about them. And I think that is as important as all the other things. They need God’s caring demonstrating through human beings who really care, not just because they’re sent by the churches to care. When we get older, we get more cantankerous, more self-centered, and therefore it’s harder for people to contact us. That’s where they need something more than finances, social services, cleaning and whatever."
DIMINISHING THE 3 C’S
Sometimes older women make a conscious choice to be on the periphery of their church communities because of other commitments, because they do not want to be involved in cliques, or because they fear repeated insensitivity. Quite a few of the women with whom I spoke talked about problems they had had as newcomers to a church, and whether they were welcomed by fellow congregants and clergy. Some hurts went particularly deep and continued to be felt long after certain incidents had happened. From this, churches can be aware of the various and sometimes deeply hidden reasons why some older women are less involved in the life of a congregation than are others. Not only is this important from a pastoral perspective for the individual woman concerned, but it can also shed light on the dynamics of a particular congregation.
Watch for older women who may be feeling excluded or on the margins but not speaking up. It isn’t only housebound members who may feel isolated, although special concern should be taken to continue to involve housebound older women in the life of the church community. Older women having a transportation problem or feeling left out of changes at the church may also feel excluded. Caring church members and clergy will ask these women what would help them to feel more strongly connected to their churches-and take action.
Older women who have lost a partner or special friend are vulnerable to a loss of connection or sense of belonging, particularly as the majority of older women live alone (often a consequence of this loss). Be sensitive and helpful in such circumstances-especially many months after the bereavement, when the older woman may still be feeling its effects.
RESTORING THE 3 C’S
of the main tasks the churches can set for themselves is to lead the way in countering ageism. Ageism not only takes the form of exclusionary or discriminatory behaviours; it can also exist in positive-seeming views, such as the notion that older women have their faith “sorted” and do not have questions or doubts. In fact, older women may not be given the space to share their spiritual doubts, and some may keep silent if feeling threatened by either confident young persons or by enthusiastic, newly converted Christians. Churches also need to be aware that people do come to church for the first time in older age, and that these persons have many questions and are far from having their beliefs sorted out. Older women in this position will need as much attention, if not more, than younger “seekers” who will have potentially more years in front of them.
A time of many changes and challenges, such as older age, needs focused attention. Older Christian women are still growing in their faith, still discovering nuances of meaning and insights into God’s actions--both in their own lives and in the Bible. Several women mentioned a continuing need for religious teaching. Churches could encourage older women to contribute to and to build up the life of the church, by sharing these experiences and insights. Older women also thirst for ideas for how to grasp the spiritual meaning of growing into old age, and some seek a course on how to be an older Christian. Churches need to teach all people about the spiritual implications of ageing. Older people should be involved in developing such teaching, as theirs are the voices of authority. There is a growing awareness of this need, and a number of organizations, resource centers, dioceses, researchers and authors are working diligently to meet it. Nevertheless, there is much work still to be done.
What older women can do
Older women already know that their churches are important to them. Unfortunately, it is also apparent that what they seek from their local churches will not necessarily be handed to them. Older women must speak up and act. As is so often the case, it is women “doing it” for themselves that reaps results and gets attention. When they do this, they may then be able to form partnerships with younger women and others in the church, drawing on energy from a number of sources in addition to their own. In turn, their example of courage and resilience can inspire others with the knowledge that there is value in the church community.
How can older women “tend the garden”? They can befriend newcomers. They can use their life experiences to write historical articles for the church magazine, to act as pastoral visitors and to help those who are facing similar circumstances, such as bereavement. Those who are housebound may be able to use the telephone or e-mail, as well as cards and letters, to be a hub of church communication and a source of support and encouragement, much as they already are in their families. They might help churches restore lost or broken connections with lapsed and former members.
Older women can help overcome any ageism in the church by helping develop rituals and worship services to help celebrate the benefits of ageing and individuals’ milestone achievements. They can offer a course on the spirituality of ageing or bring in a speaker to address the topic. They can teach pastoral visitors about the special circumstances of visiting older people.
The best suggestions-to church folk and to other older women-come from older women themselves:
Find your niche and fill it. In my case, if I can grow something-flowers
or vegetables-and give it to somebody and be a good example in doing that,
then that’s what I do. (Barbara)
Never let someone you’ve gone to visit feel it’s a duty that you’ve
come. And listen to them a lot.
