From sea to shining sea, United Methodists are finding special ways to observe Memorial Day in the United States. Here is a sampling of ideas.
Pray for all who have given their lives for our freedom. "The major emphasis of the Memorial Day worship time," said the Rev. Alan Brown, Hayes Memorial United Methodist Church, Fremont, Ohio, "is not on a secular observance; rather, it is the message of the gospels and the sacraments of the church."
Read the names of fallen veterans, and toll a bell after each name is read. The Rev. Walter L. Graves encourages people to read the names when they see a war memorial. "Remember," said the pastor of Reelsboro United Methodist Church, New Bern, N.C., "that was a person who had... dreams and desires."
Provide special worship music with a PowerPoint presentation. "My church has a slide show of friends and family, living and dead, who have served in the military," reported Leslie Haggs, lay leader at Angelica United Methodist Church in New York.
Offer a candlelight service. Bishop James Swanson of the Holston Annual (regional) Conference will preach at joint services of three congregations — Mount Wesley and New Victory, Telford, Tenn., and Mayberry, Jonesborough, Tenn. A candlelight service for those interred in the church cemetery will be part of worship.
Wave a flag. Youth of First United Methodist Church, Koppel, Pa., raised money to buy an American flag for all 225 residences in the little town. "I'm a flag-waver," admitted the Rev. Donald A. Anderson. Quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he expressed hope that the flags would "bring Koppel a sense of pride in participating in this great holiday honoring those who fought to protect our freedoms."
Lay a wreath. In Illinois, Malta United Methodist Church will have a special worship service. The congregation invites veterans of the community to pay tribute to fellow soldiers by marching as a unit from the church to the township library, where a wreath will be dedicated.
Decorate veterans' graves. "After Sunday service," said the Rev. Charlie Johnson Jr., a local pastor serving three congregations in the Lynchburg, Va., area, "we go into the church cemetery, remove the old flags placed on the graves of veterans last Memorial Day and replace them with new ones...We remember our active-duty military every Sunday during prayer."
Do a project for active troops. In Maine, the North Searsport United Methodist Church is recruiting the community to join parishioners in a mission project to benefit soldiers going overseas. Participants will sew small pillows for military personnel. The project is in response to recent articles about soldiers having to pay for pillows on their flights.
Make military care packages. The congregation of First United Methodist Church, Alice, Texas, brought items for military care packages to mail to troops serving overseas. "Many of us have loved ones who are serving in the military," member Stefany Simmons explained. "Each of us signed cards to include for the troops."
Be part of a community-service day. Manatee United Methodist Church is one of two Bradenton, Fla., locations for the Journey of Remembrance, an annual community-service day honoring U.S. military veterans and their families for their care and sacrifice.
Learn about issues affecting veterans. At Christ United Methodist Church, Troy, N.Y., a guest speaker will focus on the history and social justice issues related to military mental illness. "At Christ Church," said the Rev. Nina Nichols in the Bennington Banner, "we honor those who serve their country, who served with the hope of bringing justice on behalf of our nation. But as a people of faith, we must not fail to call for a better way to peace than war. This Memorial Day we pray for peace for the war-weary."
Glorify Jesus as the Prince of Peace and reach out to those whom others may forget. On Memorial Day - as he does throughout the year - John Alexander, a member of East Lake United Methodist Church, Birmingham, Ala., will be involved with Kairos Prison Ministries. A Christian, lay-led, ecumenical, volunteer, international prison ministry, Kairos brings Christ's love and forgiveness to incarcerated individuals and their families.
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications.
News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., 615-742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published May 2011.