Services, and community service, all aim to remember the dead


November 02, 1998|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Halloween, a time of costumes and candy, evokes the morbid side of life.

It precedes All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day -- two church holidays celebrated for more than a millennium.

At least two local congregations offered services for All Souls' Day.

The Rev. Kirk Kubicek, rector at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, says the All Souls' service begins a monthlong meditation on "what binds the living and the dead."

Last year, St. Peter's changed its long-standing Commemoration of All Souls Departed to a service at 4 p.m., known as "evensong," on the first Sunday in November.

For the commemoration, parishioners provide the names of those they want remembered. The names are read aloud.

The service closes with singing and a potluck supper.

At St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church in Elkridge, the Rev. Gerard Bowen instituted an All Souls' service four years ago.

The church invites families who have lost someone in the past year to a Mass at 7 p.m. today.

In the service, the lights are dimmed, and family members are invited to place candles on the altar to honor the memory of their dead.

The service has been "very meaningful," says Diane Hodges, the church secretary.

Sacred places

Only a few people have been buried recently in the church cemetery on the steep hill in front of St. Augustine's Church.

Five people were buried in the past year in another cemetery in our neighborhood -- the Zion Cemetery, near U.S. 1 and Route 100.

When German immigrants built the Baltimore Mission of Elk Ridge Landing on an acre in 1850, the cemetery was placed next to the church.

The church originally shared a pastor with a church in Hebbville.

When the church burned in 1893, it was rebuilt on Dorsey Road less than a mile away. It has been renamed Dorsey Emmanuel United Methodist Church.

Now Route 100 separates the church from its cemetery, and an industrial park adjoins the site on three sides.

The lot next to the cemetery is being developed by Rounding Third Sports Center as a family entertainment center, with a miniature golf course and a figure-eight go-kart track.

Jim Harris, Rounding Third's owner, has promised to respect the cemetery. He said he will build a wall between the properties for privacy.

Surprisingly, the small cemetery on the hill overlooking the roaring traffic on Route 100 and the stacks of air conditioners stored on the adjacent lot is still tranquil.

Peonies, roses and yucca grow near the gravestones.

Mature hickory, white oak and black locust trees form a canopy of leaves and branches.

The names on the gravestones match the names of those still on church rolls: Binder, Bosien, Dorsey, Dunkerly, Englehart, Johnson, Leatherwood, Little, Mollman, Powell, Reimsnider, Smiley and Wright.

Herbert Mollman, a church member, has served as the cemetery's custodian since 1990. His parents, grandmother and other relatives are buried there.

Every morning he opens the gate to the cemetery, and every evening he closes it.

In the fall, he sweeps the hickory nuts and acorns off the blacktop and picks up the trash.

Sometimes parishioners ask him to leave the gate open late so they can visit on their way home from work.

He does.

Several of the burials this year occurred during construction on Route 100.

Mollman called the manager of the Williams Construction Co. so that construction crews would quiet their graders and tractors during burial services.

Dorsey Emmanuel Pastor Colin Phillips said one of the mysteries of the cemetery is that one can walk through the gates and the distractions seem to remain outside.

"It has a strong presence of its own," he said.

The church holds a sunrise service at the cemetery on Easter.

"The cemetery will remain as other businesses come and go," Mollman said.

Clearly, both the sacred and the profane have found a home close to where the silent members of our community rest.

Lyle Buck, an Ellicott City resident and retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church, shared one of his favorite gravestone inscriptions.

"As you are, I once was, and as I am, you will be."

The phrase can be applied to cemeteries as well as individuals.

The Whipps Cemetery in Ellicott City was once covered with a tumble of honeysuckle and poison ivy.

It has been restored by Ellicott City resident Barbara Sieg and other volunteers.

Her son and his playmates stumbled on the abandoned cemetery in the mid-1980s.

Sieg and other volunteers founded the Friends of the Whipps Cemetery and Memorial Gardens and have worked since 1986 to restore this small family cemetery in the St. Johns Lane community. The St. Johns Community Association has supported their efforts.

The parcel on which the cemetery rests originally was owned by Boots Rogers, for whose family Rogers Avenue was named.

The Friends group organized a fall cleanup of the Whipps Cemetery on Halloween.

Volunteers tidied up around the grave markers and tended the memorial gardens.

They were encouraged to wear old clothes or Halloween costumes.

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