Sharp About Your Prayers

the challenges, absurdities, and joys of an urban faith

Sharp About Your Prayers header image 2

All Our Saints

October 28th, 2011 · 3 Comments · Faith and the City

In the small Minnesota town (pop. 2,000) where I grew up, there were 11 churches.

Since all of these churches conducted confirmation classes at about the same time, the high school cafeteria was a hotbed of religious dialogue. I use the term “dialogue” loosely, because (more than anything) we practiced our faith by pointing out how we were different from each other.

We argued about heaven and hell, the salvation of non-Christians, and the ethics of the death penalty. We even injected a little church history into our debates. Pushing aside a tray of mystery meat and grey string beans, you could usually count on some kid to point out that the Catholics prayed to saints, while we Protestants went directly to God with our concerns.

It was our own little Reformation.

A fledgling Protestant, I made the “Why go to St. Jude when you can go directly to God?” argument more than once. 

Still, when it came to saints, I secretly felt that the Catholics got the better deal. I didn’t want to pray to deceased people, but I did love their stories. 

These were heroes and heroines of the faith. They were valiant, bold, and often incredibly compassionate people. I liked to think of them looking down from heaven, cheering us on, as we slogged through the difficult parts of life.

For a long time, though, I kept my interest in the saints under wraps. Until one day, I was surprised to hear my college chaplain (a good Lutheran) preach enthusiastically about the saints. In the sermon, the chaplain listed his set of saints: biblical figures like Abraham and Sarah; classic saints, like Anthony and Teresa of Avila; historical figures like Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. He also listed his ninth grade social studies teacher and his maternal grandmother.

These were his saints — all those who gave him courage and faith and strength for living.

Then he read this passage:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. — Hebrews 12:1

This Sunday we will celebrate All Saints’ Day at FAPC. We will do it with gusto. We will sing that fabulous, belt-it-to-the-rafters hymn, “For All the Saints.” We will read a necrology.

I realize that necrology is an uncommon word — a Halloween-ish word. Necromancer. Necropolis. Necrosis. Ew!  Necro-anything sounds kind of bad. Yet this shouldn’t scare us away from the beautiful, powerful reading of the necrology on All Saints’ Day.

Quite simply, the necrology is a list of all those people (church members and those connected to church members: mothers and fathers and brothers and grandmothers) who died in the past year.  It is a list like the one offered by my college chaplain.

It is a list of “All Our Saints.”

So, here’s my question:  Who’s on your list?  Who’s in the “cloud of witnesses” who surround you this All Saints Day?

Facebook Comments

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Tags: ···

3 Comments so far ↓

  • Candy Asmna, RN, NPNo Gravatar

    Scott: I found your words this week heartening and provocative. To elaborate would require more space than this site allows or is appropriate. More I wanted to share that although we have never met since you first attended FAPC. There is a woman now residing in Queens, NY, previously briefly in Providence. RI who reads what you write and listens to your words almost every week. I am that woman, and my name is Candy Asman. I was there the day you rose into your current role to witness and share in this glorious and memorable occasion. Clearly more of a Scorsese than a Kodak moment.The Scorsese reference meant with the best of intentions and respect. Sometimes we spend so much time, we give so much thought to what we write and share…we edit and re think and then print out or reveal orally what is in essence our inner lives to our target audience. It is a role requirement but still a courageous act as one leaves oneself open to both hands clapping as well as “What was he thinking?” Concurrently one can also think, who reads this? Are they really listening in the pews or are they thinking of their work week, what to have for dinner, or just spacing out from a week too busy for words? I say all of this to let you know, I have been reading. I have been listening and 98% of the time I am richer for dong so. For this and your inimitable sense of humor, I thank you. Candy Asman, RN

    • SBJNo Gravatar


      Thank you! Golly, your comments are humbling, and a happy tonic this afternoon! I am going to “pay them forward” by finding someone else to bless in the next couple of hours, but for the moment, let me say simply: Thank you for blessing me!


  • Laura FissingerNo Gravatar

    Rev. Scott, I have forgotten the name of the Minnesota town in which you grew up. I moved to Fargo, North Dakota (from Chicago) in high school, and promptly left both the Catholic Church and Christianity, with my parents’ blessing. Yet I still walked with God the Father, and kept running into His Son: much social life in Fargo and in Moorhead, Minnesota, across the river, centered in churches. I do see now that Jesus truly never let me go, for all the years that I ran. Those years in Fargo and the many years in the Twin Cities which followed kept me close to Christian churches and close to my Savior, who had no intention of letting me separate from His love.