Serving local churches adjacent to cemeteries offer a great opportunity to take a walking field trip and learn the history of the church and the community. I’ve served at two local churches with cemeteries and oh the stories.
Every other year, on a Sunday afternoon before the time changes, we enlist the presence of a saint to meet our 3rd-5th graders at the cemetery ready to tell the stories of the people who have gone on to Glory. These folks gave money, prayed, and served on committees to make the decisions to provide the spaces the kids now call ‘my church.’
Most cemeteries have a caretaker who grew up in the community the cemetery and church serves. This saint knows the families and the history of the community more personally than anyone else. They know the founding families, what used to be where the drug store is now, why their school and roads are named after these folks, and how these folks made church-life part of their holy habits in following Jesus.
We invite parents/grandparents and the church-at-large so we never know who will meet us there.
Supplies: 2 bunches of yellow carnations; hot apple cider (for our return to debrief)
Arrival: a short time of teaching at the beginning makes space for late arrivals (we taught on Baptism last week continuing our teaching curriculum for CLUB345) .
One of our leaders wears a bright-yellow vest so motorists see us as we walk to the cemetery.
Teaching: What can we learn about the person from the limited info and symbols provided on the grave marker/stone?
Response: a single yellow carnation is left on each grave if we stop to learn.
Allow time for wandering, chatting, and storytelling.
- Two brothers are buried head to head, yet their names are different by one letter. There was a family feud and they refused to be associated with one another in life, yet are buried head to head.
- The first youth leader was a new burial site when we visited. She sat in the front youth pew at 11am worship with her special-needs, adult, son up until the Sunday she passed away in her nineties.
- The wife moved to the area with her new husband as part of a Cobb County land grab, crossing the Chattahoochee River on the ferry. She desperately missed her family and told her new husband that when she died, we would not be buried in the field where their animals relieved themselves. Her daddy purchased the adjacent land for her to set up a family cemetery and a church for her to start for the community. Her husband is buried in the field. She is buried in the cemetery.
- The church I currently serve is named after a man who started an insurance company. His family trust now funds with the interest only the local high school (which was a 1st-12th grade school originally), facilities and missions for our church, and Young Harris college. But the history goes all the way back to the 1830s with the community’s priority of the local church and education. We heard of the unwed teacher’s home (dormitory) and the principal’s ‘parsonage’ of the A & M school.
- One of our buildings is named to honor his incredible wife. She was an educator, business woman, and built the church on her husband’s donated land. She was elected president of the National Council of Federated Church Women and was a member of the World Council of Christian Education.
- We learned about the only place to get gas, the hardware store which is no longer there, and so many young educators which came to the area for teaching jobs until they married.
- One of our students in attendance last Sunday had his own stories to share he’d heard from his mom, who joined us, and his grandmother. His family is part of the community’s history. He shared who were teachers, a dog story, a first mayor story, and was filled with delight to be sharing HIS family stories with us, too.
Learning the stories of real people who followed the Lord and have gone on to Glory is a gift only the local church can share and share well. How do your kids learn of the people who made your church the place it is today in your community? Enlisting the service of the saints of your local church is always a win-win!
“Let this be written for a future generation that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” Psalm 102:18