Faith Forum: How will you observe Memorial Day?

Charles Gruber, seeker:

In the past I have celebrated Memorial Day in the usual manner: beer, barbecue and good times. Last year was drastically different.

Last year I spent the day in shock and grief. My twin brother, at age 66, died on Memorial Day. He served two tours in Vietnam as a copilot of Huey troop transports. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for a number of years. My hand was on his chest when his heart stopped. He was and is part of my ancestral lineage.

This Memorial Day I shall spend the day in prayer. I will give thanks to those who have preceded me. They form a long line into the distant mists of the past and I stand upon their shoulders. I will give thanks to those who follow me into this world (including my twin brother, as he followed me by 10 minutes). They form a long line into the distant mists of the future and stand upon my shoulders.

I will give thanks for the pattern of loving kindness that appears when I study all my relations. I will give thanks for all those, whether known or unknown to the world, have held aloft the light of truth amidst the darkness of human ignorance.

I will spend the day in meditation looking at my divine connection to all those who have been lost to wars waged by us and upon us. I will spend the day in contemplation praying for the women and men wounded in war, visibly and invisibly. I will spend the day in prayer, seeking healing for the families of the brave and dedicated souls. I will spend the day in inquiry seeking to understand how I contribute to this ghastly process.

I love the soldiers. They are my heroes. I despise the wars. My prayer and hope is that those who make the decisions to wage war will instead decide to wage peace. May it be so.

— Send email to Charles Gruber at

The Rev. Matt Sturtevant, First Baptist Church of Lawrence, 1330 Kasold Drive:

As a family, we usually find ourselves in a stereotypical Memorial Day celebration, complete with grills, hammocks and an occasional do-it-yourself project.

We live far from family grave sites, so we find other ways to remember through the year, visiting graves of loved ones and telling our kids stories of folks they never got to know.

At the church, though, we get to remember differently this year. Sometimes, churches on Memorial Day weekend sing a patriotic song or list church members who have died over the past year (our congregation usually reserves that poignant moment for All Saints Day, a much older tradition of remembering those who have gone before).

But this year, we get to remember by celebrating our birthday! This year, Memorial Day weekend coincides with Pentecost Sunday. Named for a Jewish festival that occurred 50 days after Passover, Christians often remember Pentecost as the birthday of the church, the day that God’s power came upon the disciples to help them share their experience of Christ with those who had gathered for the festival.

Different denominations highlight Pentecost in different ways. Some are named after that historic movement of the spirit and see Pentecost as the driving factor of their faith. Many Christian churches speak of a wide variety of spiritual gifts given by God, as demonstrated powerfully at Pentecost. Yet we are all unified in celebrating — and remembering — our birthday together.

So this Memorial Day weekend, as I grill that burger or lie in the hammock, my plan is to take a moment to remember:

• Remember the historic moment considered by many as the birth of the church.

• Remember those saints who carried that story over the last two millennia.

• And remember those saints in my own life who have used their gifts to share the story of Christ with me.

— Send email to Matt Sturtevant at