Trinity UCC Online Meditation, April 26, 2020

Dear Ones of Trinity Church of the UCC and beyond:

Online Meditation
Second Sunday After Easter, April 26, 2020
Trinity Church of the UCC, Northport, MI
Phil Garrison, pastor – Nancy Flanagan, choir director

“If you are living in love,
you are in heaven no matter where you are.
May heaven hold you.
May you always,
live in love.”
– Kate Braestrup, “Here If You Need Me”

Most, if not all of you, know that our beloved organist, pianist,
Bill Cook
died at his home on April 24, 2020.

the ache of our broken hearts.

There will be a time,
when we can honor Bill and his many gifts to us
as we sit side by side each other
in the sacred space of Trinity.

For today,
our online meditation will be woven with some of your words
and a bouquet of music (Bill’s and others’) loosely arranged
in the vase of the meditation.
(For those of you who are without internet access, 
those of you who are reading these words on a printed page
during the week of April 27,
I am sorry you are not be able to listen to the sounds of the fine music played this morning in Bill’s honor.
I encourage you to imagine Bill
playing the piano
or the organ
or singing solos . . . 
and more,
is what those of us with the links below will hear.)


Andy Thomas wrote:
“Gloria and I are very sad that Bill has left us.  
We have known Bill since we were teenagers.
He has become a constant presence for us and the Episcopal Church
filling our lives with music from his hands, feet, and voice.
Such a musician and humble man.

Nancy Fitzgerald wrote:
“I have known Billy since he was in the youth group
when Jack was the minister.
How we will miss his presence.
Really . . .”

Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water


Come to us in this time of our lives, O God.
Speak to us in this time of our lives, O God.
Dwell with us in this time of our lives, O God.

“Lamb of God” by Twila Paris
Bill Cook, piano – Nancy Flanagan, flute
recorded at Trinity on April 28, 2019.
Thank you, Janet Stutzman.


Julia Brabenec wrote:
“Farewell, dear Bill; May hosts of angels sing you to your rest.”
–  a paraphrase of a lovely line from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.

Ann Bloomquist wrote:
My heart is broken and sad.
My memories are joyful.
After sharing so many beautiful musical moments with Bill
over the last 30 some years,
I can truthfully say the music is still ringing in my heart.
I hear Kenny’s trumpet,
the congregation singing
and Bill ramping up the organ on that last verse of the hymns.

That swell filling the church will sound there forever.

I remember how he liked so very much
the Benediction I wrote, based on Scripture.

And God shall wipe away all tears.
There shall be no more death nor dying.
For God shall wipe away all tears,
So depart now and break forth into joy!

Thank you Bill, my soulmate.
God will take care of you.

“We Have Come to Worship”  &  “Eat This Bread”
Bill Cook, solos  –  Ann McInnis, piano  – Singers, Trinity choir.
Recorded October 6, 2019 at Trinity.
Thank you, Janet Stutzman.


Betsy and Dick Wilson wrote:
Trinity will so miss Bill’s extraordinary talents,
both in playing the organ and in singing.

Barb von Voigtlander wrote:
Bill will be sorely missed.

Karen Fenne wrote:
I knew him as well as he would allow, and was glad to work with him.

Karen Haygood wrote:
He was one of a kind.

Peg Ramsdell wrote:
Bill leaves a musical legacy in Northport,
especially in almost all the houses of worship.

Nancy Flanagan wrote:
There will be time, eventually,
to honor Bill’s 50+ years of service to Trinity
(beginning with playing for Sunday School when he was in high school).
And there will be time to craft a way to memorialize his service.
One thing that crossed my mind
was commissioning someone to write an anthem in his honor.
The choir could take on that project.
Shortly before I left for Arizona, in January,
we sang ‘Put Peace Into Each Others’ Hands’ and after church,
Bill mentioned that it was his favorite hymn tune.
The tune is St. Columba.

Commissioning an anthem around that tune
would be a lovely permanent gift to Trinity and to the world,
but there are other ways to keep Bill in our hearts.
Be thinking.

Sarah Shoemaker wrote:
Good idea, Nancy – and what a challenge!

I remember many experiences with Bill.
Among them was Bill practicing the Introit
Will Thomas and his family asked Bill to play
for Virginia Thomas’ Celebration of Life on July 15, 2017.
It is a difficult Chopin Nocturne.
Bill practiced and practiced and practiced
and practiced some more.
He remembered being able to play it with excellence
at an earlier time in his life.
After the service, he said he wished he had been able to play it better.
I thought it was excellent.
Here is Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 72 performed by Claudio Arrau.
Imagine Bill,
at his very best, playing like this,
because he did:

In addition to Church music
Bill spent many years playing Dixieland music
the Back Room Gang.
They got their start in Traverse City in December, 1970.
Bill accompanied them for years and years and years.

Sharon Hall wrote:
In this time of isolation it is such devastating news about Bill.
Years ago I enjoyed his playing in the Back Room Gang.
After moving up here and seeing the extent of his talent in the church
I loved him even more.
The choir, the church and the village will miss him terribly.
God bless him and condolences to his family.

