Virginia Shawver met Charles Sawyer at a church social in 1920's Shenandoah, Iowa. Charles courted Virginia audaciously, taking her for a biplane ride around the tower at Iowa State University at Ames.
The couple moved from Iowa to Illinois where they had a son and a daughter, Charles Jr and Johanna. Johanna moved with her parents to New Jersey and then to Pennsylvania, where she married and had children of her own.
Virginia traveled widely, particularly to Japan and China. Johanna taught English to hundreds of students. Both women have run their earthly races and now rest with all the saints. They've left fond memories in the hearts of many people, including me, their grandson and son. As they requested, their mortal bodies are interred in Grace Church's memorial garden.
Many of you can tell a similar story. People we have loved in this world rest in the Memorial Garden which lies behind Grace Church.
Last year, the Women of Grace group requested that the vestry take steps to protect the garden for decades and centuries to come.
That was a good and faithful idea. We've contacted the person responsible for property at the Diocese and have made the following proposal. We propose to create a corporation separate from Grace Church itself (but controlled by the people of Grace Church) to legally own the land containing the Garden, including land extending all the way to the street.
Any change in status of church land has to be approved by the Standing Committee and then by the Bishop. The person responsible for advising the Bishop on property was very positive about our request. Although there is some precedent for cemeteries, it turns out that no parish in the Diocese has ever done this for a Memorial Garden. Once again, Grace is a leadership parish.
I'm happy to report that the Standing Committee met last week and we've passed our first "hurdle". (Although I wouldn't characterize this process as a steeplechase - our interests and those of the Diocese are one.) Grace has been referred to a Diocesan attorney who will work with us to take the next step.
Protecting the Garden in a legal sense will proceed throughout the coming months, and I will keep you all informed of every development.
You and I continue to wait for the Diocese to give us its view on one other item that's very important to us. Our interim priest, Margaret, has a contract that runs until the summer of 2014, and we're exploring what our options will be for calling a Rector at that point. No matter what we are offered by the Bishop's office, I want to give the parish firm assurance that all of us will have more than one opportunity to consider what we're looking for in a Rector and to participate in the process. I will inform us all as soon as new information is available.