It has been over a year since the Town of Harwich’s Cemetery Commission “discovered” our Memorial Garden, something that has stood for 25 years and which previously had been approved by the former Cemetery Commission in December 1988.
From the start, I think it fair to say, today’s commission has baselessly assumed impropriety on the church’s part. As such, we have had to counter any number of unfounded complaints. And this without their possessing any documentation or having sought prior consultation.
As of this writing, First Church now finds itself in negotiations with the town over the future of this beautiful garden, one that contains the remains of many beloved friends and loved ones.
Through the prodigious efforts of Lynn Carver and Mary Montgomery (and others), we have been working on a short-term “License Agreement” with the town that will enable us to continue operating until such time as a long-term agreement is set, one that would require not just our approval but the approval of the Board of Selectmen as well as Town Meeting.
Suffice it to say, this has been upsetting to us all. Without getting into a lot of detail, it may be time for our church members to come together and express our concern to both town officials and the community at large.
As you may know, on June 26th, an article appeared in the Cape Cod Chronicle which presented a largely inaccurate picture of the situation. Two weeks later, in the July 10th issue, a letter from Lynn Carver, on behalf of the Cabinet, was published in the same newspaper presenting our considered response. Also appearing in that same issue was a letter to the editor from Barbara McMillan.
Then, on July 17th, yet another article was published in the Chronicle reporting on an earlier meeting with town officials and several members from First Church. The article contained at least two major inaccuracies. I personally sought to correct the record with the reporter, and a “clarification” was published addressed one of these concerns. In that same issue, Sally Rossetti’s letter to the editor also was published.
By the time you receive this, the Cabinet will have met to plan the church’s next steps. As we go forward, we would ask that you continue to keep First Church in your prayers, that God’s will be done, and that we continue to attend to what matters most, the sacred honor of all those buried in the First Congregational Church Cemetery.
Grace and peace,
Thomas C. Leinbach, Pastor