Life doesn’t stop at 60. There’s plenty of life after 60-even up to 90, you can still enjoy life. I don’t see that people should get written off because they’re retired. I think they have plenty to contribute. (Janet)
Get involved. Get your hands in the sink-that was a real bit of good advice an old lady told me years ago. Also, be prepared to be friendly to people, and they’ll be friendly back. (Lillian)
Give older women credit for experience that they’ve gained over the years and be prepared to accept a lot of their experience. I know that we can be stick-in-the-muds, but at the same time there’s still a lot that we can give. I think others should be prepared to listen and to seek it out more, because you don’t find that a lot of people necessarily volunteer things unless they’re approached. (Mary)
Remember that people do get older, but they don’t all become senile. They still have experience and alert minds and are quite happy to share either their knowledge or their questions with other people. And are willing to be used where and when it is necessary. Older people don’t like to be looked upon as something ornamental. (Phyllis)
Join in as much as you can and learn as much as you can. It’s helped me an awful lot being a member of a church. I think it puts your life in perspective in one way. As far as money and possessions go, theydon’t count as much to me as me Christian faith. (Ada)
Just take each day as it comes. Do what you can for the good of other people, and help others as much as you can. (Verity)
The younger ones should realize that the older ones have been young once. (Dora)
Live your life and enjoy it right up to the very end, if you can. Live it as well as you can. And love your neighbor. And love God. (Winnie)
A final word to local churches
Do not neglect your responsibility to today’s older women. Those in their late-60s will continue to be with us for as many as another 30 years. Cease to despair that your congregations are comprised largely of older people, and instead recognize them as a unique resource for your future. Then, look beyond the women within your own four walls and into the community where you are situated. Think and act ecumenically and reach out to older women who do not attend church at all. Work with the suggestions given here and, very importantly, share your successes so that we all can learn how to help our gardens bloom like spring.
Thanks for the Memories
Collected in honor of Lael P. Murphy on her departure from Old South Church
What I will remember most about Lael is her warmth and spirituality. Both Lael & Matthew are engaging and inspiring. -- Karen Britton
There are many things that we will all remember and miss. For me, it was the professional manner in which Lael kept meetings (Council, Deacons, etc.) moving - always on track, always focused. It was great having someone on staff who came to us directly from the 'business world' and it showed. However, unlike the business world she always found something to smile and laugh about within a meeting and that made all the difference many times. We need to laugh more and I think that was one thing, among others, Lael did and set a good example. - George Delianedes
I'll miss Lael's magestic aura of faith and hope and her fantastic pastoralprayers - they are awesome.. -- Laurie Stickels
I was fortunate enough to serve on the same staff with Lael Murphy during her first years in the ordained ministry. What a splendid teammate she was! Lael came to my attention from my daughter Betsy and her husband Bill Ragan who made her acquaintance as they overlapped at Andover Newton Theological School. They commended her highly. Lael's character, competence and commitment, they insisted, were without peer. We at Old South surely found that out - and more - over the course of her serving among us.
