The First Parish Memorial Garden provides a planned garden on the church grounds that provides a place of peace and beauty where the deceased can be memorialized and in which ashes may be buried.
The Memorial Garden is located on a hill overlooking the church near the entrance to Mount Pleasant Cemetery. It is available to members of the First Parish as well as their spouse, partner, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister.
The Memorial Garden does not include markers or stones but family and friends may donate a shrub or tree that is planted in the name of the deceased.
Why a Memorial Garden?
Many followers of a liberal religious philosophy find interring a loved one’s ashes in a memorial garden rather than a conventional casket burial to be an act of worship. It returns to the earth atoms that have been used on loan–a final reconciliation with the earth and the universe from which we came. The First Parish offers the Memorial Garden as a service to the congregation for what better site can there be for a final resting place than near a church that has held meaning during the person’s life?
Closure is required for those who have been left behind. From the earliest times in Western culture, churches have provided churchyards to serve as places of interment. In keeping with this tradition, First Parish offers its Memorial Garden to inter the cremains of loved ones in beautiful natural setting.
Interment services may be as simple or elaborate as desired. They may involve only the family or be part of a complete Memorial Service conducted by the First Parish minister and attended by invited guests. They may take place with or without ashes and cremains may be either scattered or buried. The service may include plants and flowers but floral tributes will not remain in the garden after the day of the service.
The Memorial Book
As no marker remains in the garden, a Memorial Book, which allows family and friends to memorialize the deceased, is kept in the church library with a copy in a protected place in the garden. This book includes the names of all persons who are remembered in the Memorial Garden, regardless of whether their ashes are interred there.
Entries can be as simple as a name and dates or they may include a photograph and up to one page of information. This text typically includes a short biography, a favorite poem, or a description of the person’s relationship to First Parish.
The Garden Plan
The Memorial Garden plan includes improvements such as paths and benches, stonework, special plantings of flowering trees and bushes, as well as wildflowers to maintain an informal, shady woodland environment. Loved ones contribute to the fund for upkeep and improvement.
How to Participate
- Obtain a Memorial Garden information packet from the First Parish church office.
- Fill out the Application Form.
- Send the completed form and a check for $250 made out to the First Parish Memorial Garden fund.
- Make arrangements with the Minister of First Parish for the Memorial Service, if any.
- Make arrangements with the Landscape Committee for the interment.
- Provide the Landscape Committee with information for the Memorial Book.
History of the Memorial Garden
The original Martha Crocker Memorial Garden was established in 1982 through a gift from Ms. Crocker’s mother. Members of the congregation have enjoyed the lovely curved stone retaining wall and along with many flowering shrubs and trees for many years as a backdrop for summer services in the Atkinson Wing. For fifteen years, volunteers weeded the little garden and planted an eclectic assortment of perennials but there was no real plan for using the garden as contemplative or memorial space.
On the hillside, parishioners planted memorial trees and shrubs from the late 1950s until approximately 1988. These marked milestones in the their lives or honored special people. This practice was discontinued as the trees grew to maturity and left no room for new plantings.
In 1997, Reverend Doris Hunter encouraged the Landscape Committee to create a plan for a Memorial Garden. After two years of planning and discussion, the First Parish of Sudbury Memorial Garden was dedicated in June, 1999. The Landscape Committee takes care of the garden, plans for its development, and helps the relatives and friends of the deceased to find the best way of memorializing them.
In the summer of 2000, the committee cleared the Memorial Garden hillside of all dead and injured trees (not memorial trees) to create space for new plantings. In addition to the plan, the Landscape Committee has a lists of suggested species of trees and shrubs to build out the plan. If your family wants to continuable a tree or group of shrubs in honor of someone or to mark a family milestone, please contact a member of the Landscape Committee. All contributions will be listed in the Memorial Book.