On July 14, 1984, Dennis Crosby Fowler Jr. passed away after a tragic accident at his summer job. He was only 14. Dennis’ death shook the entire community of Gethsemane UMC, now the Gethsemane Campus of St. Luke’s. Current members remember coaching his baseball team and mentoring him in the youth group. A framed picture of Dennis’ sneakers, with the phrase “Jesus is Lord” inscribed in pen on the soles, hangs in the Gethsemane education wing. It’s as if Dennis lives on at Gethsemane. His memory lives on here, like he’s still sitting in the pews on Sunday morning. The very soul of Gethsemane has been shaped by his life and loss.
The Fowler family planted an oak tree in memory of Dennis. For 30 years it grew in Gethsemane’s backyard. Children of Gethsemane’s past and present would play on the playground beneath its limbs. The tree provided shade from the hot Houston sun. It stood sentinel over picnic tables and the swing set, as if Dennis himself was keeping watch over his home church. The tree kept growing until it reached taller than the sanctuary. For 30 years Gethsemane worshipped beneath the tree’s branches. For 30 years Dennis’ memory grew with and in the wood.
But in February 2015 the oak tree had to be cut down. It was standing in the middle of the footprint of new Canterbury Hall—the fellowship hall at Gethsemane which houses the Christian Community Service Center (CCSC) food pantry and Sunday morning potlucks. The tree yielded yards and yards of sturdy oak wood, and for an entire year it was laid to rest in the workshop of a master carpenter, Mr. Larry Schulgen of Sienna Plantation, so it could dry and be ready for work.
Mr. Schulgen fashioned a new cross for the Gethsemane Sanctuary out of the wood from Dennis’ tree. Every fiber in the cross comes from that tree. The cross will hang in the Sanctuary so Dennis’ memory may live on in another generation of Gethsemane’s children. The cross is a hardwood symbol of the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The pain of Dennis’ loss continues to be redeemed. Gethsemane continues to be transformed in the wake of his death. The cross captures the death to life power of the gospel.
May God bless that cross. May God bless all who worship under it.