We discovered a radiance and depth rare in anyone. She possesses a piety permeating her whole person enabling us to recognize someone fully in love with her Lord and eager to reflect her Lord's care for other people. This capacity made her fabulously winsome. We all know she brought an elegant, sophisticated yet most modest and gracious presence to bear in her preaching and public responsibilities. In pastoral and staff relationships Lael was discrete, perceptive and able to get things going again when they ostensibly ran into stone walls. Her capacity to organize her dreams, manage her time, listen and be available to those who skirted the edges brought an efficiency and focus to her work among us increasing the breadth and scope of her gifts. Thank heaven, for the sake of the Old South, her antennae were tuned a little differently than mine and she could hear and interpret things my ears and synthesizing machinery couldn't. In Lael, Old South found itself blessed with a scintillating teacher, an insightful preacher, a first class pastor, a reverent, consoling, healing and encouraging presence. We can be grateful for our having known her and offer our prayers and confidence as she moves to her new charge at Payson Park. What a wise and discerning congregation they are! And talk about fortunate!! -- Jim Crawford
I will miss Lael's pastoral presence, reflecting her deep commitment to a life of prayer, meditation, scriptural study, and faithful actions of justice, love, and compassion for all. Her steady gaze upon us symbolized for me the love of God that stays with us in times of sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure, depair and hope. I thank God that her inspiration lives on in our community of faith! -- Ken Orth
In 1989 when I was a volunteer in the office of Boston Aging Concerns maintaining the address file, mail to a Ms. Plunkett was returned with no forwarding information. I noticed this particularly because it was the address of a women's residence where my sister Sarah had once lived. One Sunday several years later when Sarah came to church with my wife Mary and me, she was greeted by a hearty cry of recognition from our Pastoral Associate. Mystery solved: Lael Plunkett had become Lael Murphy, bringing her husband Matthew to Old South as well. I remember especially that greeting, so indicative of her pastoral warmth and concern, foreshadowing the great comfort she would bring to our family in days to come. -- John Dutton
Lael has a wonderful way of making everyone feel welcomed and special. I shall always remember how up-beat she is and will miss her ready smile and friendly words. Bob and I wish her the very best. -- Janet T. Murphy
I am a somewhat regular visitor from Brookline and attend with my husband and youngest daughter. Over the past 4 years that we have sat in the back of the sanctuary, I have been lifted by Lael's presence. I have always felt that she possesses a divine spirit that is glowing and I often see it in her aura from afar when I am in church. She truly is a special human being and I wish her all of God's good graces as she moves on in her calling. -- Deborah Raptopoulos
With heart-felt gratitude for the time we ministered together. You were (and are) a marvelous collegue. I thank you for your generous and gracious spirit, your deep faith, your commitment to the church, your sense of humor and for all you have done for me and for the people of the Old South Church. Especially for all the unseen deeds of love, kindness and compassion. You and Matthew have enriched the lives of so many, including Della and myself, for which we will always be grateful. God bless you both always. -- Carl F. Schultz, Jr.
One of our favorite memories with Lael is being welcomed into her office to pray with her. Her prayers of comfort and hope for our growing family connected us to God and to each other in profound new ways. Thank you, Lael! -- Laurel Smith-Doerr & Bill Doerr
I'll never forget the priceless performance of "Who's on First?" that Lael & Matthew did at one church luncheon. -- Bill Bulkeley.
Lael, I'll remembr you and our happy, laughing times always. I just loved knowing you and Matthew. Thank you for everything. -- Marjorie Wold
I'll remember your sermon today -- its eloquence and elegance. Now that you've shared having "lived" in the tree-top," I understand the secret of your luminosity and believability. -- Betty Preston
I will miss her smile, her genuine warmth and caring. The thing I will miss the most though is our communion connection. Ministering to each other the body of Christ, borken for you, the blood of Christ shed for you. Truly an experinece that will last on my journey. Thank you, Lael. Blessings and Peace to you! -- Arlen Walter Brown.
Since joining the church in 1999, I have always looked forward to listening to Lael's comforting and gentle words. Her sermon's have always made me feel "good" and have helped to put a positive spin to my week. I will miss her infectious smile and laughter but I know she is not too far away to visit. You will be missed. -- Fred Biasella
Thanks for being a friend to my daughter, Jennifer! -- Ted Parkins
When I heard Jim Crawford speaking about you saying "She graces everything she touches," I said, "That's Lael!" We will sorely miss both you and Lael. -- Edra Mercer
Thank you for everything that you did for the members. I shall miss you smiling and your kindness. -- Claire Flury
Lael's strong and inspirational support of the Christian Service and Outreach Committee is one of my favorite memories. Lael gave a great and inspiring speech to the Training Inc. graduates at the Parker House ballroom. Also, Lael's sermons at Old South were always articulate and challenging. Her warm and gracious greetings whenever she saw you. Lael and Matthew, we will miss you but we plan to visit you one Sunday at Payson Park, one of our former church homes. God bless you both! And thank you! -- Duane Day.
I will miss getting scolded in meetings for joking around in the back with Lael. With great love and warmth. -- Jeff Makholm
I'll nuss Lael's great laugh -- it breaks the ice, puts you at ease, makes you feel special, and draws you in . . . encouraging us all to serve and to share in her joy and love of Christ. -- Janet Nolan
She exudes beauty, love, caring, and spirituality from the inside to the outside. -- Liza Roman
I'll miss her ability to bring people together, also her smile, warm, genuine, compassionate personality and sense of humor. When I just started coming to Old South in 1998, sometimes late and in sneakers, sometimes not at all, I felt bad about being so casual. Lael said that's "okay" -- just as long as you're here, we're glad to have you . . . I'm still here today. -- Paule L. Jacobus
Rev. Lael is the soundtrack of my life. She was there for me when I was down and out. I ask God to put someone in my Life. She always prays for me when we run into one another. We pray together. In my heart, I will follow her wherever she goes and listen to the message she will have for me. -- Charles Ferguson
I will remember Lael's affinity for the the phrase, "Damn the Torpedoes,
Full Speed Ahead!" -- Russ Gregg.
