Voices from the Past–Forgotten

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1

Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon


Pausanias, our tour guide to the mysteries of ancient Greece, stands upon the Sounion promontory at the edge of the world, so it seems. This tip of land rises high above the Aegean Sea about 43 miles south of Athens.  Upon it rests the slender ivory pillars of the Temple of Poseidon where Lord Byron once etched his name into the base of one of the columns and wrote these memorable words:  

“Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
where nothing, save the waves and I,
may hear our mutual murmurs sweep…”

            Pausanias, standing in the shadow of the glorious temple atop the promontory, points to the harbor ahead and then bids us glance at the ancient town of Laurium.  He mentions in a passing breath that this was where the Athenians once exploited silver mines.  It was from these mines that untold scores of unfortunate slaves toiled night and day, scraping out the precious silver to make Athenian coins.  There were as many as 20,000 pitiful slaves, many of them children, who worked in deplorable conditions and died forgotten in these ghastly silver-sprayed shafts of the deep.

For Pausanias, the mines were a mere novelty and he didn’t linger more than a few seconds before leading us on to grander themes.  But I wonder—

            Are you forgotten?  Do you call Laurium home?  Isaiah reminds us of a golden truth:  

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isa. 49:15).  

Don’t let the mines crush you.
God has not forgotten you.

“We sometimes think we want to disappear,
but all we really want is to be found.”

A Service of Thanksgiving for H. B. Rew

Mt. Holly Cemetery
1:15 pm

May 28, 2019
Dr. David R. Denny
Drummondtown Baptist Church

 Revelation 22:1-5. “Then he showed me a river…”

         I normally read Rev. 21:4 where John tells us that in heaven there will no longer be any tears or pain.  But when I reflected on all his escapades out on the water fishing, I thought how much he must love this river of life, clear as crystal, that runs through the main street of heaven now that he has some time on his hands.

 Psalm 23—“The Lord is my shepherd…”

            This was HB’s request on a visit I made to see him at Westminster.  He was watching a western when I walked in.  He greeted me with a huge smile and I sat beside him. After talking a while about all sorts of things, I told him I had to go and asked him what text would he like me to read to him.  I was pleased to hear him say Psalm 23.  I read it slowly and the words seemed to bring us both comfort.


Wachapreague Island House.png 


 A Service of Thanksgiving for H. B. Rew
2:00 pm

 Prelude                                                                                       Jo Anne Coniglio



         The family of HB Rew welcomes you here this morning as does the congregation of the DBC.  This will be a service of thanksgiving for HB. There will be some sadness, but there will also be joy and thankfulness for his life.  I am glad you have come to join us.


         Dear Lord, HB touched all of us in some way.  He made our lives better.  We give you thanks for sharing him with the people of the Shore and beyond.  Bless this time together this afternoon as we remember his life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 Hymn #330                                                                               Amazing Grace

         John Newton (1725-1807) who throughout his 20s was a ruthless slave ship captain known for his brutality.  Nearing the age of 30, after a serious illness, he found the Lord, entered the ministry, and wrote a haunting confession with words like these:  I once was wretch, a man lost and blind but now I see. 

 Scripture Reading #1                                                              Matthew 6:25-34

 Hymn #48                                                                             Morning Has Broken

(Traditional Gaelic Melody—Psalm 57:8-9—“I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord.”

 Scripture Reading #2.                                                                 John 14:1-6

 Remembrances                                                               Dr. David R. Denny

 Choral Response                Hymn #71                                 On Eagle’s Wings



A Service of Thanksgiving for H. B. Rew
David R. Denny

        I’ve known HB for 1095 days. I met him first in late May of 2016, and now I am conducting his funeral in late May of 2019.  1095 days.  I’ve only been given three hours to speak so I don’t think I can cover all those days.  So I think I will limit it to just three encounters that will reside with me forever.

Encounter #1: 

The first time I met HB was on May 29th, 2016. I had been invited to the DBC to speak as a fill-in while they searched for a minister.  I was living in Chesapeake and teaching 8thgrade civics and English, a job I loved by the way. I remember standing in the pulpit of the historic church on Front Street, this pulpit where I stand now.  It was a delightful morning, but this is not the encounter I wish to convey.  That occurred later in the early afternoon at the inquisition down the road and around the bend.

