Candleberry Chapel in Attleboro, Massachusetts has a new pastor named Warren Manigault III. As the chapel is now closed due to the coronavirus, the services on Saturday and Sunday are available on Zoom. This has made it possible for me to attend some of the services and given me the opportunity to hear the new pastor deliver his sermons. Pastor Warren presents a very sincere, interesting, and meaningful worship service. I have found his sermons touching and filled with a strong Christian faith and a great love for our Lord Jesus Christ. When he preaches, you carry away a message with you for the coming week. Not only have I enjoyed and found his service meaningful, I have been visually able to see so many of the people that I have served and loved in the past. This new pastor has a name that is special in my life. It is the name of my Uncle Warren, Warren Wentworth Boyle.
My relationship to my Uncle Warren truly began when I was a senior in high school. My dad had purchased my grandfather’s farm in Barrington, New Hampshire, and that is where my uncle lived. He had been the one of the nine Boyle children to run my grandfather’s working farm until it was sold. My grandfather had given my Uncle Warren and my Aunt Mildred a small home behind the farm making it easy for them to tend to the animals in the barn and outlying buildings. I remember my Aunt Mildred telling of how she almost became lost in a blizzard when she went to the barn on a snowy day. Her house and the barn were separated by around a thousand or more feet. I can recall a winter storm when it was difficult to go from the large farmhouse to the barn which was only about fifty feet away.
As a family, at times we had brief visits with my aunt and uncle when I was a younger boy. We would go to their home to see them and my grandparents. My aunt and uncle had two children, Robert and Nancy. Robert would have been close to my age, but he was far different from me physically. He was around thirteen and confined to a hospital bed where he was immobile and unable to communicate. Robert appeared to me to be able only to move slightly and to make a moaning sound. It had not always been so.
Around the age of twelve, Bobby (Robert) contracted a very high fever. Up until that time, he had been my uncle’s helper on the farm. There was a sledding accident which might have acerbated Bobby’s condition. My memory is dim on this period of time, but even the doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston could not cure or even resolve Robert’s condition. Some said it was a scar growing on his brain, but again I am remembering this as a young boy. My Uncle Warren saw his son slowly unable to walk or to see or hear. One day when he saw Bobby trying to open a door, my uncle said to my father, “ Milton, he cannot really see anymore. He is growing blind.” At age sixteen, Bobby passed away.
When Bobby passed away at the age of sixteen, he and his family were living in the city of Dover, New Hampshire. While they were there, life became difficult for Nancy. She turned to the Christian Church for her strength in life. In the end, Nancy never married but was faithful to her Lord and her faith all the days of her life. Nancy had witnessed the Christian faith of my uncle and my aunt for the church for all their family was a central part of their lives.
Now one might think that Uncle Warren would have lost his faith because of the tragic happening to his son. He never did. In spite of the heartbreak in his life after Bobby died, my uncle remained a deacon in the church, was a superintendent of Sunday School and taught Sunday School classes for most of his life. His faith in Jesus Christ was certainly challenged but he never gave up his love for our Savior.
By the time my father purchased back the Barrington farmhouse into the family, my uncle had built a cape home near Calef’s Country Store at the intersection of Route 9 and 125. Living so close to the farm, Uncle Warren and Aunt Mildred came often to visit us. That is when I came to so know, love and respect my uncle.
I was sixteen, and my uncle would sit next to me on the sofa near the dining room and talk to me about life on the farm. It is there that I learned that my uncle was both human and divine. I’m sure he would object to me saying that, but for me, it is a true statement. I learned he could tell me a somewhat human off-color joke yet also be such a worthwhile person. The stories told remain in my heart. He was the easy one to get along with in the family, probably more so than even my dad, and I surely honor my father.
When my grandfather purchased far too many asparagus plants and the other sons stopped planting them, Warren went out and planted all he could. When my grandfather purchased too many apple trees that were half dead, it was Warren who would make the effort to water them even when it seemed hopeless. It was Warren who, by choice, chose to take care of the herd of cows – the most difficult job on the farm. When my grandmother wished to be able to look up the farm road to see who was coming to visit, it was Warren who constructed a small alcove on the front of the house. In rain, snow or sunshine, my grandmother could look out from that alcove and see who was coming down the road.
Sitting by the fireplace, I learned one night how when Warren went out to feed a hog, a rat ran up his pantleg. He told me he clamped his hands on his leg, and thankfully the rat turned around and ran out. Uncle Warren knew all things about farm life. When my dad planted corn in the spring, he planted two very long rows and never reaped one ear of corn. Uncle Warren explained he should have planted eight short rows so that the corn could cross pollinate. In his youth, Warren attended Wentworth Institute in Boston to learn to be a blacksmith, and he had a forge at the farm. He used the anvil that my great grandfather had used as a blacksmith. The anvil had been carried by my great grandfather as far as the rails had been laid across this country to Marshalltown, Iowa. He was to return back to New England bringing the anvil with him. That anvil used by my great grandfather and uncle sits in my garage; a sacred memory of family.
One of my favorite stories of life at the farm was the one about the fish heads that my grandfather purchased for fertilizer. I was to learn in these stories of the farm that my grandfather was not exactly a wise purchaser of tree plantings, or asparagus or, in this case, a trainload of fish heads that just happened to have baling wire mixed in with them. This made it almost impossible to pitchfork them into a horse drawn wagon. Having finally loaded the wagon, my grandfather and his brothers were to stop at Calef’s Country Store to bring back a grocery item for my grandmother. All of them smelled so badly that the four brothers began to argue who would go into the store. In the midst of the argument, the new pastor’s wife came out of the store and said, “ the Boyle boys, I presume.” With hat in hand, my Uncle Warren just climbed down from the wagon and went into the store. That’s Uncle Warren!
I also loved the story of how when Warren was working on the roof of the farmhouse and he tumbled off landing in a lilac bush, my grandfather (who happened to witness the incident) yelled out, “Warren don’t you ever do that again!”
One Sunday, Dale and I attended the church in Barrington, NH that Warren and his family attended. I was thinking that one Sunday I would like to preach on the life of my wonderful, faith filled uncle. But as it turned out, his church had much changed, and only one person spoke of someone who might have known my aunt. So instead of preaching there, I have told you only a fragment of the story of my beloved Uncle Warren. I like to think that I was special to him, too, for I was about the age of his son Robert. I’d also like to believe that I hold to the Christian faith as strongly as it was held by my uncle and his family.
Thank you for walking with me today. I began our walk with you yesterday on a sunny day; I continued it on the next when it was lightly snowing. That’s New England!
I’d like to end our walk with a favorite poem about an anvil.
The Anvil of God’s Word
“Last eve I paused beside the blacksmith’s door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor,
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
“‘How many anvils have you had,’ said I,
‘To wear and batter all these hammers so?’
‘Just one,’ said he, and then with twinkling eye,
‘The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.’
“And so, I thought, the Anvil of God’s Word
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The Anvil is unharmed, the hammers gone.”
—attributed to John Clifford
“And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other. Amen.”