Within the same news cycle two extraordinary human beings that shared a love of humanity and Union Chapel transitioned from the paradise of the Vineyard to the paradise in the sky.

Rev. John Schule and Mildred Henderson served side by side as trustees of Union Chapel for decades. One way to look at it is that John covered the front of the chapel with his thoughtful and penetrating sermons and Millie commandeered the sanctuary from the center chair to the rear of the sanctuary.

John, along with fellow trustees Ed Trayes and Louise Johnson, chaired the ministerial committee arranging the summer preachers at the chapel for many years. This is not an easy task as Union Chapel balances denomination, gender, ethnic origin and geography in selecting the 10 guest preachers every Sunday.

When he retired from leading Federated Church in Edgartown in 1998 we called on him to preach at least once every year at Union Chapel. When he became ill with lymphoma he demonstrated to all that God, not man, not even learned women and men from the medical field, determine the last days of our life. John was counted on to be the opening preacher for the chapel year after year. And while neither he nor we could predict his condition, he managed to summon up the power and the glory in his messages.

Millie inherited her love of the chapel from her father who served as a trustee before her. The Dowdell family, Millie her two sisters and their parents purchased their cottage on Narragansett avenue in 1956 , next door to Bob and Helen Jennings and across from the Bollings. Millie and sisters Ruth and Kathy were all trustees. But Millie chaired the nominations and usher committees which in any church was power. She decided who ushered each Sunday, had a keen ear for the preachers and dominated every aspect of the chapel.

Millie and John were a dynamic duo that affectionately labored in the church for the benefit of all.

In this environment of the pandemic that includes the Vineyard, John and Millie would strongly encourage generosity, kindness and even sacrifice. In times like this the hidden food insecurity, employment insecurity and housing insecurity on the Vineyard ,which is often masked by the affluence of the summer, comes to the fore in alarming ways. Many people that were already on the edge simply fall between the cracks. These times call for us to help out at the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and to volunteer where you can given the social distance guidelines. The Oak Bluffs Senior Center is temporarily closed and they need volunteer drivers to deliver meals to seniors. Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston has started a Resiliency Fund for those in need of salary replacement. Perhaps we can start a similar fund in honor of John and Millie. Churches including Union Chapel and the Federated Church should consider a donation to local nonprofits serving this demographic of our beloved Island.

John and Millie were spared the exposure of their aging bodies to the ravages of the coronavirus. But their everlasting spirit of goodwill and generosity should be embraced by us all in a meaningful way, not only now, but the balance of the spring and this summer. Help others and show the rest of the nation that we are Vineyard Strong

Paradise on earth is the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting!