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My Grandma Fannie never graced a pulpit wearing clerical robes. She did not have a theology degree either. Certainly, no one ever addressed her as a Reverend.

Yet one spring day in 1951 Fannie Martin Longenecker preached to the residents at Orville Mennonite Home.

Her oratory was not flowery. Instead, verses from scripture and lines from hymns adorned her sermon.

My sister Jean found this among papers as we cleared out another house on Anchor Road. Her manuscript is unedited except to transpose her words from cursive writing to digital print. It was written on the backside of a green bill of sale from Longenecker Farm Supply.

 


The kitchen by the bay window was her favorite place to study.

 

My grandmother began her sermon with a declaration:

At the end of life’s journey you and I have an appointment to meet God. To those who have accepted Christ and lived for him, this will be a joyous occasion, and to hear these words – Well done, good and faithful servant, Enter thou into the joys of the Lord.

She continued with scriptural promises:

To that prepared place, for a prepared people. Your passage has been paid and he says – Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of Life, and may enter in thro the gates, into the city. The dawn of life is beautiful, but the Sunset of a well lived life life is glorious, the reflection of him, in whose image we were created shines out more perfectly, or is it the glow of the Eternal City – as we draw nearer to it?

Then she gave her audience glimpses of the heaven she believed in It included an exhortation to prepare for our dying day

There are things which will not be there – no trials, temptations, disappointments, sickness, sorrow, pain or death, not anything that destroyeth or maketh a lie. Here we will find perfect peace and rest, and we will serve him without hinderances.

It would be time well spent, if each day we would meditate on our leaving earth, our pilgrim journey over, and going home, to be with the Lord which is far better.

Her sermon ended with a reference to Psalm 23:

Let us strive to enter in at the straight gate. As we look back over our lives, we look up to God & say with David – Surely goodness & mercy have followed us all the days of our life, May you with me look forward with great joy to entering into the celestial city whose builder and maker is God. So shall we ever be with the Lord.

Before she sat down, she referred to the lyrics of a song “Finally Home” by L. E. Singer. She probably over-used the ampersand and misquoted the words which are accurately recorded here.

I think of stepping on shore, & finding it Heaven.

I think of breathing new air, & finding it Celestial air

I think of feeling invigorated, & finding it immortality.

I think of passing from storm & tempest, to an unknown calm

Think of waking up, and finding it home!

 

The date of this sermon is August 25, 1951. She was almost 60 then and lived nearly thirty more years after that. The date on her obituary leaflet is April 28, 1980, which we commemorate this week. A candy-pink Japanese cherry tree was in bloom in her front yard the week she died, and lilies of the valley spilled white on a bank under the pear tree in the back yard.


One of my sisters has dubbed her St. Grandma. Do you have an ancestor you hold in high regard for religious (or other) reasons? Tell us about it here. An ancedote or story that comes to mind?