A friend of All Souls, John Dunn, shared with us a letter from the past. The letter was sent to Mr. Dunn’s brother on the occasion of his birth in 1944, during the height of WW2. It was written by Rev. Robert Sonen, who was our minister at the time, and its contents are as relevant today as they were more than 75 years ago.
As we look forward to our Centennial Weekend celebration, September 10-12, we reflect on our past and remind ourselves of the mission of All Souls.
August 10, 1944
I trust that a word of welcome from a mysterious stranger many miles away will not cause you to raise baldish brow. But since we now have a little daughter named Barbara Jean born the same month and year as you only on the sixth, and since the arrival of every baby is or should be a cause for great rejoicing, I insist upon taking the liberty of saying at least – “Hello!”.
There has always been trouble – there always will be trouble.
On second thought, perhaps I should say more. You come into a brave and an exciting world. The very fact that your father wears the uniform of his country is enough evidence that there is trouble. Never, never let that be a cause of despair to you. There has always been trouble – there always will be trouble. The great man is the one who faces the trouble and emerges triumphant, or who in the time of defeat only asks – “When do we fight again”. This I avow to be the sign of a great man.
Dedicate yourself to the cause of humanity.
Inspite of this there are those who view the storm, the clouds, and the heat of battle with dismay: some are faint-hearted, some are seemingly indifferent, some quake with fear. “This is too much”, they say, “We cannot lift our eyes to view the future.” However, the future is there – not concrete and definite as they seem to think, but dim and nebulous, taking form, awaiting the unfoldment of events. And that future CAN mean more eyes than ever lifted from the ground, more lips than ever speaking without fear, more bodies than ever that are strong and healthy, more minds than ever that are trained and developed, more souls than ever that are unchained to soar and dream and hope and pray. The future, your future and my future, can mean more brotherhood, more trust, more friendliness, more joy, and more freedom. These are all possibilities. They are what the future can mean, not what it must mean. So there is a job for you, my young friend, a job that will bless you with a bountious measure of grace. You will find in it great satisfaction and sturdy comrades. Dedicate yourself to the cause of humanity. No other cause holds so rich rewards. You can do worse. You cannot do better.
The future, your future and my future, can mean more brotherhood, more trust, more friendliness, more joy, and more freedom.
Perhaps you and Barbara Jean will sometimes meet. If so may the clouds be gone, the skies be bright, and your hearts beat strong.
With best wishes,
Robert W. Sonen
All Souls Church celebrates 100 Years of Youth in our Centennial Weekend celebration, September 10 – 12, 2021. Learn more on our website.
Read more from Rev. Sonen in this historic benediction.