Deb Dunham, Nov. 1st All Saints Day


There’s a video on Facebook of a blind man sitting on a blanket in a busy city square, with a tin can for money and a cardboard sign which reads, “I’m blind, please help.”  A couple of people give him change, but most just walk by after reading the sign.  After a while, a young woman walks by, reads the sign, picks it up, writes something on the back of the sign, and puts it back down.  After this, almost everyone who walks by and reads the sign gives the man money.  After some time, the woman walks back past the blind man and he recognizes her from the sound of her shoes on the pavers.  When he asks her what she wrote on his sign, she tells him that she wrote the same thing only using different words.  She wrote, “It’s a beautiful day, and I can’t see it.”  There is always a different way to look at every situation.

When my son Ben was 16 years old, he asked me to write him a note giving him permission to get a tattoo.  He said I may as well just write the note because knew exactly what he was going to get and he was going to get one as soon as he turned 18 anyway, so I may as well just give him permission right then and there.  Well, his dad and I declined his very kind offer to give permission, and true to his word, within a week of turning 18 he announced that he was off to get his tattoo.  I told him I loved him, and yelled out the door to him as he was leaving to be sure they spelled “Mom” correctly!  Knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do about it, as he had reminded me several times, I did what anyone would do:  I rearranged every piece of furniture on my first floor and cleaned, scrubbed and polished every inch waiting for him to get home, but he didn’t get home until after we’d gone to bed.  The next morning I waited very patiently and quietly for a respectable amount of time before making any noise; it was at least 15 minutes!  He finally came downstairs, and after what seemed an eternity of both of us being stubborn, he asked if I wanted to see the tattoo.  Before he took his shirt off, he said he had known he wanted this tattoo since he was 12 years old.  There on the side of his torso were the following two paragraphs:

Before the ending of the day

Creator of the world we pray

That with thy wonted favor thou

Wouldst be our guard and keeper now.


From all ill dreams defend our sight

From fears and terrors of the night

Withhold from us our ghostly foe

That spot of sin we may not know.


I was stunned.  These are the first two verses of a Compline hymn, (which we sang after the potluck supper on November 1st), and which Ben and the choir sang every night, one week a year at Choir Camp, every year of his life.  Our “atheist” son, as he had proclaimed at some point in his teenage years, sat for hours to have these words forever written on his body.  These words were a comfort to him when he was a young boy as he headed off to bed in the woods at Choir Camp every year, and a strength to him as he began his new life in the Navy a few years ago.  Our “atheist” son never missed a church service growing up at Christ Church, unless he was sick or away, found solace in a small church in Coronado after the darkest time in his young life, and who we pray for weekly in the Prayers of the People, which gives us, his family, much comfort. 


His father and I can take credit for rousing him on Sunday mornings and getting him to church, but the thanks goes to all of you, here at Christ Church, for teaching and showing this young man, week after week, year after year, where to find faith, hope and strength even in the darkest night of the soul, and to carry that faith, hope and strength with him, now tattooed on his body forever, wherever his life takes him.


People at Christ Church are putting the mission of the church in action and changing lives, like Peter Kelmelis, George Parent, my son Ben, and they certainly have changed and shaped my life.  It is why Eric and I pledge.  I am asking all of you to join me; join me in pledging to Christ Church in finding the love of God, the peace of Jesus Christ, and the strength of the Holy Spirit, which has changed and shaped countless lives and I believe has the power to change countless others.


“I’m blind, please help.”  “It’s a beautiful day, and I can’t see it.”  Two different ways to say the same thing.

“Christ Church needs your pledge, please help.” Or “God is being served, here at Christ Church, and people are receiving the blessings of the Holy Spirit.  With your pledge we can reach countless others!”


As our friend George Parent would say:  Has anyone told you they loved you today?  Love to you all! 

Thank you, and Thanks, Be to God!

Peter Kelmelis’ Stewardship Talk – Sunday, October 18, 2015

 A few weeks ago, my grandpa brought me to a “Harvest Festival” that took place in my town. It was a little before noon, and we left our house a few miles from the Stonington border and drove toward a farm in the center of North Stonington where the event was being held. When we got there, I spotted a close friend from school, and my grandpa told me to go look around at all the stands with him and meet back at the entrance later. So we walked around a little bit and talked. During the conversation, my friend said, “Y’know, I didn’t really expect to see you here at a town event like this.” I asked why, and he responded, “Well… it seems to me like you’re always off doing big things in Westerly.” I looked around me at all of the stands set up around the field with signs about all of these local businesses and farms and names of town roads that I have heard of but do not actually know where they are… and I realized he was right; in all honesty, I think I know the layout of Westerly better than I know that of my own town. And that makes sense, really. I come into Westerly for one reason or another almost every day: Monday night, it’s Chorus rehearsal; Wednesday night, it’s rehearsal with the Westerly Band; Thursday, it’s Choir; Saturday, it’s the occasional Youth Group activity; and Sunday morning, it’s, well, here. And, in one way or another, each of these parts of my weekly routine is something that the Church has given me.

    When I was seven and a half, I don’t really remember how it happened exactly, but my mom told me that I was joining the choir. So, my first rehearsal with Mr. Kent was in the choir room a few weeks before the Summer Pops. When I got there, I remember having seen many other kids who I did not think I had seen in the Choir loft on Sundays, and it turned out I hadn’t; these were the kids from the Chorus of Westerly, which I guess I was also signed up for without really knowing it. So, over the years, I learned how to read music, how to sing, how to do the bells on Sunday mornings, how to make friends with the other trebles, and (maybe most importantly) the most tactful way to tell Mr. Kent that there’s a small chance that you just might not be able to make the next rehearsal.

Having been a part of these organizations now for a good half of my life, though, I can’t really imagine life without them. Many of the close friends I have now were those who sat a few feet away in choir rehearsal, stood a few rows farther up on the risers in chorus concerts, and rang the bells with me on Sunday mornings since we were all twelve years old.

    Church has also taken me places that I might never have otherwise experienced. Over the years, I have slept overnight at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City a couple of times with the Youth Group, spent a few weeks at the Episcopal Conference Center (ECC) in northern Rhode Island in past summers, lived on the Navajo reservation in Utah for a week to help with a Vacation Bible School program, and been introduced to Camp Ogontz in Northern New Hampshire by the choir where I spent this past summer working.

    I suppose what I have taken from these experiences is that Christ Church can take you so many places that you would never expect, and, on the flip side, it is important to take Christ Church with you even after the service is over because Church, I believe, is about finding out what you can do with the support you are given by this community… and occasionally seeing how you can return the favor.