It’s not morbid to talk about your death and burial plans.
Pastor Don Richard
As Christians, we have hope in eternal life and look forward to the resurrection of all the dead in Christ on the last day. Jesus takes the sting of death away, and we actually look forward to the time when we will know our God and each other in perfect peace and glory in the new heavens and the new earth. In the meantime, the cemetery serves an important function in our church. It is a holding place for us after we die and await the resurrection.
St Paul Lutheran Church is blessed to have its own cemetery. As a member of St. Paul Sherwood, you have the assurance of burial space at a much lower cost than a public cemetery. You also have a say in how the cemetery is managed, maintained, and used. Like many other facets of the church, the cemetery is overseen by volunteers on a committee to oversee day-to-day operations, as well as long-term plans. The committee consists of a sextant, who has charts of the cemetery showing where each grave space is, who’s buried in it, and where available spaces are for future internments. There are also volunteers who do general upkeep of the cemetery grounds. While the church treasurer is responsible for tracking all monies coming in and going out, the cemetery committee pays close attention to donations and costs particular to it including maintenance, fees, trust funds, etc. Some of our current volunteers have devoted much of their lives in loving care to the cemetery because of its important purpose and legacy. We thank God for them and their faithful service to the church.
The St. Paul Lutheran Church cemetery has its own interesting history. I’ve been told it once had a fence around it, but I haven’t been able to find photographic evidence of it. In the old days, church members who were known drunkards, gamblers, fornicators and adulterers were denied burial in the cemetery. One can suppose this heavy-handed approach was to keep the cemetery untainted by the deceased’s moral depravity. But it may also have been out of loving concern for the brethren as a warning that if you live in a manner contrary to Christian principals, you will not receive the full benefits of the church.
One may wonder, how much money does it take to maintain a cemetery the size of ours—Maple Lane Cemetery included? That’s a good question. Our church is blessed to have funds available just for cemetery upkeep and unforeseen expenses such as damage from natural disaster or vandalism. Every so often the church receives generous donations given with the intent they will be used for the cemetery. These donations have accumulated over the years, and, as you can see on a financial report from the church treasurer, our cemetery funds would make other churches envious. Several years ago in fact, the voters approved the purchase of a columbarium to the tune of over $30,000 dollars. There was more than enough money in the cemetery coffers to pay for the thing outright—even have it emblazoned with our beloved Lutheran symbols. This large expenditure did not affect the regular church budget one penny. What a blessing to have this kind of financial luxury!
There are opinions that large expenditures may be in store for the cemetery such as some type of security wall or the return of the aforementioned fence. Time will tell. It is good to know however that our church has well over $150,000 dollars to deal with anything down the road concerning our two cemeteries.
A church member who is now buried in the cemetery herself, was fond of reminding me often that it was for church members only, and nowadays, “they bury anybody and his brother in there.” She was partly right; the cemetery is for members of the church only. Exceptions have been made however going as far back as the early 1900s. There are family names on tombstones which cannot be found in our church records including a young boy who died and was buried in 1921. My guess is, he was the son of a friend of a church member, and out of compassion for his family, he was buried here. This does not mean we bury “anybody and his brother.” Exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis between the pastor, the elders of the church and the cemetery committee.
I hope you have found this information useful. I would encourage any member of our congregation to get involved with the operations of the cemetery. It serves an important function in our lives together as Christians, and is a major part of the legacy of our church in Sherwood. Please speak with me or an elder if you would like to know more.