HB, always a man to get to the bottom of things, was on a small self-appointed group of four to wine and dine me and with great subtlety to find out if I was some kind of kook, heretic, or misfit (like he had done in all of his bank interviews over the years).  In other words, he invited me to lunch to toss me in the air like chaff on the threshing floor.  His partners in crime were Leslie his wife, and Wayne and Dale Parks.  It was four against one.  I remember that day and I will remember it forever.

The place HB chose was one of his favorite domains, the dining area of the Eastern Shore Yacht & Country Club.  When I saw the place as I got of my car, I thought ‘man, I’m in with the millionaires’! 

The waiter seated us at a white table with a view of the water.  I remember scanning the dock to see which yacht was theirs.  We began a little stiffly picking gingerly at the shrimp and grits, sparring with gentle jabs, dissecting each other’s words carefully. But in the midst of this interview, something happened that I will never forget. After the third or fourth question, HB tossed all the formality out the window and we just became friends.  (You know that has happened when everyone is sharing food on their plates.  “Here, said Leslie, take some of my shrimp.  You just have to try them).  The rest of the meal had nothing to do with credentials, my ancestry or my bloodlines. The rest was just campfire talk, getting to know one another, sensing that maybe this friendship was some type of divine summoning.  (And it was).        This tells me so much about HB…

Encounter #2:

My second memorable encounter with HB and Leslie occurred on December 17, 2017.  It was in the chill of mid-winter and little did we know that in a week or so the entire Shore would be blanketed with a thick carpet of snow that turned Henry’s Point into a white landscape choking all the roads and leaving my wife and me happily stranded at the end of Sea Breeze Avenue by the oceanfront.

The day I speak of for this encounter was a Sunday and Leslie had taught her SS class of which I was an avid follower.  HB was there too tossing in his occasional comment. When the church was over HB approached and invited my wife and me to lunch at the Island House.  I had learned by now that he did not have a yacht but he did have a van and it was into this van that we all gathered as he drove us to the restaurant.  When we arrived we sat next to the window.  Leslie and HB looked regal.  I snapped a picture of them and you can see it if you go to my Facebook page.  Leslie wore a hazelnut colored dress with an onyx and gold necklace. Her flounder was piping hot but she paused long enough for me to snap the picture.  HB was sitting with his arms crossed and a beaming smile with a whisper of mischievousness.

This was all wonderful of course, but it is what happened when we left that I particularly remember. I figured it would take us about 7-10 minutes to get home.  But now that HB had been fed and the van was so warm and comfortable, he got the grand idea to take us on an impromptu tour through the backroads.  Leslie sighed but consented and off we went.  I thought there couldn’t be that much to see on either side of Drummondtown Rd, but I was so wrong.  We crisscrossed that road back and forth a hundred times stopping at every home and chicken shed in Accomac.  Midway through this glorious tour Leslie had had enough and ordered him home immediately.  He just smiled like he had heard all that before and continued merrily on with the tour.

And this was when I learned just how much of the Shore was in his DNA.  Every turn in the road was etched deeply in his soul.  Every house along the way had a story and every story had a name of someone he knew.  I’m a come here, but he was an Eastern Shore man from top to bottom.

Encounter #3

My final encounter with HB is different than the others.  It happened after HB had died but before I knew of his death.  It was on Friday, May 24t,2019mid-morning.

I was sitting at my computer writing the Sunday sermon.  I was not thinking of HB at the moment. After all, I had just visited him a few days earlier and he was fine.  My sermon was titled “Living Beneath a Smile” and it came from Ps 67:1: which says: “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us—“

I was lingering on this one word SHINE, just reveling in the joy of the word.  It was used elsewhere of a rising morning sun drifting casually over the seaside marsh summoning songs from the shore pipers and making the little bean sprouts in my garden perk up.  I leaned back from the computer and just marveled at God’s face smiling at me when something broke my reverie—the phone rang!

