By Frances Stebbins, Correspondent
[This is a memory from the many decades the author has been privileged to write for daily and weekly newspapers circulating in Western Virginia.]
In the front yard of my small Salem home, a Chestnut Oak tree arose from the roots of one which may have fallen in the infamous derecho windstorm of nearly a decade ago. This fall, the welcome tree has its first heavy crop of acorns as the God of nature continues to regenerate.
Across our street, my neighbor’s tall oak – a different variety – is also dropping a heavy crop of nuts.
Earlier in a more rural time of my life, I heard that a lot of nuts predicted a cold and snowy winter. Will it be so? Better get ready. This is a year of extremes.
A new friend, who came last year from a warmer climate, was amazed at how quickly weather can change in Western Virginia. In early fall it’s not unusual for a cold and windy day to follow one of sweating while cleaning off the garden.
Despite the continuing pandemic and daily efforts to get as many people as possible vaccinated, most churches with which I have contacts are trying to move ahead to something resembling what was familiar in 2019 before what seems to be a 100-year medical catastrophe came upon us.
Members of Unity of Roanoke Valley, who worship on a high hill just north of Salem, are planning a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of its founding. The congregation has had several pastors since 1971, many of them women.
The annual CROP Walk, which raises funds to combat hunger locally and throughout the world, is expected to take place on Sunday, October 10. It’s popular with teens and active retired folk; I went on my first one in the early 1980s, but I’ll leave it to those younger this year.
At First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Salem, a Caregivers Class is scheduled on October 3 and 17 on Sunday nights. And on October 24, the congregation is honoring its pastor, the Rev. Dan Netting, on his 20 years of service to them. Netting, who also has given some time to ministering to inmates of the Salem and regional jails, still sends me a thoughtful commentary by Postal mail each week.
At St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Daleville, a sign of the times is an effort to raise $16,000 for the installation of an electronic system to live-stream worship services. Many members have grown so accustomed to getting their Sunday religion by their computers that it’s probable they won’t make as much effort to be in the building.
Others, like myself, want to be in the presence of the church friends who are my family since nearly all the blood kin have passed on. As one minister observed the past Sunday, the pandemic has taken many friends, but new ones are always there to be welcomed and incorporated into an existing congregation.
Sunday schools for children and adults have resumed in some churches where they are a major part of learning as well as a time to connect with others. Soon the “coffee hour” fellowship period will be resumed in my own congregation. In early June of this year, however, I observed in a column inspired by the press service of an American denomination that soon all the Sunday fellowship events would be normal again.
That didn’t happen. We keep wearily waiting and wearing our masks.
Each fall, Jews around the world observe several holy days. I grew up in my small Piedmont Virginia town knowing none of God’s Chosen People, as Scripture calls those of the Hebrew tradition. My education increased enormously when I enrolled in a city professional institute in Richmond where I soon came to know several students who attended one of the synagogues or temples in the capital city.
As the long-time Religion writer for the daily Roanoke newspapers, my education was further enhanced by rabbis of our valley’s two congregations, Beth Israel, the more traditionalist, and Temple Emanuel, a Reform group. The holy days mark significant events in Jewish history such as Passover in the spring which Christians learn was significant to Jesus in the days before His Crucifixion and Resurrection. It commemorates the deliverance of the Hebrew people from bondage to their masters in ancient Egypt.
The fall holidays of Rosh Hashanah (the New Year), Yom Kippur (the day of Atonement) and Sukkot (the Festival of Booths) are this month being observed by one of my cousins, who lives at 71 with her husband in Columbus, Ohio. The only member of my late mother’s family still in touch with me, she was of a conservative Presbyterian household and years ago much disappointed her mother by marrying a Jew.
She recently messaged me that she adopted Judaism, and in recent years it has come to mean much to her; she was going to be busy with the age-old observances.
And so, we live and learn as the years pass.