Memorial Tribute to Marion Vuilleumier

Marion Vuilleumier died this past winter at age 95. Earlier today I presided at her memorial servie in the Craigville Tabernacle. Here is a copy of my remarks.

Marion Vuilleumier Tribute

St. Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth, writes about spiritual gifts. Among those gifts are wisdom, faith, the power to heal, the ability to perform miracles, discernment, and others.
He makes a couple of points about those gifts. First, they come from God. They are not of our own creation. Second, they are all important; just as a body needs all of its parts, the community needs people with a variety of equally important skills. Third, the gifts are spread among the people; nobody has them all, and that’s okay.

I think it is fair to say that Marion Rawson Vuilleumier lingered a little longer than most people at the spiritual gifts table.

Marion was an extraordinarily gifted human being. Smart, energetic, driven to succeed, a woman of abiding faith in God and in other people, she exceled in her multiple roles: spouse to Pierre, clergy wife, mother to Pete, Louis and Virginia, teacher, historian and author of 20 books, director of the Craigville Conference Center, founder of the Cape Cod Writers’ Conference, developer of housing for elders – and I could go on but it’s exhausting…

I first met Marion – Mrs. V – in 1963 when I came to Craigville as part of a high school work camp. Two years later I came back to Craigville as part of the summer staff and Linda and I have been here off and on ever since. Those who worked for or with Marion in those days learned how to put in long hours for meager pay. Seven days a week for the whole summer without a single day off, which, to be fair was also Marion’s schedule.

We also saw a leader who knew how to make something out of nothing – or very little. Craigville and its little conference center weren’t much in those days. Oh, there were assets: the beauty of the lands, the beach and some dedicated volunteers, but Marion and Pierre Vuilleumier brought this little village – what we now refer to as “a place of grace by the sea” -- back from the brink. Three months of summer activity became a place for all people in all seasons. Deficits turned to small profits. Craigville became a destination of choice as this village prospered.
She had the gift of being able to see possibilities where others saw hopelessness. Today we might call her a “spiritual entrepreneur.” And she has left behind a legacy of institutions that continue to embody her dreams: the Craigville Retreat Center, the Writers’ Conference and the remarkable Mayflower Homes among them.

Sometimes people of my generation act as if we somehow invented the world we live in, that until we came along there was no social progress. We let ourselves think that until the 1960s there were no human rights, no dreams of peace and freedom, no warriors for justice. Sometimes it seems we believe that we even invented love.

There is no question we have seen some progress in our lifetimes and we have made our share of contributions. This day, however, I am struck by the fact that so much of what we take for granted today has such strong roots in Jewish and Christian scriptures.
Marion Vuilleumier was of a generation that took those scriptures seriously. When she read the words of Matthew 11 calling her to “take my yoke upon you” she knew that God would teach her what she would need to know. This was a call to service, to the exercise of responsibility, to leadership. Later generations would learn and insist that this call is not just for an elite group of male leaders. It is issued to the entire human family. This is not a call to raw ambition but an invitation to faithful leadership.

Louis and Pete claim that Marion was never happy being referred to as a “feminist” but those who knew her could not miss the fact that she was opening and walking through doors that were closed to many women in her time. And she opened doors for others. Others recognized that in her. As her friend Nikki Burnell wrote to Marion on her 90th birthday at Mayflower Place, “Perhaps the most important gift that you have given to me is the faith that we women really are remarkable, creative and wonderful beings, no matter what our age.”
Marion and her generation also knew the power of love. I have often said that the essence of the Christian faith is expressed no more succinctly than in the 13th chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth: "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

So today we celebrate the life of Marion Rawson Vuilleumier, a woman ahead of her time in many ways. Wife, mother, executive, teacher and writer, dreamer of dreams. May all of us, like Marion herself, take up our yokes and know the power of love.

Thanks be to God for the life of Marion Rawson Vuilleumier!