The ceiling of the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church soars more than 70 feet high, supported by walls of cast stone, brownstone and brick.
Looking out across the congregation from a folding chair in front of the sanctuary steps, my eyes moved upwards across soaring stained glass windows, as if following the strains of the oboe with notes rising to fill the expanse of space above.
There I noticed the resemblance of the ceiling trusses to the hull of a ship, symbolic, says the church history, of a vessel carrying pilgrims home safely to port.
“What perfect traveling music,” I thought, moved to tears by our oboist’s exquisite rendering of the hauntingly beautiful “Gabriel’s Oboe.” The piece was just one of many offered by the Tim Keyes Consort as part of a service of remembrance celebrating the life of Geoffrey Ames Petersen, a consummate musician, organist, composer, teacher, and friend, say those who knew him well.
It was an experience of which I was especially grateful to be a part, for what is more meaningful than remembering and celebrating the life of another?
In looking back on more than 10 years of singing with the Consort, it seemed that this service of remembering was really part of a pattern, or more significantly, a passion of our director – a passion for remembering; remembering Christ, Mary, the Saints, the Apostles, the words of Scripture, the glory of creation, the richness and gifts of every culture, the value of each life.
In what he composes and what he calls the Consort to perform, Tim offers us, and our audiences, an opportunity to recall the glory and goodness of our loving God, an opportunity to be enriched in our faith and our musical lives. He offers us an Ebenezer.
Most of us would probably associate the name with Dicken’s “Christmas Carol” and the miserly curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. Perhaps there is more meaning in the name than we’ve realized.
In the Bible, in the Book of Samuel, we read about the Israelites’ losses in battle to the Philistines. The Israelites press Samuel to continue in his prayers to God on their behalf, and as he does so, God throws the Philistines into confusion and they are subdued by the Israelites.
Scripture recounts, “Samuel then took a stone and placed it between Mizpah and Jeshanah; he named it Ebenezer, explaining, ‘As far as this place the Lord has been our help.’”
The “stone of help” would serve as a reminder to the Israelites of God’s presence and assistance.
In our lives, Ebenezers may be crafted or experienced in any number of ways, but always serving to remind us of the ever-present love of God – songs, hymns, prayer, Scripture, sacramentals, liturgy, the sacraments, and, perhaps most especially, other people.
Then there is Ebenezer Scrooge.
I always wondered why Charles Dickens chose the name for his protagonist.
But I find it interesting that, after a night of remembering and foreseeing which leads to an epiphany, the man best described early on as Scrooge, becomes the true man, Ebenezer, a “stone of help,” for Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family, and, no doubt, many others. Finally, Ebenezer was able to love and to accept love.
It seems Dickens understood it is only in our remembering that we become who we are meant to be.
“I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11
A column from Things My Father Taught Me. Mary may be reached at [email protected]. Her book, “Things My Father Taught Me About Love,” can be found on Amazon Kindle. Follow her on Twitter @mreginam6.