Torch Column: Reverendly Yours

08 May 2017

One of my favorite Noel Coward songs from a long time ago begins with the line:

“Last night I went to a marvelous party.” He then goes on to sing about some characters who were guests at the party. And they were some characters, of course; the song terribly humorous and clever as only Noel Coward can be.

Last Friday it was my turn to go to a marvelous party at the church. It was thrown for Matthew and me. Not only was it marvelous, but great characters showed up. What one naturally wants at a party are characters with flare and humor; unforgettable figures who simply refuse to blend into the woodwork because...they’re characters. And we had a great time reminiscing about my unthinkable tenure of a thirty-year ministry and counting. Recalling some of the memories took us well into the evening.

The party served as a mixture of farewells to Matthew with deep gratitude for his two-year ministry with this congregation, and also recognition of a marker 30 years for me. The guests of honor even received gifts, from the children and from the adults. It was a marvelous party.

Whom to thank? The list is endless. Sandi Greene and Christine Ashworth served as emcees, Becky Heal worked up some singularly funny songs with David, Todd  Seymour broke onto the stage as a very funny songwriter a la Noel Coward, and the Java Jive Singers wowed us with multi-layered harmonies that stirred the soul. The set-up crew, the cleanup crew, the food crew, the childcare crew, all contributed to making it a marvelous party. My heartfelt thanks, awe, and amazement extend to you all and all the guests in attendance.

And then there was also the sentimental book of inscriptions from everyone, guaranteed to make you weep for a week upon reading the commentary filled with wise words, wise cracks, and wise advice. Thank you everyone!!!

Just the day before the party I was downtown at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building for a luncheon. As I left the lunch walking hurriedly to my car I noticed out of the corner of my eye three men in obvious LDS attire. We had already walked past each other when my name was called out. I stopped, turned around, and one of the men who served as head of the LDS Public Relations 30 years ago and is now long retired, recognized me and waved me over. I remembered that he served a mission in Berlin, so we immediately broke into German as was our custom, leaving the other two much younger men a bit perplexed. To shed some light on their confusion, my old friend said to them while pointing at me: “Take note. THIS is what a Unitarian looks like!”

Thirty years ago I never could have imagined being stopped on South Temple by an LDS leader for a bit of kind teasing. But much happens over the span of three decades. Unlikely friendships, connections, and bonds are formed. It really begins to feel a lot like home, offering a level of comfort that only a home can provide. Thirty years have gone by all-too-quickly, as is what always happens when looking at time in retrospect. It can be very sentimental, meaningful, and fun. Hey - - last night I went to a marvelous party...Thank you so very much. TRG

[ Photos from the event can be seen on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/First-Unitarian-Church-of-Salt-Lake-City-116011744733/ ]

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