... Harvard Memorial Church
The drive on Easter Sunday morning to Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was uneventful except for it's speed. My daughter had picked me up a half hour later than planned and we felt lucky to find a parking space near the Biology building. The hurried walk in the direction of the tall white church steeple showing above the old university buildings ahead of us, was quite breezy and cold. Late as it was, we had to slow down and even stop a couple of times so that "this old lady" could catch her breath and stop gasping. From then on we forced ourselves to stroll.
The chapel bells began tolling as The Yard appeared straight ahead. They were still ringing as we entered the gate and headed toward the church. Ahead, we saw Don waiting on the top step. He led us through the crowd in the narthex. About ten rows from the front of the sanctuary, our friends had the children spread out, reserving the pew. Later we heard about the irate clergyman who had earlier demanded that he and his companion be allowed to sit there. They were refused in a Christian-like manner.
The carpet of flowers on the steps to the chancel were memorial Easter lilies. The crowds were standing at the edges of the aisles and sitting on the floor. The seven-page program of the Order of Worship announced Veritas on Harvard's coat-of-arms The additional program of information told of the activities at the church. A list of the names for whom each memorial lily plant had been given was included.
The congregation stood during the Introit (first hymn), the Salutation between Minister and Choir, the Processional Hymn, the Collect for Easter Day, the Lord's Prayer, and the hymn "Crown Him With Many Crowns" all jubilantly proclaimed that Jesus lived! Halleluyah!
The University Choir, under the direction of Murray Forbes Somerville, numbered eighty. Their voices, coming from behind the back wall of the chancel, thrilled the worshipers. During the crescendo of each last verse,The Cambridge Symphonic Brass with Timpanist joining in, became louder and eventually led the hundreds of voices singing praises that resounded off the arched ceiling. At times I had to stop singing and let the beautiful sound surround and enter me. It was my first experience at being a part of such a huge congregation...all with voices of jubilant celebration.
Following The Lessons, an Anthem, Responses for the Minister and the people, and the prayers of general thanksgiving and grace, an offering was taken. The receptacle that passed through our pew was laden to fullness with lofty-numbered bills.
Then the preacher (as the program called him), The Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, opened his sermon by uniting the overflowing sanctuary of worshippers whether their attendance was this once a year time or the rest of the fifty-one Sabbaths. He humbled himself and his part in this mighty repetitious celebration. He pointed out that all of us knew the story when we walked in the doors and what parts we would continue to accept in it.
To present my own personal highpoints of Professor Gomes' teaching,, I will just copy the notes I made on my program. I beg your pardon if I did not make them clear enough to understand. They were jottings and reminders to later jog my memory of his wisdom.
The kindergarten song "Jesus Loves Me"
...and He knows you by name.
(When the lady thought she was talking to the gardener after the stone had been rolled away from Jesus' tomb, he called her "Mary"...not Miss, not Lady, Woman, etc.)
...and he loves you, little Joanne, (and he named others)
You say, "I'm a terrible person"
...he knows that.
God does not make junk -- or mistakes
Then a joke about a man who said, "They talk about Ignorance and Apathy. Well, let me tell you that I don't know about that and I don't care about it."
Then, after more lessons, came the appealing thought, "You are the evidence of Easter morning."
This is YOUR second chance.
Just before the Postlude and Benediction, the closing hymn proclained "Christ the Lord has risen today!" with the voices and instruments proclaiming louder and louder at the end of each line, "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ahl-lay-ay-loo-oo-yah!
When we got outside, everyone in our families agreed happily that it had been a beautiful and meaningful experience.
The next new pleasant happening was Easter dinner at the S&S Deli in Cambridge. At the two long tables -- one for the seven young folks; one for the seven adults -- the next day's Annual Marathon and our three men's participation in it was discussed. Who would run the farthest? Who would be the fastest? But that's another story.
May 2, 2003