The following meditation is from a church's hundredth-anniversary sermon
WHEN YOU INVITED me to come speak at this anniversary of your founding as a church you had no way of knowing that the minister who founded you, a man named George Shinn, happened to be my wife's great grandfather, and it pleases me to think that maybe that was not entirely a coincidence. In any case, it was this same George Shinn who in 1880, five years before being asked to start your church here in Chestnut Hill, was summoned once at midnight to the bedside of an old woman who lived by herself without much in the way of either money or friends and was dying. She managed to convey that she wanted some other woman to come stay with her for such time as she might have left, so George Shinn and the old woman's doctor struck out in the darkness to try to dig one up for her. It sounds like a parable the way it is told, and I am inclined to believe that if someone were ever to tell the story of your lives and mine, they also would sound more like parables than we ordinarily suppose. They knocked at doors and threw pebbles at second story windows. One woman said she couldn't come because she had children. Another said she simply wouldn't know what to do, what to be, in a crisis like that. Another was suspicious of two men prowling around at that hour of night and wouldn't even talk to them. But finally, as the memoir of Dr. Shinn puts it in the prose of another age, "They rapped at the humble door of an Irish woman, the mother of a brood of children. She put her head out of the window. 'Who's there?' she said. And what can you want at this time of night?' They tell her the situation. Her warm, Irish heart cannot resist. 'Will you come?' 'Sure and I'll come, and I'll do the best I can.' And she did come," the account ends. "She did the best she could."
- Originally published in The Clown in the Belfry