Nancy Flanagan wrote:
There are many indelible musical memories of Bill.
Last summer, at the 150th anniversary celebration,
for example,
standing on the bass pedals as the bells rang,
and we all sang the last verse of
‘The Church’s One Foundation
Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
Or Bill singing ‘O Holy Night’ on Christmas Eve.
But most,
I will remember Bill at his Back Room Gang best.
Like the last Sunday he played for us at Trinity,
in January,
as the choir and congregation sang ‘Amen! Amen! Amen, Amen, Amen’
with Bill improvising on every verse,
like a Dixieland piano player on a Saturday night.
Here’s a story from Traverse City R-E about the Back Room Gang: 
It has pictures of the most recent BRG
(including people some of you might recognize). 

Here is a recording of the Back Room Gang
from a vinyl record I found online.
I don’t know for sure that this is Bill at the piano,
but the vintage of this recording
makes me think that it is very likely Bill.

Before I knew of Bill’s death,
I had planned a very different meditation for you for today.
Maybe sometime you will read that meditation
which is a Kate Braestrup story as she told it on Moth Radio.
Today is not the day for that story.
One of the scripture’s that had stirred my desire to share her story
remains deep in my heart, though,
it is an especially good one for us to read
on this particular morning of our lives:

John 20:19-22
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week,
the doors being locked where the disciples were
for fear of the authorities of the empire,
Jesus came and stood among them and said to them,
“Peace be with you.
”When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

They were so glad to see him!
Jesus said to them again,\
“Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
even so
I am sending you.”
after he said this, 
he breathed on them
said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

dear ones of Trinity and beyond,
Jesus said to the disciples in the locked room
what he says to us in our “stay-at-home” quarters:

As the Father has sent me,
even so
I am sending you.
Receive the Holy Spirit.”

What are you gonna do with that Holy Spirit?

Maybe . . . 

choose to live
even in this time
. . . . . . .

May love and strength be in our hands
May love and courage be in our hearts
May love and wisdom be in our minds
May love be with us
work through us
in all our days.
– Kate Braestrup, “Beginner’s Grace”
. . . . . . .
Guide My Feet, Lord
sing along if you like


Nancy Flanagan sent the choir an email yesterday in which she said:
Bill had many hidden talentsand exercised them for good in his life.
Among those many talents was his remarkable artistry
with the complexity of the organ
with all its pedaling and use of multiple manuals.

Nancy and I had planned,
long ago,
for The Holy City to be the closing musical selection
for this Sunday’s meditation.
Even though it was selected for a different online meditation
it is so right for you to see and hear today
in light of Nancy’s words
about Bill’s artistry
with the complexity of the organ.
The organist in this video is
Doug Tjapkes,
who is  family with Nancy,
and who will be,
because of his diverse skills and interests beyond the organ,
the Belko Peace Speaker in 2020.
You will not want to miss his Belko Peace Lecture.
More about that later.

For now,
listen and watch as Doug performs
The Hoiy City
for his congregation
(United Methodist, I think)
on Easter Sunday a couple of years ago.

Imagine if we had gotten video of Bill Cook
playing the organ at Trinity.


breathe in breathe out

Go into the world in peace,
Have courage
Hold onto what is good
Return no one evil for evil
Strengthen the fainthearted
Support the weak
Help the suffering
Honor all people.
Love and serve the Lord
Rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Receive the Holy Spirit.
into the world

Tonight at 7:00 pm a ZOOM conversation
for us to get to know each other better online.

You are invited to the conversation.

The link will be sent via email this afternoon. 

April 29 is our next Trinity Wednesdays at 6:51

The link to that ZOOM conversation will be sent to you via email Wednesday morning, April 29.
Hope you can join us for this midweek time of sharing joys and concerns.

Next Sunday, May 3, 2020
the Scriptures for our online meditation will be
Psalm 23
John 10:1-4
Looking forward to you tonight and next week.

 Bill Cook accompanying other musicians,
Advent Afternoon of Music, 2018

We Are In This Together

You are beloved,
Phil Garrison

View All


  1. Thank you so much for sending this meditation to me. I did not know of Bill’s passing. Waves of sadness pass through me. We have been blessed to have Bill as our music director and friend for so many years. His singing of Just a Closer Walk with Me will stay with me forever. Rest in peace, dear one. Karen


  2. Thank you for sending this meditation. It was lovely. I didn’t know of Bill’s passing. Such sadness. Karen

    Sent from my iPad



  3. Enjoyed this very much – the narrative and the music! Thank you for sharing. Our neighbor in OH is from India and is a kind, loving and very generous woman. She said it’s very important in Hindu to be a “good neighbor!” She calls herself Sri and has an adult daughter named Raj (probably “short” for a more formal and difficult to pronounce name)! May you and Patricia stay healthy! Namaste,
    Ron and Susie


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