Have Faith: A beacon’s light dims

Remembering the Rev. Alden Besse.

Albert Fischer

The Island lost a true warrior for peace last week; the Rev. Alden Besse died Dec. 13 at 93. He was a Crop Walk organizer for years, and a promoter and leader of the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council. I asked the Peace Council’s co-chair, Bruce Nevin, to share some memories of Alden Besse, and he wrote that he had a long pastoral career, serving Episcopal churches for decades. He moved here with his wife Barbara in 1990, after spending summers here as a child.

“Alden was the inspirational heart of the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council. He was an essential participant in every meeting, and served for many years as its president, until he declined re-election,” Bruce wrote. “He was at every Peace Council vigil and rally, rain, shine, or snow, at every lecture and presentation that we sponsored.”

I’m only in my sixth year living on the Island, but I remember Alden Besse from the Island Clergy Association and from his hand-delivered letters to the editor. He struck me as someone to be emulated, a real Island treasure. I’m sure real peace is with him now.




I had more contact with the Nevins this past week than, I think, ever before. Sarah and Bruce co-chair the Peace Council now, and they came by The Times office to remind me about the clergy event surrounding the anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, five years ago Dec. 5. Island clergy walked in the snow and cold from Owen Park to Five Corners in silence to commemorate the anniversary, and were joined by others that morning.

And Bruce volunteered to give me a Quaker perspective on Christmas. Basically, he said, all days are holy to Quakers, with no one day more significant than another. Culturally, though, he said, most Quakers celebrate Christmas and sometimes Easter, but maintain the sense that all days “are holy occasions for gratitude and joy.” He offered an open invitation for the community to join them at 10 am Christmas Eve, their regular meeting time, and on Wednesdays at noon at the Good Shepherd Parish Center in Oak Bluffs, where they meet. The Quaker worship time is grounded “in shared silence and listening for that of God among us,” Bruce wrote.




Libby Fielder and Elle Lash start planning the Island’s annual Christmas Pageant in October. This year’s pageant, Christmas Eve at 5 pm at the Ag Hall, features the talents of 47 children, in addition to veteran “pageanteers” who returned to help with rehearsals. Elle begins the rehearsal period with a 90-minute theater workshop designed for children. The cast has about five hours of rehearsal spread out over a two-week period. Parents and grandparents all pitch in, helping with costumes and dressing the actors on the day of the pageant, an Island performance that is open to all members of the community.

The pastor of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, the Rev. Cathlin Baker, said that the church likes to think of the pageant as its Christmas gift to the Island community. “This year we have nearly 50 children participating — older kids who are no longer in roles are helping to direct, older angels are mentoring the younger ones, children of different religious backgrounds and no faith backgrounds are learning side by side. It is a wonderful experience for all,” Pastor Baker wrote in an email. “This year we are continuing to refine our sound and lighting. For the very first time, we will have a full stage, which we are borrowing from the high school. As is the tradition, the Christmas offering is divided between Island charities that support families and the Minister’s Discretionary Fund, which awaits Island families experiencing economic hardship. We hope to see you on Christmas Eve at 5 pm at the Ag Hall.”

There are many seasonal church announcements that we’ll include with this column. If you don’t see your church’s listing, please email us at calendar@mvtimes.com so that we can include your service in our online events section. Another reminder: ’Tis almost the season for community suppers. St. Augustine’s Church hosts its Thursday night community supper at 5 pm beginning Jan. 4, and the Federated Church begins lasagna lunches the following Sunday, Jan. 7, at 12:30 pm. I’m sure more are starting up as well, so send them along to us so we can include them.




The Federated Church, Edgartown

Dec. 24: Two services will be held, the fourth Sunday of Advent at 10:30 am, and a Christmas Eve Candlelight service at 10 pm, with music by the Federated Church Choir.

First Congregational Church, West Tisbury

Dec. 24: Service at 10 am at the church, Christmas Pageant and service at the Ag Hall at 5 pm. Additional service at 10 pm at the church.

Vineyard Assembly of God, Vineyard Haven

Dec. 24: Christmas Eve service at 5 pm, regular Sunday service at 10:30 am.

St. Andrew’s Church, Edgartown

Dec. 24: Family Eucharist at 4 pm, complete with choir of young voices led by Griffin McMahon, and Midnight Mass at 9:45 pm. Dec. 25: Christmas Day worship at 10 am.

Chilmark Community Church, Chilmark

Dec. 24: Regular 9 am service with guest viola Atzik Marquez, traditional Candlelight service of Lessons and Carols with harpist Sandra Betterman-Atwood, 5 pm.

Dec. 29: “Service of Bells” at 9 am on New Years’ Eve.

Beacon of Hope, Edgartown

Dec. 24: Christmas Eve Candlelight service at 5 pm at the Edgartown School, regular Sunday service at 10 am.

Faith Community Church of Martha’s Vineyard, Edgartown

Dec. 24: Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols at 5:30 pm, regular Sunday service at 10 am.

Grace Church, Vineyard Haven

Dec. 24: Holy Eucharist at 5 pm. Family service, candlelight, and carols, with the Rev. Susan Eibner. Traditional Christmas Carol Sing at 8:30 pm with Wes Nagy, music director. Holy Eucharist at 9 pm. Christmas music, candles, and handbells with the Rev. Susan Eibner.

Dec. 25: Christmas Day Holy Eucharist at 9 am with the Rev. Susan Eibner.

Gay Head Community Baptist Church, Aquinnah

Dec. 24: Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 5 pm. Traditional lessons, carols, and candle lighting.

First Baptist Church, Vineyard Haven

Dec. 24: Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 7 pm. Traditional lessons, carols, and candle lighting.

St. Augustine’s Church, Vineyard Haven

Dec. 24: Christmas Eve Vigil Mass at 4 and 5:30 pm in English, 7 pm in Portuguese.

Dec. 25: Christmas Day Mass at 10 am in English.

Trinity Worship Center, Oak Bluffs

Dec. 24: Regular service at 10 am, highlighting the angel of love. Christmas Eve Candlelight service with Nine Lessons and Carols with music by Garrett Brown, the Trinity Choir, and cellist Jan Hyer at 7 pm.

Unitarian Universalist

Our own Holly Nadler speaks at the Unitarian Universalist service on Sunday, Dec. 24, with “A Jewish Girl Celebrates Christmas” at 11 am. The community is invited to come to church with memories to share via a short poem, reading, objects, or a personal story.