Memory #4- The Saints For all the Saints, who from their labors rest……… …..and whose contributions will always be a part of St. Thomas’ collective memory.
Where to start? It would have to be with the Best/Douglass household—Agnes, Bobbie, and Manning. Agnes Best, Bobbie’s mother, was as elegant an Englishwoman as could be found, yet profoundly practical. Widowed, with 2 small daughters to raise, she found work as a forklift operator during World War 2. I’m sure she did it with style. She had a sly wit and an insatiable curiousity, prone to ask penetrating questions at inopportune times, such as, “Now what exactly did St. Paul mean by Grace???”
The crèche you just used during the Christmas season was her gift. She wanted one that was cheerful but plain, in keeping with St. Thomas’ simple interior. When we unpacked the various pieces, setting them up on her bedside table, she picked up the baby Jesus lovingly and said, “Poor little child. What a hard life he has ahead of him.” Agnes lived to be 103, and we sang the Nunc Dimmitis—Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace—at her service.
Bobbie Douglass, who preceded Kate as Flower Person, for many years created amazing arrangements from her garden and, when nothing else was growing, from weeds along the railroad path. She was part of the group that developed the Memorial Garden, and worked on rummage sales, plant sales, and Christmas boutiques, as well as making delicious casseroles for our Women’s Breakfasts. Many cups of tea were served at her kitchen table, with Agnes, Bobbie, her daughter, Beth, and granddaughter, Jennifer— 4 generations at the end of everyone’s work day. What a privilege to share in that comfortable ritual!
Manning Douglass went to work on his father’s dairy farm when he was 16. He was one of the wisest and well-read people I’ve ever known, sophisticated in the work of modern dairy farming, from breeding to butterfat Manning was a charter member of the Quakertown Fire Department, and when his hearse went by the firehouse on the way to the cemetery, all of the firemen stood at attention. Manning did the driving for the family, patiently transporting Bobbie and her numerous projects, lugging poinsettias, Easter plants, and Thanksgiving bounty to the church with only small complaints, and always ready with a wrench or screw driver to fix whatever came along.
Mary and John Houston shared their knowledge and love of music with us and expanded our community outreach in a special way. Thomas’ Music Ministry was their brainchild, and they were instrumental in bringing fine artists to perform in our lovely and acoustically pure space. ( I have to confess that my favorite was a male quartet from the Metropolitan Opera’s chorus.) Mary started our Christmas Boutiques to finance these concerts, and offered some of her delicate watercolor scenes as some of the items sold.
A non-singing trio from within supported the congregation in many ways. Our poet, Coby Britton, our editor, Larry Grow (Main Street Press in Pittstown,) and our engineer, Les Downes, served on the Bishop’s Committee, precursor of the Vestry, at different times. They shared their varied wisdoms and experience with me, prodding gently, suggesting subtly, and encouraging generously— the kind of people that build a community with positive nurture. How much we—and I– owed to them!
Along with her delightful 4 children, Jean Lubas brought social concern to St. Thomas’. When she and Mark lived in Union County, she had been one of the founders of the Interfaith Hospitality Network there. Moving to Holland Township, she soon realized that homelessness was a problem in our county too. A meeting, held here in the church, was the beginning of IHN here in Hunterdon. She was the first president of its Board (now called Family Promise) and St. Thomas’ served as a support congregation for many years, working with Bethlehem Presbyterian. Jean died much too young. She still had so much more to contribute to a hurting world.
And Bernie Reich, our gentle giant of a supporter, Jewish but knowing more about the Prayer Book than many Anglicans, able to pitch hit as an Altar Guild member when needed, adding much of our community with his warm and open spirit. So many Saints who now “in glory shine.” For them we say, Alleluia!
A word about the rector:
Carol is home and continues to recover, with little “hiccups” along the way. Please continue to keep her in your prayers, as she keeps you in hers.