When I came across the picture, I loved it. You may have seen it on our church lobby wall… a young bride and a man in a military uniform along with a couple of other individuals in Browncroft’s old Winton Road location. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wouldn’t miss the chance to use it for Browncroft’s 100-year birthday celebration. But for months I wondered who it was.
All my inquiries seemed to come up short, and as our centennial “All In” series neared its end I began to think this would remain an unsolved mystery. Then last Sunday — an amazing day in many ways in the life of our church — I felt like the Lord shared a smile with me. A couple who have been committed Browncrofters for decades told me they knew who the bride was!
It’s Sylvia Cahill, who remains a faithful Browncrofter to this day. And the man in uniform we believe is Clifford Bristow, her father.
Bristow’s name caught my attention. I had come across it in Browncroft records that noted his was one of the 6 original names on a BCC “Federal Service Flag” created in June 1942 to honor those serving in World War II. I also learned that numerous BCC men were sent abroad to fight the war. And here on the home front, wives, mothers, and grandmothers would gather at the church weekly to pray for their loved ones.
While I have not been able to locate that flag from World War II, stories like this helped me become more and more attentive to snapshots from Browncroft’s past that show the honor our spiritual foerbears bestowed on those who placed themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others. For example, Browncroft records show that at the very founding of our church in 1922, one of the few items BCC’s original members transported from the building they left was another service flag for those in their fellowship who had fought in World War I. And more recent is this flag displayed near our sanctuary today that was presented by Sgt. Nathan Bowman, who served in Iraq.
Bowman’s father, Harley, another faithful Browncrofter who himself served in the era of the Vietnam War, noted to me that BCC has made it a priority to pray for and minister to those serving in the military (in fact, such prayer requests are regularly in our weekly prayer & praise email that you could sign up for here).
“Upon graduation from RIT, I was drafted in 1972 and left BCC for two years,” he said. “While away serving, the church sent me weekly letters containing the church bulletin and monthly the church newsletter called the Beacon.”
Another fascinating story with military connections is that of a BCC young woman — Louise Lynip — who hid from Japanese forces in the Philippines for years, was eventually evacuated by a U.S. Navy submarine, and then returned to Philippines after the war to start an orphanage with the support of BCC. Lynip was later honored by U.S. President Richard Nixon and NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller for her humanitarian commitment.
The more I dig into the legacy of this church, the more thankful I am to be part of it. Especially on Memorial Day, I am grateful for a community that remembers and honors those in the Armed Forces who have sacrificed selflessly for us.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)