- by Leland G. Spencer IV -
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
All Saints' Day has always been among my favorite liturgical occasions, and I look forward to celebrating in community on Sunday. Remembering those who have encouraged us on our faith journeys is always a meaningful experience. Sharing together in communion reminds us of the wholeness of the body of Christ, even as we feel a sense of brokenness when we miss those who have died.
On this All Saints' Day, I especially think of Alice Cromwell, who died in September. Alice was a gift to the whole church, and certainly to the East Ohio Conference, to those who lived at Copeland Oaks, and those in the greater Alliance community. I was especially fortunate to know Alice locally and see her regularly when I was a college student at Mount Union College. She was always an encourager to me, and I know many others would say likewise.
I smiled when I saw Alice's photograph on the front of the RMN annual report this year, just as I smiled every time I saw Alice at annual conference. She was never without a rainbow stole, and sometimes she had a rainbow hat, too.
There are several stories that come to mind that I could share about Alice, but one strikes me as noteworthy. I served a church as a student local pastor in my last two years of college, but the college held graduation on a Sunday. So, I asked Alice if she would lead worship in my place that day. Alice responded, "Are you sure you want me? I can suggest a lot of good people." I answered, "Alice, I know a lot of people, too, but I want YOU to preach in my absence." She agreed, and my only regret was that I couldn't be there to hear it. When I returned the next week, the congregation had only warm things to say about Alice.
Today, I invite you to think about the saints who have encouraged you on your journey.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
all are one in thee, for all are thine.
. . .
Leland G. Spencer IV, a lifelong United Methodist, is a PhD student in the department of communication studies at the University of Georgia, where he researches religious rhetoric as it intersects with gender and sexuality. Leland holds an M.A. in Communication from the University of Cincinnati (2009). While in Cincinnati, Leland served as the worship intern at the Wesley Foundation. Leland is a 2007 graduate of Mount Union College, a United Methodist-related school in Alliance, Ohio. Leland served as a part-time local pastor at Mapleton United Methodist Church in the East Ohio Conference from 2005 until 2007 when Leland withdrew from the candidacy process because of the United Methodist Church's exclusive position about the ordination of LGBTQ persons.