[Lael recalled at Council how she had second thoughts about editing out Farragut's quote, "Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead" from one of her sermons. But then she edited it out again, when I tried to use her quote again in the Council notes! -- Evan Shu]
Lael is the most caring and giving Pastor we know. She has been a great blessing to us when we needed her the most. Thanks and God bless you. We will miss you. -- Ozo and Stella Nwodo and family.
Youthful Memories of Lael
We share the same birthday. -- Charlie Nolan
I will miss you and I hope you visit us. -- Sara Ann Dartley
We remember the confirmation class retreat when she came down to Craigville to talk with us -- Lara Bulkeley and Libby Davis.
Lael, I'm going to miss you a lot. You are a good friend to my mom and me. Good wishes to all. -- Starr Rice
One of the things I will miss about Lael most is her warm hugs. -- Karla Makholm
One thing that I will miss most about Lael is her openess. You could always talk about anything to Lael and she would always listen. -- Ginny Nolan.
You have always been such a good friend not only to my family but to the whole congregation. So, not only will I miss you, but the whole congregation will miss you. At your new church, may they love you just as much as I did. -- Christina Gregg
I will remember some memories about you! I will miss you! -- Camille Platt
A Few Parting Gifts
Edited from Lael Murphy’s remarks at the Farewell Luncheon on November 9, 2003
Back when I was in high school there was a tradition for the graduating class - maybe you had something like it in your schools. The graduating seniors published their “Last Will and Testament” in the June issue of the school’s paper. We passed on things to students remaining at the school - very valuable and serious things as you might imagine. And so as I conclude my remarks today I’d like to follow that tradition and pass on to my colleagues some items I found in clearing out my office.
First, to Carl Schultz, our Interim Senior Minister. As it was a great blessing to serve here with Jim Crawford for seven years, so it’s been a privilege and joy to work with Carl. Last week, with the staff as my witness, I passed on to him the keys to the vault and the combination to the safe. I now want to give him something he can take with him when he leaves: this Old South plate. I offer it with my thanks for all the ways he’s working to keep this church strong and faithful in this time of transition. May this memento serve as a reminder to him and to Della of their valuable ministry here.
Next, to Jennifer Mills-Knutsen I give my Old South parking sign. I made this myself - it’s laminated and very official looking in order to keep personnel of the Boston Transit Authority from giving me tickets when I park on the bricks. I give this to Jennifer in recognition of all the ways she comes and goes from this church, representing this community and the love of Christ in Boston and beyond at Outreach events, in hospitals, and in your homes. How blessed I have been to have Jennifer as a colleague. (I also want to note that as I give Jennifer this sign I offer you my word that I will never park in the alley spaces again! And Matthew promises as well!)
Now to Gregory: as I was clearing my bookshelves I found that I had two copies of the Lutheran Book of Worship. I would like to give him this one: it’s the Minister’s Edition and I offer it with great thanks for the faith and devotion he brings to all that he does here at Old South.
To Patricia Hazeltine I offer one of my most coveted possessions: a Jesus night-light, still brand new in its package. I give this to her with gratitude for all the ways she shares the light and hope of Jesus with our children.
To Guy Pealer I offer this dish towel. Now why a dish towel? This is one I brought from home years ago to use for Bible Study prep and clean-up. I leave it with Guy in recognition of all the ways he not only organizes and leads programs here but also for all the ways he helps the ministerial staff behind the scenes.
To Carolyn Davis I give two granola bars, found far back in one of my desk drawers - I don’t think they’ve expired! I give them to her as a source of energy as she continues to offer such cheerful and devoted direction to the forty preschool students and teaching staff.
