Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Deceased Pastors Service May 26, 2012

Samuel Marsh:

Every year at this service
we turn to the author of the letter to the Hebrews

Every year that writer tells us the same thing: that
        "faith is the assurance of things hoped for
The conviction of things not seen."
And because we can only believe what we have not seen if we trust the witnesses that told us about it, he adds
That it was by faith,   that our ancestors received approval
[Heb. 11: 1-2]

Then the author goes on to name some of those ancestors
        Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
        Moses   and             Rahab
        Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah
        David, Samuel, and the prophets

And then he points out their continuing usefulness to us by saying,

 "Therefore, since we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely
And let us run with perseverance        the race that is set before us
Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith
Who,       for the sake of the joy that was set before him,
                Endured the cross
                Disregarding its shame
And has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God
                                        [Heb. 12: 1-2]

I love the term,        the concept,    the idea of:    " a cloud of witnesses"
And I love the feeling of being surrounded by them
        For witnesses have introduced Christ to people for years

In the New Testament, of course
        Peter and Andrew        James and John
        Stephen, Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy

But that cloud is not made up of just Biblical witnesses.
        We also find Augustine and Guttenberg
        We have Luther
        We have the Wesleys - John and Charles and Susannah
        We have Martin Luther King, Jr

But again, that cloud is not made up of just famous witnesses either
        It includes the people whose graves we visit
        And the people who introduced us to Christ
                Parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors.
        And it must include us - as Jesus made clear at his ascension

As we remember and give thanks for the Methodist pastors buried here
        We do so
for the lives they touched and the witnesses they made
                - both clergy and non clergy -
                        Who have made up our congregation since 1820
                        And other congregations in this area as well.

So, just six days       after we celebrated the day on which Christ
        Commissioned and charged us to be witnesses
We celebrate these pastors both for their own work as witnesses
        And as representatives and symbols
        Of the many, many witnesses in that cloud as well.

Samuel Marsh is a witness in the cloud that surrounds us.

Strictly speaking,
Although he apparently came out of our congregation
        And worked within it
And although he was brought to Christ at the age of 30,
        In Potsdam
in part by Rev. Peter Douglass Gorrie, our pastor at the time
 Marsh was never the appointed pastor of our congregation.

Born in 1819, he had been educated at Norwich University in Vermont
        (a military institution)
Then, he studied medicine in Ohio, Massachusetts and Vermont

Ultimately, establishing a medical practice in Potsdam

Subsequently he received a license to preach
And at the 1856 session of the Black River Conference
he was admitted as a provisional member
        (Along with another man whose grave we will visit today
                Samuel Call - whom Marsh had converted to Christ)

It appears that, while he probably preached around the area,
 his only formal appointment
was to a position teaching at St. Lawrence Academy
        Where he had already been teaching.

However, he had difficulty finding the time to devote himself to the course of study prescribed by the conference,
Therefore in 1859 he requested discontinuance of his relation

Not long after that
        He resigned his position at the school
        And resumed his practice as a physician.

Because he had discontinued his conference relationship he was not, on his death, entitled to a memoir in the conference journal.
But the memoir editor was his old mentor P. D. Gorrie
        Who managed to put what amounts to Marsh's memoir
                Into the memoir he wrote for Rev. James R. Nichols
                Using the fact that both were provisionally admitted in 1856
                        And the fact that their deaths
were in the same conference year

It seems only appropriate that Marsh and Gorrie who both converted Marsh and eulogized him are buried within sight of each other.

Why did Gorrie take such liberty?

Part of it was that he was mourning the fact that Marsh died tragically at age 43 from a wound suffered at Gaines Mill (or "Hill" as reported)

But most of it had to be that Gorrie was well acquainted with the fact that Marsh
        In this congregation
        In the other churches in which he preached
        In his work as teacher and physician
had been the kind of witness that Christ had charged him to be.

The kind of witness that Samuel Marsh was
        Prompted him in his 40s to leave his wife and children at home
And sign up with a NY regiment of volunteers
        Where he was commissioned Lt. Colonel

The kind of witness that Samuel Marsh was
        Was demonstrated when his regiment was the last to leave the battlefield at Bull Run
                And they left in good order
                Unlike many of the union troops who preceded them

The kind of witness that Samuel Marsh was
Was shown by the turnout for his funeral
        In the then two year old brick church located right where we worship

In the newspaper account of that funeral, it appears that some 2200 people attended
        With 1200 crowded into the church building
        And 1000 more standing between the church and the parsonage
                With a church window removed so that they could hear.

Gorrie, who preached at the funeral, concluded his creatively placed memoir by saying,

        "He was all but idolized by his friends and the community in general.  His end was emphatically peaceful; he died a Christian soldier, and no doubt, while we write, sings in the Christian's heaven."

But perhaps there is no better demonstration of the kind of witness that Samuel Marsh was
        Than his last letter home
                Dictated July 2, 1862 while he was dying on a hospital steamer in the James River at Harrison's Landing
                Dictated perhaps to a nurse

[Read letter]

Samuel Marsh
        Teacher                 Physician               Methodist pastor
        Civil War officer and patriot
        Husband and father
        Witness for Christ
                As he was commissioned to be at Christ's ascension
        A part of the cloud of witnesses that surrounds and envelops us.
                And for whom we give thanks to God.


While the service begins at the grave of Rev. Samuel Marsh, worshippers will, as part of the service, process to the graves of the 13 other Methodist pastors who are buried in this cemetery. The seven pastors who served our congregation are marked with an asterisk). The remaining seven have varying ties to the community.

In addition, recognizing that many in the cloud of witnesses were lay persons, we will stop at the grave of Bill Eldridge who will, for today's service, represent all the deceased laity of the congregation

At all of them a worshipper will read the brief biography of the deceased and then will pray:

P: Almighty and Generous God, On this day we offer our thanks to you For the life and ministry of ____________________

All: Amen