Thursday, June 4, 2009

First Presbyterian Church of Carlisle

Meeting House Springs Cemetery

Dear Mrs. Thomson,

I prayed for you today. I know that some people may consider praying for a dead person strange. But I find comfort and blessing in praying for the dead. I know you died in faith, since we know your husband was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Carlisle. Did you refer to your home as “Carlisle” when you died in 1744? I know you died too young, and I wonder if you still had young children to care for when you passed away. If so, that must have caused a terrible hardship for your husband. I trust his congregation supported him through that difficult time. I pray for your husband also, Rev. Thomson, but I am afraid that we do not know where his grave is located, and where he went after leaving our church.

I wanted to write so that you may know you have been a wonderful encouragement and blessing to the people in our church. We believe that your grave in our church cemetery may be the oldest marked grave in our Cumberland County. (I am sure it was not called Cumberland County when you lived here.) Your gravesite has become a sort of holy place for our people. I am sure you would be surprised to learn that your life has become such a cherished memory for us.

You would be pleased to know that your husband created a beautiful gravesite for you after your death. Now after all these years, some of our people have carefully cleaned and restored your grave so that we may now see the inscription your husband had carved there on the stone grave top, and the family coat of arms that is carved there also. I wish we knew today all that these symbols meant to your family.

Because of you, our people have decided to clean and restore the cemetery where you are buried. It has been more than 275 years since your death, and now many of the people you probably knew – McFarlands, Dennys, Blacks, Clarks – are buried all around you. We have soldiers buried there from our Revolutionary War, but you died long before that brutal conflict which gave birth to our new nation. I wonder if your husband ever talked about freedom. Many Presbyterians were involved in that war. They wanted to be free. Your husband picked a beautiful spot for your burial. It is a holy place, on a little bluff, not far from the spring which you must have visited daily for your water, and only a few yards from your church building.

Some of our people learned that your husband came here from Scotland before you. He moved onto the frontier of Penn’s land and gathered some other Presbyterian folk into a new congregation. There were many Scots Irish folks pushing into that wilderness and many new churches were born in those days. I am sure those were difficult years for you, being separated from your husband without knowing where he was or what he was doing. Can you remember the day you received his letter beckoning you to come and join him? That journey across the ocean alone must have been difficult? Did you land in Boston or New York? How did you travel out to your husband’s new church? That is long journey.

I prayed for you today. I hope you know that the church you and your husband started is a strong and vital congregation, in this year of our Lord 2009. I wanted you to know that your great, great, great, great, great grandson visited us today. He is a fine man with a charming wife, but they have moved south into Virginia. But your husband would be glad to know that his family is still Presbyterian.

May God bless you and keep in your eternal life.