I didn’t want to leave this scene in my mind but the phone persisted.  So I picked it up and the voice on the other end shook me to the core.   “HB has just died,” he said.  I could scarcely take it in.  I spoke for a minute or two and then put the phone down.  Slowly the imagery of the sun, the smiling face of God, returned in full glow and I looked at the text I had just written:  “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to smile upon us—“

And in that moment I realized that this text was a sign to me.  This Psalm will forever be linked to HB in my mind. For beneath the shining face of God in Ps 67 I saw HB strolling down heaven’s promenade beside the river of life flowing clear as crystal. HBs suffering is over now.  He’s not locked in a hospital bed.  He’s living beneath the smile, singing some Eastern Shore song on heaven’s highway, rejoicing in His Lord and waiting for the rest of us to join him.


     24The LORD bless you, and keep you (HB);

      25The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;

      26The LORD lift up His countenance on you,(HB),
And give you peace.’

Lucky Penny


The claw marks on the front porch said it all–Owl.

And Penny was missing. She’s an indoor cat and hates to get her paws dirty. Each morning brings a feline routine that begins in front of her mirror grooming, getting the whiskers just right, fluffing up the hair on her elegant tail, etc. Toss her outside, and she’ll hate you for life.

But Penny was missing, and the ominous owl talon marks stretched from the door to the front steps. Off an on all night long we called from the porch our hands clenching the railing, our eyes searching the dark yard for any sign of movement. Our somber pleas blended with the distant voices of pond frogs and crickets who hadn’t seen her.

I tried consoling my wife while standing on top of the claw marks so she wouldn’t see the traces of nature’s cruelty. “Something has happened to her,” she wailed. Unable to summon a wise Greek proverb relevant to this emergency, I merely shrugged. “She’ll be fine. She’s just exploring.” Even I didn’t believe that.

After a fitful night of difficult sleep, I woke early and stepped outside. No Penny. The claw marks were fresh and deep. I pieced the crime together in my mind. The owl had studied her patterns of peering through the screen door. He had timed Penny’s brief dalliances with the outside world, her ever so short and tentative excursions a few paces from the door onto the porch.

He had watched, veiled behind pinecones and hunger, lurking. And as Penny played with a cricket just beyond the safety of the den door he struck, his threatening talons striking the jugular and dragging her across the rough boards into the upper branches of the marsh pines.

Just as I was preparing myself to call the undertaker, I saw a little paw flicker in the tall grass. And then came whiskers, a smirk, and a sarcastic trot past me into the house. I stood stunned.

I thought of asking her what happened, and fleshing out the power of needless fear, but she was in no mood for light chatter.

David R. Denny

Candlelight Service 2017

Candlelight Service at the Drummondtown Baptist Church
December 2017

A hushed expectancy settled over the crowd of nearly a hundred as the flickering altar candles summoned last thoughts of the rapidly expiring year of the Drummondtown Baptist Church in Accomac, Virginia.  Fading images of a dozen months nearly over mingled with the hallowed memories of the Christmas season as worshippers listened to the familiar Scriptures of the Christ child.  The joyous tones of the pipe organ reminded all who gathered of a night long ago when a Savior was born in Bethlehem.

As I looked out over the congregation this evening, I too reflected on many things.  I thought of the many new friends I had made over the past year.  I had quietly closed down a brief but meaningful career as a teacher in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools.  A hectic transition followed that culminated in me standing here in the pulpit looking at endless possibilities on a horizon I still did not fully comprehend.

I want to thank Mr. Robert Coniglio for sharing the pulpit with me this evening, and I want to thank all my friends at the church and community for welcoming my family to the Eastern Shore.

Christmas Eves are but portals to exciting days to come.  Join me as we take our first steps into a promising new year.
David R. Denny

Christmas Turkey
Carol Valentine carves some magic into the breast of my freshly fried turkey.  She will tell you, (if you ask her), that the whole affair was quite an adventure.  Not only did we have to figure out how to use the new XL Butterball Fryer.  We also had to monitor thermometers, oil temperature, extracting techniques without permanently scarring our skin etc.  Quite a ride.  But when it was finished, we had some mighty fine turkey!

