Stories & Commentaries

These Stones Tell Stories

Adventist Church Heritage Gets a Boost with Repair to Gravestones

grave headstones

The headstones in the graveyard near the Washington church in New Hampshire are repaired and reset. Photo from the Atlantic Union Gleaner.

Being a guardian and preservationist of Adventist heritage is not easy, but it is rewarding. This is certainly true for Ken and Marsha Brummel, site coordinators for the Washington Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Hampshire. Trying to ready the church for swarms of visitors over the summer months, while maintaining the building and the Sabbath Trail and adding such things as a beautiful pavilion to the site is a challenge — especially when fundraising and volunteer coordination are added into the mix!

One challenge in particular had the Brummels stumped: how to deal with the cracking, decayed, and tilting headstones in the cemetery. The small graveyard is filled with the headstones of Adventist pioneers; and with the march of time, some of the elements of these headstones have eroded, while others have cracked and fallen over. Still others were tilting at sharp angles.

The Brummels researched the problem thoroughly, then looked for someone who could help. They finally made contact with Brian Post of Standing Stone Landscape Architecture in Vermont. Post is a certified dry stone master craftsman, a certified dry stone inspector, and a certified dry stone examiner. He agreed to take on the job of correcting the problems at the graveyard.

Stone Work

It turns out that stone is not a simple thing. Water migrates through it, especially when it is in contact with the ground. Elements and acid in rain erode it. Being in contact with carbon-rich soil affects it. Being in contact with other stones affects it.

Fixing stones is also not a simple task. Any compounds, mortars, and plasters that are used cannot significantly affect the migration of water through the stone, and cannot have very different coefficient of expansion rates (in other words, they need to expand and contract with heat at the same rate as the stone).

The Brummels were delighted that Post took the job. Some headstones and monuments were dug up completely and placed on a new base. Some headstones were repaired and reset. Others needed an aluminum frame to remain upright. All needed a good cleaning.

Visitors Welcome!

The effort involved was significant. The expense was not minor, but through the work of the Brummels, as well as many volunteers and supporters, the Washington church and Sabbath Trail continue to draw a significant number of tourists and worshipers, many of whom have not had previous contact with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

When people visit, part of what they see involves the stories of the pioneers in the graveyard, and the blessed hope they have of being called forth on resurrection day. Until that day, their gravestones tell their stories for them.

If you have a chance, visit the church where Sabbath-keeping Adventists first met—the little church in Washington, New Hampshire. While you are there, tour the graveyard and see the work of a master craftsman done in service of the Master.

—Scott Christiansen is the communication director of the Northern New England Conference; this article originally appeared in the August 2017 Atlantic Union Gleaner.