Memorial Day has special meaning on an island that is home to many veterans, their families and descendants. Marked by parades and ceremonies in the public square, Memorial Day is also commemorated in houses of worship of many different faiths. This week’s clergy discuss how they plan to remember those who have died in service of the United States of America.
The Rev. James Barnum
Pastor, Bellmore Presbyterian Church
At Bellmore Presbyterian Church, on the Sunday worship of Memorial Day weekend, we sing one of the national hymns such as, “America The Beautiful,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” or “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” We also pause to honor all the men and women who have died and served our country, praying still for their families. In the church bulletin, we list the names of all our members and friends who have served in a branch of our armed forces, and their years of service for our country. In my sermon for that Sunday, using the lectionary texts, I would often blend in themes of sacrifice, reminding our people of the great words from holy Scripture, as the admonition in Ecclesiastes 1:10 to not forsake those who have gone before us. I would also preach on one of the great patriots of the past. For instance, Abraham Lincoln’s closing words of his first inaugural address in 1861, reminded us of a truth that leads to peace, when he spoke of “the better angels of our nature.” We also put up white crosses on the church lawn, as symbols for the community, to remember the “ultimate sacrifice” of the servicemen and women who have died to protect freedom for us and for those around the world. I am chaplain of the Bellmore Fire Department. On Memorial Day, we march the route that connects the Bellmore and North Bellmore communities along Bellmore Avenue, and when we get to the church I serve, we give a right-hand salute to honor our fallen veterans.
The Rev. J. Christopher King
Vicar, St. James of Jerusalem Episcopal Church, Long Beach
Memorial Day tells us the sobering truth that there is no lasting freedom without real sacrifice. It inspires reverence, gratitude and the spirit of service. And for those of the Christian faith, it echoes the teaching of the Prince of Peace: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Memorial Day is not part of the liturgical calendar of my denomination nor of most others that observe the Christian year. But this doesn’t mean that Memorial Day should pass without mention in our houses of worship, as it too often does. Speaking plainly, we ought to pray regularly for those who put their lives on the line to protect our liberties. And we ought to honor, in a way that befits the gospel, those who have given their lives for the freedoms that we too often take for granted. There are women and men in our congregations who silently grieve the loss of loved ones to war. A child whose life was turned upside down when a parent didn’t come back home from Iraq this time. Veterans with broken bodies and crippling memories of the horrors of combat. God, in his boundless compassion, cares for those who suffer or sorrow, for “he heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3). Memorial Day gives us a powerful opportunity to publicly acknowledge before God and one another the reality of broken hearts and wounded spirits. While you might be unable to pay your respects at a war memorial or military cemetery or take part in the public observances of Memorial Day, you can always pray.
Rabbi Mendy Goldberg
Lubavitch of the East End, Coram
Memorial Day was created because there was great loss of life in the Civil War, to remember the soldiers who fought for freedoms we are able to enjoy today. But it’s not only about remembering the people who lost their lives, it’s also about what they fought for. When we talk about a memorial, we use the Hebrew word, Yizkor. That means we remember our loved ones and their actions. Even more so, it comes with the commitments we make today to perpetuate their legacy and the things they fought for. On the Sabbath before Memorial Day we will be sure to say a special memorial prayer for all the veterans, with support, comfort and assurance that their sacrifices are not forgotten. Jews living in this country don’t take for granted the religious freedoms we enjoy. Memorial Day is a time for us to reciprocate and show our appreciation for the pleasures and freedoms we have. We hope and pray for the time that Isaiah tells us will come, when “nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”(Isaiah 2:4)