Smith Island Cake 
Eight layers of paradise.  Count ’em.  Eight.  And each one a wonder.  Special thanks to Alice for baking me this treasure–her very first attempt at such an Eastern Shore delicacy. 

And now for two of my favorite people–Leslie and H.B. Rew.  They had invited Alice and me to the Wachapreague Island House for a Christmas lunch.  Everybody knows this is the best place for seafood and we all certainly enjoyed an assortment of flounder, oysters, sweet potato fries etc on this special occasion.
Thanks for the meal and the memories on the drive home.

Thousands of snow geese cascaded down from the heavens beside my house on Sea Breeze Drive a few days ago.  They circled restlessly above the field and then without warning drifted down like a thousand snow leaves upon the barren farm field.  They clattered and squawked endlessly, swapping stories of the flight from the tundra and then without notice lifted as one and drifted off on a jet stream to nowhere.
***Here are the snow geese that I wrote about  I tried to capture their lift off in slow motion using my iPhone.  I hope it works.  https://youtu.be/ORV1revK3lA


From the Schoolhouse


When I saw it, I smiled.

No one had to say a thing.  The color spoke for itself.  It was a muted emerald.  It lay curled in my little school office mailbox.  I approached breathlessly like a hunter tracking deer in an open glade. “Can’t spook it,” I said to myself.  “It might bolt into the mist and be gone for another year.”

It had been twelve months since I had last seen it.  It lay quietly in the box staring at me, wondering. I didn’t reach for it at first.  I just stood silently before it like my Japanese friends used to do at their Shinto shrines in the Emperor’s Garden.  Then, with a trembling hand, I carefully pulled it out of the box and cradled the document in my open hand.  At first, it quivered like the Bembine Tablet of ancient Rome, filled with fake Egyptian hieroglyphics. This page too had its own strange lines all spread out over the emerald face.  I read the name on the top of the page.  It said, David Denny.  I knew it was mine and not misplaced in the wrong box.  

This illusive friend had been waiting patiently for me all year.  Now I was here, holding it tightly, feeling its heartbeat, afraid it might escape, waiting for it to whisper farewell in its mysterious language.

Twenty-five lines awaited a signature.  Twenty-five lines separated me from the door. I took the emerald checkout page with me back to my room walking in giddy steps, anxious to begin the final journey of finding signatures.  And since every journey of a 1000-miles begins with a first signature, I was anxious to begin.


From the Schoolhouse
David R. Denny

She was spunky for a little 8th-grade girl.
She stood at my desk gripping the stolen artificial flower, shaking it before me in a blatant attempt at bribery.
I saw a glimmer of a smile, but she didn’t waiver in intensity.
“This flower is yours if you fix my grade.”  The words growled softly like a Cheshire cat warning a Pitt bull.

My Description

“Where did you get that Camellia?” I asked.

“Where did you get that Camellia?” I asked.
She didn’t like the question.  She pressed on. “It’s yours if you can fix that C+.”  She leaned forward a little extending the hostage in the space between her and me.
“Where did you get it?”  I could see this diversionary tactic was getting to her.
“I picked it out of the flowers in front of the school,” she said without guilt.  After a pause, she began marching again.  “It’s yours if you just…”         She didn’t bother finishing.  She knew I understood.
I took the flower and jammed it into a red plastic cup on my desk.
She smiled as if the victory was hers.  I let her have her moment.
Then I pointed to an empty REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup wrapper.
Photo at: http://www.thatwayhat.com/

From the Pulpit

report-cardWe passed out report cards Sunday as we visited the ancient congregation of Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29).    This congregation was admired by the Lord who gave them high marks. They had no faults except for a minority that followed Jezebel.  She was an errant member who favored compromise with the unions and sacrificing meat to idols.  But other than that, they were in great shape.  There’s not much left of this old city today except a few shattered pillars and stones enclosed in a city park in the center of the modern town in western Turkey.  The gift God bestowed upon them for their excellent grades was the morning star.  So if you remember from last week, we’ve now got the white stone in our left pocket and the morning star in the right!

