Annual Conference memorial service honors those who were 'gardeners of the spirit'

June 12, 2015
The Rev. Emily Hagan plants flowers during the memorial service at the 2015 Annual Conference in Estes Park in honor of clergy and laity who have passed away. Photo by Charmaine Robledo, Director of Communications, Mountain Sky Area, UMC

Story by the Rev. Pam Everhart
Niwot United Methodist Church

A time to slow down, to look, to listen, to feel, to hear … opening words for us as we joined together for the 2015 Rocky Mountain United Methodist Annual Conference opening worship service, a "Service Celebrating the Saints and Holy Communion" on Thursday, June 11.

Introducing us to the annual conference theme of “Renewal of Creation" with the concept of getting our hands dirty, Daniel Klawitter, RMCUMC deacon, read for us an interpretation of Genesis 2’s creation story, which tells us that ‘in the beginning there was dirt … the dirty dusty ground” and that upon creating human life, “God had a human being in God’s muddy, messy hands.”

The preacher for the service was Rev. Steve Goodier, outgoing district superintendent for the Metro District. He preached from Genesis 2, using The Voice version of Genesis 2:15-17.

Genesis 2:15-17 The Voice (VOICE)

15 The Eternal God placed the newly made man in the garden of Eden in order to work the ground and care for it. 16 He made certain demands of the man regarding life in the garden.

God: Eat freely from any and all trees in the garden; 17 I only require that you abstain from eating the fruit of one tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Beware: the day you eat the fruit of this tree, you will certainly die.

“Humans want what they can’t have,” Rev. Goodier told us, saying it’s a common human problem, consuming everything they want. His sermon focused on the themes of understanding our role in living with and caring for creation. He quoted Canadian philosopher Marshall Luhan, “There are no passengers on spaceship earth, we are all crew.”

Rev. Goodier remembered those who have died in the past year, saying “They were gardeners of the heart. They were gardeners of the spirit," and “We give thanks for their work in the garden on behalf of us.”

Referring to the deceased being honored as gardeners, he said, “Gardeners believe in the potential of the soil. Gardeners can’t wait to get their hands dirty. They do what needs to be done and they have a passion for doing it. But, winter is coming and in a human life, winter comes too. They work for a season and now they’ve gone home. We’ve come to give thanks and say goodbye to these gardeners of the spirit.”

Those saints remembered in the service were:

  • Zora Susanne “Susie” Aikman
  • Laura D. Brown
  • Claude H. Sullivan, Jr.
  • William Cecil Hinsey
  • Pelaki Lokotui
  • James H. Sloan
  • Walter “Bud” McMullen
  • Keith Allen Merriman
  • Ralph R. Bullock
  • Harold John Sutton
  • Joyce Ellen Grauberger
  • Wilburn James Cowell
  • Marilyn Joyce Lesser
  • Lowell Masato Uda
  • Kenneth William Wright
  • Patricia Sailors Kirton Westlake
  • Robert H. Windsor
  • Hartley E. “Bud” Owsley, II
  • Charles E. McPherson III

Following the time of remembrance, those gathered shared together in Holy Communion, celebrated by Bishop Elaine Stanovsky and our keynote speaker for the Annual Conference, Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker. The service ended with an invitation to come forward and touch baptismal waters in a time of remembering our baptism.