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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Peaceful Wish

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Originally published December 22, 2006

This column is reprinted with permission from The Hills Newspapers.

It is a matter of taste.  At this time of year, everyone expresses themselves differently with holiday decorations.  Some prefer the simplicity of a single wreath. For others, too much is never enough at the holidays.

Looking around town at decorations right now, it would be hard to argue there are not enough.  Showing off with lush evergreens, sparkling lights, and crimson bows, holiday decorations are easy to admire.   Even a heavy-handed approach to decorating can be appealing with ingredients of this kind.

Many people use decorations to express their joy this time of year.  They decorate houses from pillar to post as if to say, “We are so happy the holidays are here!”.  No amount of tinsel or toy soldiers could ever be too much.

As keepers of the flame, churches and other places of worship have something to say with their holiday decorations also.  It is not necessary to be a member of local congregations to view their decorations.  In particular, the oversized wreaths and holiday lights at many churches can be appreciated from afar.   Some churches stand out with life-size nativity scenes and other equally impressive seasonal displays.

At Plymouth Church in Oakland, there are no impressive decorations for the holidays.  In fact, there appear to be no decorations at all.  Located on the corner of Monte Vista and Oakland Avenues, this church stands out for another reason.

Plymouth Church is most notable for its many small crosses facing Oakland Avenue.  Of course, there is nothing unusual about seeing crosses on the grounds of a church.  If you paid attention to these crosses over the last several months, however, you noticed they regularly increased in number.

When noticing the crosses recently, I assumed they were honoring soldiers who died in the conflict in Iraq.  The simple, white crosses, approximately two feet high with slender profile and minimal construction, resemble military ones. Thinking about it further, this explanation did not make sense.  With about forty-five crosses there, the number seemed too high to represent local soldiers who had died.  On the other hand, if the church was trying to broadly honor deceased American soldiers in Iraq, the number was grossly inadequate.

It turns out the crosses have to do with victims closer to home.  Each one represents a person murdered in Oakland in the last year.  The crosses include the people’s first names, their dates of birth and ages when they died.  Such as “Lindsey, 4/13/86, 19 yrs.”, “Chad, 1/13/80, 25 yrs.”, Sebastian, 1/20/73, 32 yrs.”, “Yvonne, 2/8/60, 45 yrs.”, and “George, 5/16/54, 51 yrs.”

When Plymouth Church first started erecting the crosses last spring, they intended to have crosses for every victim during the year.  A couple of things happened to interfere with their plan.  Perhaps the biggest challenge was trying to keep up with the number of murders in Oakland, now over one-hundred forty.

With the holidays in full swing, I will continue to appreciate the joy being expressed with so many eye-catching decorations around town.  At the same time, I cannot help but think about the sorrow being expressed with simpler decorations, of a different kind, at Plymouth Church.  For all, I wish a peaceful New Year.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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