As most of you know, my father, Allen Vander Meulen Jr., was once a Minister here. It’s humbling and a bit surreal to stand here nearly 50 years after his first Sunday here; and I am happy to report that both he and my mother are here today! Thank you, Rev. McFadden, and all of you, for inviting me to speak here this morning: it is a blessing and an honor. I am deeply grateful.
My earliest memories are connected with this church. One of the first, I think, is hearing my Dad’s voice boom out over the congregation during hymns.
You see, he’d stand here and sing as he’d always done in his previous churches. But, in coming here something was different, something that he did not realize mattered. Those previous churches had not had one of these [TAP ON MIKE]. So, singing in full volume with his powerful voice had never been an issue before, he’d never had to think about it – and didn’t think about it because the speakers pointed towards the congregation, not towards him – he didn’t hear what we heard.
And I was three years old – I didn’t know any different. I had no idea that hearing the preacher sing so LOUDLY was not normal, not even at those times when I recalled it decades later. It had been cemented in my mind as the way things were, life as normal. My perspective on it was never challenged until a moment of revelation – in my forties, I think – when I finally heard the story of how “Pony” Felch, the church moderator at the time, took my Dad aside one day and said in that wonderful old Vermont accent of his “You know Allen, next time you sing a hymn from the pulpit, take a step back!”
Our world is always changing, and yet we hang on to our old traditions and ways of seeing things. This doesn’t always work well, and we often don’t realize it. We just muddle along, often somewhat aware of the changes going on around us, but perhaps not having thought through their full impact. It often takes a challenge to our views and memories for us to fully appreciate what has happened, and how those changes affect us and what we are called to do.