By Paul Nolan
When a teen-aged parishioner came to Pastor Jedidiah Scharmer of Resurrection Lutheran Church early this year requesting the chance to thank the congregation for its prayers and support as she successfully fought off cancer, Scharmer said he realized there was a shortage of opportunities on the church calendar for such occasions.
“We have All Saints Day in November in which we reflect on those who have died in the past year, but we didn’t have a place in our life as a church to celebrate those who have healed,” he said.
The young girl had made it through an extremely challenging period in which she was receiving chemotherapy. She remained a faithful churchgoer throughout, and fellow parishioners constantly expressed their support and offered assistance, so she wanted to express her gratitude.
Scharmer understood her desire to publicly thank the parish, but he was nervous it could open a floodgate of similar requests. “We could be here all day every Sunday,” he quipped.
Instead, he came up with the idea for Victory Sunday, a day dedicated to celebrating everyone in the parish who has healed from a serious illness or injury.
“We wanted to celebrate God healing people,” Scharmer said.
Last Sunday, the congregation celebrated at both of the regularly scheduled services, and celebrated again at Wednesday evening’s service.
Sadly, the young woman who inspired the event announced to the congregation that her cancer had returned, but vowed to continue the fight.
“This is life,” Scharmer said. “We claimed victory for you before and we will claim victory once again.”
Because cancer survivors were at the heart of the celebration, as many as eight parish members, including a family of four, had their hair cut off during the offering portion of the service. The hair was donated to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.
“Usually for our offering, we give our time, talent and money. But at these services, while we were passing the plate, they were getting their hair cut off,” Scharmer said.
Victory Sunday will likely become an annual event, he said. “It’s taken on a life of its own.”
It’s great to give thanks for parishioners’ recoveries from illness and injury, Scharmer said, but it’s clear that it’s important to keep in mind there are many others who haven’t had such a happy outcome.
“We know people in the congregation haven’t been healed yet. We invite them to come up and we’ll pray for them as a congregation,” he said. “It’s important to show them we are here to support them.”