To Helen McCrady I offer these miniature Old South note sheets and some thirty-two cent stamped envelopes, also from my desk drawers. I pass these on to Helen in gratitude for all the ways she works so hard on many of the church’s communications - the Calendar and mailings and phone calls - keeping us all connected not only on Sundays but throughout the week.
To Elisa Blanchard I give three keys found among my paperclips. I confess to you all that I don’t know what they’re for! But I know that Elisa will be able to figure it out because she is so very devoted to the upkeep of this building and its operations. I thank her for her dedication and hard work.
To Rhoda Harding, I leave this handful of subway and public restroom tokens leftover from my outreach ministry here at the church. I offer these in recognition of the very real ministry Rhoda offers throughout the week at the Narthex Desk. As someone who constantly assists people in need I give her my thanks for her presence at this church.
To our Sexton staff, David and Elias and Ozo, I leave two dozen tap lights saved from a Christmas Eve service several years ago. I offer these with gratitude for all the ways they help to make Old South a brighter, cleaner place for us and the wider Boston community.
To Rolanda Ward I give this little black book left over from a retreat. Now many of you may not know Rolanda well and that’s because she is always with our young people. Leading our teenagers she brings faith and fun to Youth Group activities and I give her these blank pages to take any notes she might need in those rousing activities.
To Ellie Marshall I give these napkins in appreciation for her continual acts of hospitality and kindness here at the church. With this small clutch I also give to her free use of the odd assortment of leftover paper goods I’ve saved in one of the closets in the Samuel Johnson Room.
And finally to our accountant, Beth Cameron, I give this personal check for twelve dollars. Just as she’s so sure to balance our books week in and week out I want to come clean and pay for Carl’s plate. I thank Beth for her warm and helpful presence here at the church.
These are all the staff members that I have been blessed to work with over the course of these years who I will miss not just on Sundays but also during the week. They are people who support the mission and ministry of Old South and I give them great thanks for their dedication. They are also people who you support - financially as well as programmatically - and I give special thanks to the Interim Staff Relations Committee for their efforts with the staff in this time of transition.
And now, there’s one last thing I want to will, and that’s to you, the
congregation. To you I leave the spirit of Zacchaeus. As we reflected together
in worship this morning, I pray that you will all keep climbing that sycamore
tree, wearing out the floorboards here at Old South as you come to worship
over and over again to seek the vision and Spirit of God as revealed in
Jesus. I thank you for your faith, for your dedication to the church, and
for your willingness to serve in so many beautiful ways. May God bless
you all and lead you forward forever and ever.
by Linda Jenkins & Tom Keydel (as inspired by David Sisco)
Religion & the Arts Committee
(To the tune of “MAME”)
You took our congregation by storm, Lael
You charmed our thoughts by giving them form, Lael
You got our Bibles thumpin’
And jumpin’ to the verses with the band
The congregation’s hummin’
Since you led us back to a heavenly land!
You gave our Sundays room to reflect, Lael
Your sermons wallop and they connect, Lael
Who ever thought a lass from Seattle
Would make such a team with Jim?
You made us feel alive again,
We’re passing 55 again,
To help Old South revive again, Lael.
You lived the scriptures day-by-day, Lael
You chased our blues and demons away, Lael
We’re gonna miss you, preacher
You almost made committee meetings fun
You’re an example, teacher
With pastoral care that’s second to none!
You made the Sewing Circle swell, Lael
Arts bloomed and women met at the well, Lael
We wish you great success and bid adieu
To Matthew’s fabulous voice.
She’s a huge inspiration,
So we are dedicatin’ this
Song from the Old South nation to Lael.
Lael! Lael! Lael! Lael!
Old South Reporter
OSC Reporter, a voice for the extended community of the Old South Church, explores the mission of the church and aspects of the Christian life through news, stories, poetry, essays, and commentaries
Evan H. Shu, Lois Harvey, Steve Silver, Linda Jenkins, Henry Crawford, Janet Eldred, Elizabeth England, Eleanor Jensen, Elisa Blanchard, Helen McCrady, Carl F. Schultz, Jr., Michael Fiorentino.
Deadline for next issue: March 28, 2004
Old South Church in Boston(Click to Return to Home Page)
A congregation of the United Church of Christ
645 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116
Carl F. Schultz, Jr. Interim Senior Minister
Lael P. Murphy, Associate Minister
Jennifer Mills-Knutsen, Assistant Minister
Gregory M. Peterson, Director of Music