It was just after Christmas 1970, New Year’s Eve. The little church hall that had served as sanctuary, education center, and fellowship hall for nearly 13 years was filled with Trinity members, former members, members of other Lincoln churches, and our denomination’s state officials. A catered meal was prepared: the obligatory baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and dinner rolls, with a large decorated chocolate cake with “Trinity UCC—1957-1970” in white frosting across the top. Not your usual potluck of many church dinners past, with varieties of hot dishes, baked beans, potato salad, fruit-laced jell-o, and assortments of pies.
After dinner we sang a few of our favorite hymns, introduced all the visiting dignitaries, provided ample time for those present to share memories of the congregation’s life for the 13 years. It had barely reached puberty. There were the work days when we painted the parsonage and the entire church building, the summer pre-school to adult vacation schools, the pre-school started by my wife, Sue, the marriages and deaths, baptisms and confirmations celebrated in that very room, the hopes for completing the sanctuary, the hard times and the spirit-soaring times.
Then came the time of asking each Trinity member family to share their plans for continuing their spiritual journeys. Some were re-joining First Plymouth Congregational, the big downtown cathedral-like church. Some were going to the little neighborhood EUB/United Methodist congregation just a few blocks away. Pastors of both were present to give them a warm welcome. Others were still uncertain where they would land and planned to spend time visiting churches in Lincoln. There were representatives from several denominations in the room, assuring our people of their prayers and willingness to be there for them. It was a real ecumenical event.
It was time. I asked Marie Schneider, who had played the Hammond organ for all the years of Trinity’s life, to play “For All the Saints” as we tried to sing it with gusto through many tears. Then I picked up my guitar and sang, to the tune of “They Call the Wind Maria”, the words from Kazantzakis’ Saviors of God:
“The Cryin’ – The Cryin’ – It calls me to my dyin’”
I put down my guitar, hoisted above my head the big pulpit Bible I had read from and preached from for 3 years, formally sent out the members of Trinity United Church to other congregations in Lincoln, gave the last benediction to be uttered in that place, dropped the Bible on the table in front of me, closing it with a loud bang, and proclaimed the formal life of Trinity UCC ended.
It was an awesome funeral, the best one at which I ever officiated.