From the Pew

I want to thank Tommy Hines for his humorous rendition of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  We were both chuckling as he told me of his “miracle” recently.  He had been designated as the BBQ man for an oyster and BBQ festival.    He found out when he got there that there were more folks in line than he figured on.  He just kept on dishing out the goods expecting to hear the hiss of disappointment from the unfortunate stragglers in the back of the line.  “But it seemed like the BBQ just kept multiplying,” he said.  “And I could barely believe that I actually had a little left over when the last person passed by.  It was a miracle,” he said smiling.

And who are we to think otherwise.  I’ll take a miracle anytime it comes.    “Good job, Tommy.  By the way,  could you pass the BBQ?”
Artwork by: http://sanjacintobaptist.com/bbqcowboy3c


Observations #3 by Dr. Denny
December 28, 2016

Greetings everybody.  Today’s “Observations” is dedicated to H. B. and Leslie Rew.  I’m going to miss you two for the next three months.  Be safe and warm down there in Florida.
Dr. Denny
From the Schoolhouse
   Lin handed me a pencil sketch of a warrior girl without a face.  I stared at the swirling hair that draped the cheeks and taunted the tip of a samurai sword.  I searched for the eyes, but they were missing. The figure seemed alive, vibrant, dangerous, but the silent face haunted me.  Beneath the dancing lines, Lin had written a few words in Mandarin, little boxes of faint lines etched in a similar silence, caged sighs I couldn’t hear.
Lin is a Chinese student who speaks in broken English.  She is very quiet and shy.  She hides in a swirl of gregarious American kids who seldom notice her at all.  I was surprised when one day she walked demurely up and handed me a piece of paper with her drawing.  That was when I looked into the faceless warrior girl and wondered.
I praised her for the gift and complimented the artistry of the nameless figure.  She merely smiled and walked away.  The next day she handed me another drawing, this time it was a Fairy-like creature with graceful arms and no face.
“Lin, thank you,” I said.  Then I asked her.  “Why is there is no face?”
She blushed.  “I cannot draw a face.  I am not that good.”
As I watched her walk away down the hall, I wondered if she was the girl in the drawings lost in a dangerous world, hidden behind a halcyon face, homesick.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/129056345548646538/

From the Pulpit
(Matthew 1:23/Isaiah 7:14)
I hope you all are still remembering the one word I emphasized in Sunday’s sermon:  Immanuel.  As I told you, I think it is more powerful than the 8th most memorable movie quote (according to the Film Institute).  That quote would be “May the Force be with you.” Han Solo had a good one there, but Luke has him beat.
Immanuel is more than a single word as you can see here in the Hebrew words עִמָּ֥נוּ  אֵֽל׃. Luke the Gospel writer had to translate it so his readers who didn’t know Hebrew would understand.  He says it means God is with you Μεθ’  ἡμῶν  ὁ  Θεός.  And that is so much more relevant than any movie quote!

From the Pew
   I thought our Candlelight service was so poignant.   We had close to 100 people there and when the evening ended everyone walked in an exuberant but hushed tone down the center aisle and out the door holding candles, our symbols of hope and love.  I want to thank Bob Coniglio, the Episcopalian pastor from Cape Charles, who shared the pulpit with me.
Now here is an adventure for you.  Follow this link and keep your fingers crossed it works.  It should take you to my Youtube channel where I placed our prelude singers for the evening, John William and Linda Coniglio.  They sang and played with such gusto.  Here’s the link:  https://youtu.be/S3lhM_h28JQ

From the Bulletin
Let’s remember our college students and our military.  Here they are:

College Students
Bryana Deeds, William Perez, Claire Rew, Christina Hargis, Anna Hines, Hannah Coulbourne, Ayla Bonniwell, Beatrice Perez, Juan Perez, Jager Parks, Kyle Patterson

Alex McCullough (Reserves), Michael McCullough, Kenny McCullough (Afghanistan), Ken Blair, Ed Eder IV, Sean Campbell, James Griffith, Thomas Johnson and all members of our military.

  • Well, that’s all for this week.  Don’t forget to pass on this sign-up link to anyone who might like to receive the newsletter.  http://eepurl.com/csTu5T.

Until later,
Dr. Denny
Accomac, Virginia