Image of First Parish Universalist Church

First Parish Universalist Church
790 Washington Street, P. O. Box 284, Stoughton, Massachusetts 02072 
(781) 344-6800
Worship: 10:30 AM
Children's Chapel:  10:30 AM
Church School: 10:45 AM
 

Unsung Hero Sunday

Honoring Orrin Hansen, Ruth Hansen, Earl Wahl and Marion Wahl

Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, April 22, 2001

Introductory Remarks

The Unsung Unitarian Universalist Award in this church was established by the Board of Trustees in April 1996 with the hope of affirming those parish members whose actions inspire, support, and express the Unitarian Universalist principles.

The Board of Trustees of this church has adopted the following guidelines for selecting and honoring the candidates:

  1. The nominee must be a member of the church.
  2. There must be longevity of service.
  3. The candidate must demonstrate a strong commitment to church membership by living the Unitarian Universalist principles.
  4. The person must demonstrate active participation in committee work and church functions.

This year, the members of the Board of Trustees has selected four persons whom they believe meet these criteria in an outstanding manner. And so, it is my privilege this morning to call upon Richard Hess, chair of our church’s Board of Trustees, to make this year’s “Unsung Heroes” presentations.


Orrin and Ruth and Earl and Marion: A Look Backward...and Forward

Part of my preparation for this week’s service (a big part actually, as it turned out) was the opportunity I had to peruse hundreds and hundreds of issues of the Packet, our church newsletter, from way back in 1960, all the way to the present.

I came across many very interesting things, as you might imagine. But there was one little note, dated September 30, 1969, which seemed to sum up the purpose and intent behind today’s service as well as anything.

The note had to do with a book fair that was held that year, which ended up making almost $400-- a pretty good piece of change 31 or 32 years ago. The note was from someone named “Eldora”. (I have to confess I’m not even sure who that is.) Here’s what it says:

Dear People,

You are the greatest! You pit your hearts into making our project a success. Every job was important and well done.

I think the teamwork of our church is unparalleled.

...my thanks with deep appreciation.

Most sincerely,

Eldora

Well, as I look out upon three of the fine souls we have chosen to honor today, and as I think of our good friend Herbie, I think Eldora said it all: “You are the greatest!”

This is, I think, a church full of “unsung heroes”, a church where so many of the people “go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along... Who are not parlor generals and field deserters but move in a common rhythm where food must come in or the fire be put out...” [Marge Piercey]

Earl, Marion, Orrin, Ruth:

Your contributions to our church may not be unique. Certainly, others, too, have done many of the same jobs which you all did, both before and since. But what is unique is the way in which your warm and loving beings-- your wonderful personalities-- have inspired and enlightened and amplified the work you have done for our church, and have blessed all of us, over all these years.

In many ways, church newsletters, like the Packet, are a written reflection of the lifeblood of a church. They are its historical record, for all posterity, a common record of big events and small, common endeavors, times of laughter and of sadness, words of comfort and words of challenge. When you sit down and read year after year in a church’s life, you get a sense of the rhythm of the church year: Homecoming Sunday in September... the Fall Fair... and Thanksgiving baskets... Christmas pageant rehearsals... the “winter dip” in church attendance... the spring resurgence... pleas to “turn in those pledge cards so we can get an accurate accounting of this year’s canvass” [that was a plug for this year, too, by the way]... congratulations to Rev. and Mrs. Luther Morris on yet another wedding anniversary... Children’s Sunday... the church picnic... summer services (or not)... On and on, year after year.

To be part of a church where so many people have worked for so many years to keep the wheels turning is to have the privilege to be part of that recurring social rhythm-- to be part of something that existed before us, and which will continue long after we are gone.

You read back issues of the Packet, and you also get a sense of what makes a church unique: those particular events and milestones which make a church what it is, too. So, I read about 20/40 Club gatherings and First Parish Club luncheons and work parties to paint the vestry (like one 2 weeks before the fire in 1966), special fundraisers to build a shed in the back, or to buy chimes for the tower, then a carillon, then a new carillon, or to purchase the “new” parsonage on Bassick Circle (for the magnificent sum of $8178, back in June of 1961). I also read about Strawberry Festivals and Chicken Barbecues and Fashion Shows and Minstrel Shows (hrmmmph!-- the less said about those, perhaps, the better). But that is the kind of unique, dear church we are, warts and all...

Churches in general, and this one in particular, expend an awful lot of words; we have words for everything-- and then some. But perhaps the real poetry of a down-to-earth, hard-working real church like ours-- the real, living poetry in action that makes a church a church, are the words we find in the pages of the Packet, year after year...

