There is a tradition within many Christian churches of setting out photos, artifacts and other personal items on what is known as the Remembrance Table. Such tables are usually used on days such as the Festival of All Saints and perhaps other times during the year. Often times remembrance tables are used during a time of mourning, especially at funerals and memorials. In my particular case, I have such a table set up in my office that I shared with the children of the church while having lunch with them on Saturday.
Let me preface the rest of this post by pointing out that I have recently begun a new chapter of my ministry. In January I accepted a call to Union Lutheran Church in Salisbury, NC. Of course this meant that I had to leave my former congregation in Charleston, SC. Leaving a church family is never easy, but in this particular circumstance, taking a new call meant leaving the congregation where I first served as pastor. You’ve heard it said that one never forgets their first love. Well, there is truth to that statement, and it applies to so many relationships other than that of romance. To be sure, a pastor never forgets his/her first congregation.
The journey to ordained ministry is a long one, so I decided to set up a remembrance table in my new office so that I could be reminded each day of the saints who have had an impact on my ministry over the years. On this table I have photos of family members and fellow church members from my past. I also have items such as rocks from the Kasilof River in Alaska which help me to remember my father-in law as we fished together, clay pottery made by my daughters, three nails used as props from a Lenten service a friend once led, and of course a gift from my former confirmation students which they affectionately called “Pastor Nuttly.”
Pastor Nuttly has a story behind it which I won’t go into just now, but it is a gift that I cherish. The student /Pastor relationship I shared with these young people is still very meaningful to me. They were my first confirmands, the first students whose faith formation I was directly responsible for. They are great kids who loved their pastor, and I loved them as well. When I left St. Barnabas, one thing they asked was that I reserve for “Pastor Nuttly” a special place in my new office so that I remember them. This I promised to do.
Upon my arrival in Salisbury, the children of our congregation had several surprises for me, one of which was a homemade picture frame with a group photo inside. Around the border they all wrote messages of welcome. I have come to really enjoy these kids, and their faith is nothing short of amazing. Once again, Pastor and the children are forming a strong bond and together we are learning the things God is calling us to learn.
During our lunch together in the fellowship hall, I decided to take the kids on a field trip to my office so they could see some of the things I have set out. Immediately their eyes turned toward my remembrance table and they began asking questions about the stuff on display. I told them about the rocks. I told them about the pottery and the photos. Finally, one child pointed to Pastor Nuttly and asked “what is that?” As I told them about the kids I served and taught in Charleston, they understood just how much I loved them and how I miss them. Then another child pointed out something to the rest; Pastor Nuttly was placed on the table directly in front of the photo frame they had made for me as a welcome gift. Immediately the comment was made, “He loves us too!”
I am so thankful for all the saints whose memories reside on my table. Each one has had significant impact on my life and ministry as a pastor. But most of all, I am so grateful for the children of my new congregation and the love they show toward their pastor, and also for the love and the gift from the children at my former church in Charleston. Through the gift of Pastor Nuttly, I am able to remember each of them in a special way. I have many items that rotate on and off of my remembrance table, but since my lunch with the children last week, and the connection that was made to the children of Charleston, Pastor Nuttly and the picture of the kids at Union have become permanent fixtures on the remembrance table.