Holy Saturday: One Photograph and Many Memories

"Preparing God's Acre for the Moravian Easter Sunrise Service, 1974"
Courtesy of the Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection

More than a year ago, I was looking through random photographs from Forsyth County, North Carolina, and found this one. Immediately I thought that it nicely captured a moment in time that represents so much of my childhood. Taken in 1974, it shows a family cleaning a headstone and decorating a grave in God’s Acre – the term for a cemetery in the Moravian Church – to prepare for Easter Day.

I figured out that the photograph of these three individuals, representing three generations, was taken on Good Friday. And I imagined that the headstone – plain, flat, square, and marble like the rest, symbolizing equality before God – probably marked the grave of the older woman’s husband (which was true).

Two days later these three individuals would surely return with the rest of their family to attend the Moravian Easter Sunrise Service. There they would join the members of their congregation and process to the sound of brass bands playing antiphonal chorales from the church to God’s Acre, where they would joyfully proclaim their resurrection faith. I could see and hear all of it in my mind.

I learned, serendipitously, that I actually know the man in the photograph. He is the Rt. Rev. Graham Rights, who once sent me a handwritten note that I still have somewhere because of the encouragement that it gave to me as a young person.

Bishop Rights’ son, the younger brother of the girl in the photograph, is the same age as I am. We attended junior high school together and could do pretty good imitations during those years of televangelists from the 1980s. Now he’s an ordained minister in the Moravian Church like his father and his grandfather.

As I wait in the silence of this holy Sabbath, when the body of Jesus rested in the tomb, I’m grateful for these memories of a childhood that nurtured my faith.

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