Last updated: June 27. 2014 8:37AM - 405 Views
Flo Johnston Faith in Focus

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It’s not unusual for a Presbyterian Church to include baptisms or weddings as part of Sunday morning worship, but a memorial service during the 11 a.m. service is unusual.

The service for Florence Ann Williams Gilkeson, who died June 12 at Scotia Village, was part of worship last Sunday at Faith Presbyterian Church, 2220 Elm Ave.

“It was our own invention,” said Dr. W. Bruce Ezell, Jr., Commissioned Lay Pastor, who led the service.

“The church is not a building but a congregation of people for whom death is a part of life. This service emphasized the normalcy of life in which, even though we may not like it, death is always a part.”

Not only that, he said, “Florence was special, a true daughter of the faith.” She was a member of this church and her late husband, the Rev. Howard Gilkeson was a former pastor at Faith.

The service drew a large congregation of church members, friends, family and colleagues to the church, an architectural gem, both inside and out.

A picture-post-card exterior with its two tall spires and beautiful Gothic windows, it is located at the end of Elm Avenue where the pavement turns into a dirt road.

In its utter simplicity, the interior is nothing short of awesome, a word that might also describe the quiet and peaceful congregation that sat in almost total silence before the worship service began.

Conversation seemed out of place as folks gathered to sit in the old oak pews that glowed in the sunlight coming through tall frosted Gothic windows.

It occurred to me that this sanctuary is as Presbyterian as it gets. No window art, except the big front window, no symbols other than a cross, no furnishings other than a Communion table and a baptismal font. This was the kind of worship space to which reformer John Calvin might have given five stars.

Florence was remembered as a daughter of the Reformed tradition, a woman with an interest in politics, a promoter of education and an individual deeply concerned about social justice issues.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina, she had a distinguished career as a journalist, including almost 25 years as a writer and editor at The Laurinburg Exchange as well as writer and reporter at The Pilot in Southern Pines during the Sam Ragan era at the helm of this publication.

The service included the usual elements of Presbyterian worship with special music by two talented soloists Mary Ann Davis and LeAnn Callahan.

After an informal eulogy by Ken Callahan, speaking for the family, her ashes were carried out of the church with the congregation in procession to the small garden by the driveway near the entrance to the church grounds.

The congregation gathered close for the commitment service, there, where the ashes of her husband had been scattered after his death in 1990, to hear the words of the minister:

“In the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our sister, Florence Ann Williams Gilkeson, and we commend her ashes to their final resting place … Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

The congregation sang, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise God all creatures here below.

Praise God above ye heavenly hosts

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

Contact Flo Johnston at flo.johnston314@gmail.com or 910-361-4135.

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