Blessed All Saints Day! On the journey of storms, displacement and delays, I was able to celebrate this blessed day at the Simpson Memorial Chapel of our United Methodist Church Building in Washington, D.C. In worship with our colleagues in ministry who work in behalf of all of us at this place of public witness like no other, I was able to raise the name of our sister, the Rev. Cherrye Cunnigan, as we remembered the saints who have gone on to life eternal. As I lifted up sister Cherrye’s name and heard the bell toll in her honor I was left wondering about the other saints of the California-Pacific Conference.
You know their names. I am just beginning to know their legacies, but already I am so very grateful for them and all they represent for us this day. They were men and women who with the instinctive passion of the Holy Spirit saw a place before them and knew that communities would arise right where we are today that would need the word of God. They knew that men and women, and young people would come by land, sky and sea seeking life abundant, in need of a place to land that was more than a mere plot of measured out property. They knew that some day human hearts would beat in every corner of our beloved conference from the beautiful souls of 100+ cultures, many languages, and many colors, but all with one fundamental hope – to belong and be loved. In no other place in our beloved connectional church have I seen such dreaming and such faithfulness to the dream. The saints that came before us are singing in heaven and all around us! They’ve led me to our present day saints.
The first church I preached at after my arrival among you was Knollwood UMC. It was their anniversary. What I did not know was that they were a church on the way to becoming more than what they had ever hoped to be when they first began. Started as a church to serve their Anglo neighborhood, today they are Anglo, Hispanic, and African American, and they share their facilities with one of our Tongan congregations. Their pastor is a woman and Tongan. Quite different from the line of early Anglo male pastors who first guided them! But what I saw that morning was so much more. I saw a church of saints, past and present!
I am sure that saints planted our Knollwood church because it takes saints to share what they worked so hard to build. It takes saints to welcome others so very different from one, not only into a building but into one’s heart and family. It takes saints to live with the unwavering faith that even if every last founding member of the church and all those like them die, the church will continue because it is Christ’s church. The Knollwood DNA is what I’m seeing all over the California-Pacific Conference, and it makes my heart glad!
At the end of the anniversary worship service of the Knollwood church, the Knollwood and the Sun Valley Tongan choirs came forth to sing together. I understand that the Knollwood choir sings the Hallelujah Chorus every chance they get. I told you their spirit is special! Well on that morning I heard something beyond special, for what I heard was the Hallelujah chorus in English and Tongan! No, we did not hear two renditions. Instead it was both together. The Knollwood choir would sing in English and the Tongan choir would respond in their language. The sound was glorious! Yes! Christ lives – for all of us! We all belong and are beloved!
As I left the Simpson Memorial Chapel at our Methodist Building in D.C., sister Cherrye’s smiling face lingered in my spirit. I felt inspired by all the saints of the past. I thanked God for our faith in a living Lord who gives us life each day. And, I gave God thanks for all of you saints of the California-Pacific Conference who bring me great joy and hope for the days to come. Together we shall see the glory!
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño