In the early evening of Sunday, June 17, the monks, with friends and benefactors, dedicated the Columbarium at Mepkin Abbey. Almost 200 people attended the event, including many who have purchased niches.
Fr. Guerric Heckel presided at the dedication ceremony which included music by a brass ensemble, and remarks by Susan Conant, lead designer for the project; Thomas Campbell whose wife is inurned in the Columbarium; and Abbot Stan. The ceremony concluded with the brass ensemble leading the congregation down the Columbarium path while playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
After the dedication, Jim Rozier, Columbarium manager, said that almost all of the niches in Phase 1 have been sold and plans are being made to begin the second phase.
Abbot Stan's remarks at the Columbarium dedication
“O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark.”
Death is always a tragedy. No matter how we paint it, no matter how we sugarcoat it, no matter how we can see the beauty of the new life the dead may now live — it always remains what it is in its essence: a tragedy, something that need not be, something that we do not want and which we fight against with every ounce of our minds and hearts and spirits.
And yet, death is an integral part of life. Unless the seed die, it remains only a seed — and not the plant or scrub or tree it can become. Unless we ourselves die, the next generation cannot have the fullness of life they deserve. So we are here to dedicate a Memorial to our dead, a place where our loved ones and where we ourselves may find a place of quiet, a haven of peace, a resting place forever. A place where our family and friends who are left behind may come and commune with our spirit.
For death is never the final word. Those who have gone before us live now in us. The seeds of their life are planted firmly in the soil of our own hearts. Paraphrasing the revered words of Abraham Lincoln: it is up to us, the living, to make sure that these dead have not died in vain. Where better can this happen than in this holy place called Mepkin. When the bells ring seven times a day to call the monks to prayer, it is not only the monks they call. They call also the native American Indians who used this land as a hunting place. They call the Laurens family and the early patriots who lived and loved on this land. They call the African Americans who lived and worked and died on this land; who built these rice fields, not only with their physical labor, but also their minds which engineered their design. They call the Luce family, who used this land as a place to bring and entertain friends. And they will call these our beloved dead resting in this wall. May all those who are or who will be inurned here continue to speak to us and guide us.
And so the final word will be the word of HOPE. Who else but holy Job has expressed this hope with such great power and poignancy. Job knew the tragedy of death profoundly. Let his words voice our own hope.
“I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand upon the dust and ashes of my life; whom I myself shall see; my own eyes, not another’s, shall behold him, and in my flesh I shall see God. My inmost being is consumed with this longing.”