The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Saints in stone

Cincinnati congregation honors loved ones with garden

Volunteers crafted a 400-square-foot patio with a 70-foot, curved walkway approach. Materials included 672 Windsor wall stones, 3,840 Holland paving bricks and 32 tons of limestone, plus a stainless steel cross. The $3,939 cost was paid by the church and additional donations.

The dedication for the garden was held on All Saints Day 1999. Each year a memorial service is held in the garden on that festival Sunday so families can place bricks for people who died the previous year. The church pays for bricks of deceased members; parishioners may buy and dedicate bricks for others at any time.

Seventeen bricks were laid the first year. Today, 71 bricks bearing the names of members and other loved ones lie in the garden. Geraniums, mums and impatiens bloom there in the summer.

"It's a cemetery for the whole congregation," said Schmidt, 71. "No matter where you're from, it's their cemetery.

"The memorial garden has become an important part of the life of our congregation. Inspired by an idea born out of love, constructed by faithful and gifted people, enjoyed by many, it is a tangible witness to God's presence with us."

The garden is a visible reminder of the communion of saints who surround members. The 8 a.m. worship service is held in the garden in the summer, and Bible study groups periodically meet there. Members also enter the garden privately to pray and meditate.

"It's a spiritual experience that puts them more closely in touch with their loved one," said Henry Zorn, pastor of Resurrection. "Occasionally I see some roses out there on the bricks."

It was Ralph Breuer's frequent visits to the garden that enabled him to come to terms with the death of his daughter, Monica. "He cried all of the time," Schmidt said. "One day he told me, 'I'm not crying anymore. I'm at peace now.' "

Breuer died this year; a brick etched with his name lies next to his daughter's.


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February issue


Embracing diversity