All Saints Day is the feast day we celebrate all the saints, known and unknown – a day we gather to offer up both love and loss in the hope-filled container of the Eucharistic celebration that promises us that we belong to love so great that it transcends even death.
Here at All Saints Church it is also our parish feast day – and our celebration includes a choral Requiem (this year the Fauré) and a grand procession of the Memorial Book as the we all sing together the great All Saints hymn Sine Nomine “For all the saints.” And as we circle the church during that grand procession we recognize that we are a family gathered — gathered to grieve those we love but see no more and to rejoice in the good news we share as those who embrace together the promise of life eternal.
Many years ago a wise priest famously shared these words at a memorial service: “The only way you can lose a person is if you don’t know where they are.”
Yes, we grieve those we see no more — but they are not lost. We know where they are. And on All Saints Sunday they will be with us at All Saints Church — along with the angels and archangels and all that company of heaven as we all sing together “for all the saints.”
Here are a few reflections from some of the saints at All Saints on why All Saints Sunday is so important to them. Read their stories — and then join us on Sunday, November 5 at All Saints Church … details here.
All Saints Sunday is one of my most beloved celebrations each year. This special service honors our belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those who have died and the living. We celebrate all who have died in our All Saints community during the year, and bring in our hearts the close family and friends who have died during our own lives.
For me, it is particularly meaningful because my late mother’s birthday is November 1st. Each year I dedicate altar flowers in her memory, remembering her birth, life and her death in 2007. Often, Lewellyn, who was mother’s special caregiver at the end of her life, will come with me to church. We hold hands, we cry together, and we rejoice that her spirit is still alive within us.
The beautiful Requiem, which is always part of the service, allows me to experience, through music, the depth of human emotion I still feel from the loss of my parents and loved ones. It is a time of musical and spiritual remembrance when I can recall stories, visions, and feelings, but most of all the deep love that remains.
I have sung in the Coventry Choir for almost 25 years now. It has been, and continues to be, the most stabilizing, joyful, and fulfilling event of my week, every week. But there are a few times during the church calendar when the cost of singing is more than many of you might have considered. I’m not talking about time spent in rehearsal or the cost of gas to and from the church. I’m talking about the cost of not being in the congregation to hear the final result of all our hard work.
Last Thursday someone in the choir shared with me she didn’t want to sing for All Saints’ Sunday. Her brother had died a few weeks ago and she just wasn’t ready to stop her grief long enough to sing the Faure Requiem. I can identify with her. When my mother died, I could barely manage the Durufle Requiem. And in 2001 we all had to pull ourselves together a few weeks after 9/11.
So as you listen to us sing the Requiem on November 5th, think about what personal losses some of us might have suffered this year and how we be struggling to sing in spite of it. And also acknowledge there is no place we’d rather be, pouring our hearts out in beautiful swirling harmonies for God, grateful to present our gift to you in music.
I love All Saints Sunday, not just because it’s our “Patronal Feast” and it’s a big pull-out-all-the-stops liturgy (I love Big Church – orchestra, requiem, incense – all good!), but because it’s the Sunday where we remember “all the saints” who have gone before us. And in our tradition, that means Absolutely Everybody that we’ve loved and who we expect that God has given a place with all God’s saints. So, for me personally, that means remembering my late husband, my parents and extended family members, and dear friends that I’ve lost – especially many friends that AIDS took.
But I also appreciate the list of names in the service leaflet – everyone who has died and has been mentioned in the prayers on Sunday mornings since last All Saints Sunday. So that means parishioners, friends of parishioners and people that we all know who had some influence on our culture. I always read through the whole list and at least look at every name – and for those that I know, spend a few seconds recalling an image of a time when they were at their best and remembering a special moment, if we had one together. It’s a great day.