And in just a few of the years (say, from 1962 to 1967) here are some of the excerpts we read:

Jan. 31, 1962-- The new Board of Trustees met Jan 29 to discuss chairmen for the various committees. Following are the committee posts as they were filled at the present time...Pastoral Relations-- Earl Wahl...

Feb. 20, 1962-- Greeters this Sunday will be Earl and Marion Wahl...

Jan. 15, 1963-- Art Class Resumes-- Seventeen persons-- seven from the first art class and seven new recruits-- have begun the second series of ten lessons at the church... Members of the class are Gertrude Russell, Sally Russell, Mildred Walker, Elinor Johnson, Eldora Hinds, Pearl Bishop, Valerie Hill, Marion Wahl...

Feb. 6, 1964-- The Organizational Meeting of the Board of Trustees was held in the Church Parlor on Feb. 3... Committee chairmanships were filled as followed:... Flowers, Richard Batchelder and Earl Wahl...

March 17, 1964-- Appointed deaconesses for the communion service are Marion Wahl, Pearl Bishop, Barbara DeBoalt, and Virginia Field...

Sept. 30, 1964-- New members of the RE Committee include Richard Batchelder, George Sethares, Earl Wahl, Audrey Eagles, and possibly more...

October 15, 1964-- The Religious Education Committee for the current year will hold its first meeting on October 19th at the home of Earl & Marion Wahl...

August 17, 1966-- Committee reports on rebuilding our church. The Fund Raising Committee is as follows: Chairman, Earl Wahl, Members-- Brad Russell, Anton Buschenfeldt, Huber Priest, Robert Perkins, Valerie Hill, Thelma Zaiser, Alice Magee, Orrin Hansen, Dora Fernald, Kendall Fobes, and Richard Batchelder...

Sept. 20, 1966-- Everyone! Remember that date! Mark it red on your calendar! The Fellowship Supper on Oct. 22, 6:30 PM, at the Methodist Gym... The Set-Up Committee includes Beatrice Rockwood, Shirley Dolloff, Sally Baker, and Ruth Hansen... The program for the evening promises to be of supreme interest to all... Opening remarks: Rev. James Sikes; Annual Pledge Drive, Melville Fernald; Building Fund Drive, Earl Wahl...

Oct. 10, 1966-- Calling All Canvassers! [church newsletter editors always love exclamation points!!!] The canvassing teams for the annual pledge drive of the church will take place at Trinity Church on Oct. 24 for a briefing in preparation for the drive... This year these same people will also solicit pledges for the Church Building Fund on the same day...

  • Team 2: Capt. Earl Wahl, David Eagles, Audrey Eagles, Shirley Doloff, Sally Baker...
  • Team 5: Capt. Helen Oro, Gertrude Libby, Hubert Priest, Barbara Smith, Ruth Hansen, Orrin Hansen...

Oct. 18, 1966-- ...a progress report on the Building Fund Drive and what must be accomplished in the future will be presented by Earl Wahl, chairman...

June 2, 1967-- Rev. Sikes will be away in New Hampshire on a Spiritual Retreat from June 17-24. For a telephone number where he may be reached, please contact Ruth Hansen, chair of the Pastoral Relations Committee...

Oct. 10 1967-- Others committees on the Drive are... Telephone, chairman, Helen Shaw; Callers-- Doris Bishop, Pearl Bishop, Rena Fobes, Thelma Zaiser, Helen Oro, Eldora Hinds, Frances Wilbar, and Marion Wahl...

That just takes it to 1967, and just scratches the surface as far as the contributions of these four dear souls to the life of our church. To give a full picture of how much they have done, we would have had to start much, much earlier than 1962: Marion, for instance, joined the church in 1932 (during the ministry of Rev. Luther Morris and the Presidency of Herbert Hoover). That  makes her the longest-ranking of our Active Members. Second on that list is Ruth, who joined in 1938; next comes Earl and Orrin, who joined in 1941, along with John Dennison and Marjorie Corbett, who later became Marjorie Boutilier.

Nor, obviously, did their contributions to the life of our church end in 1967-- they were just getting going! To give the full picture of all they have done for us, we’d have to go through every single Packet, in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and now, even beyond the Twentieth Century itself-- through the ministries of Morris, Gates, McKeeman, DeWolfe, Gussner, Sikes, Bush, Richard, Clary, Symynkywicz, and the interim ministries of Prescott Winterstein and Glen Snowden!

So many committee meetings, so many church suppers, so many bake sales and book sales. So many commitments made, and so many commitments kept. So many ties secured ; so many gifts of the Spirit for those of us blessed to know them, so many blessings for those who will come after them, and after us, as the gentle, heroic, soft-spoken, hope-filled magnificent journey of this dear church continues to make its way down the halls of history.

Blessed be. Amen.


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