Remembering the saints

Father David Epps's picture

In some parts of the Church world, the “saints” are those men and women whose lives are so exemplary and in whom such love and grace was manifest that, after their death, they were declared to be “saints,” worthy of veneration and imitation.

In the scriptures, however, the “saints” are all of those who have been reconciled to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. As one eastern Tennessee church member said to me long ago, “you are either an ain’t or a saint. There ain’t no in-between.”

On Nov. 1, or the Sunday nearest to that date, our congregation commemorates All Saint’s Day, but, in our services, it has a unique flavor.

We are a relatively new congregation, just 13 years old. When we experienced a death in our church for the first time, it had an impact. Over the years, we have lost people to illness, the aging process, tragic circumstances, and accidents. We have lost people in their 90s all the way down to newborns and most ages in between.

On All Saints Sunday, we remember them — all of them. We remember them by name. It is, for the most part, a normal Sunday morning service. There is music, praise and worship, the reading of scripture, prayer, a sermon — all of the elements of a morning worship service. And then there is the remembrance. We read a passage from an ancient piece of literature called “Sirach,” also known as “Ecclesiasticus.” The selection, from Chapter 44, reads, in part:

“Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations. The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning. There were those who ruled ... those who composed musical tunes, and set forth verses in writing ... There are some of them who have left a name, so that men declare their praise. And there are some who have no memorial, who have perished as though they had not lived; they have become as though they had not been born, and so have their children after them. But these were men of mercy, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten ...”

Then, respectfully and soberly, the names of those who were once among us but now have their place in the heavenlies are read. Following the reading of each name, a bell sounds. Then a pause — then the reading of the next name, followed by the bell. On it goes until the last name is read.

Then members of the congregation are invited to speak the name of someone important to them who has died. It may be the name of a husband, a wife, a parent or grandparent, a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a friend, a comrade in arms, a child — the person may have died recently or 50 years ago. It doesn’t matter. On this day they are all remembered.

Many people will experience memories and, perhaps, a tightening of the throat. Some will even shed tears. After all this time, they still miss and love those who are absent in body. “Love never fails,” the Apostle wrote.

After the names are called, the congregation sings a song of preparation and comes forward to kneel or stand at the altar and receive Holy Communion in the remembrance and presence of that “great cloud of witnesses” described in the Book of Hebrews.

And then it is over. But the memories and the experiences linger still. Some will go home and look at old photos. But all will remember.

Someday, someone will read my name on All Saints Sunday. The bell will sound and those who knew me will remember. Those who didn’t will stand respectfully and give time and space for a solemn moment.

The list will grow longer through the years but it will be read still. It is a commitment we have made — a commitment to remember the saints who have lived among us and have now taken their place as citizens of Heaven.

[David Epps is the priest and pastor of The Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277 between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He is also the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese ( and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Mission in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at]

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Submitted by Bonkers on Sun, 11/01/2009 - 11:07am.

I take it that Saints, still alive, aren't perfect. Maybe even some that are dead.

Aren't the people whom the Pope makes a Saint first perfected by revealing miracles? Or, is perfection necessary to be a Saint.

Does good works in abundance, by opinion, supersede any imperfections that were practiced once or maybe indefinitely?

I do read where different religions and different sects have a somewhat different definition of Saints.

I suppose Reverend Epps (Father, Bishop) isn't really concerned with any definition except the one practiced by his church since the Episcopal split, and his being even a different branch, I don't really know what they are.

I just feel a little queasy differentiating some people as Saints and other not.

Submitted by blowback on Sun, 11/01/2009 - 11:39am.

Let the dead "REST IN PEACE". Do you see deamons? Ghosts, Holy or others. Way too much for undertakers to be concened about. Just pass the collection plate and let the dead "Rest In Peace".

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