Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A few words

I hesitate to add any words here, as I would like to freeze time and not go forward, leaving Jim's photo up top, his sermons below, and forever be silent here. Soon I must take his clothing and vestments to the funeral home so he can be dressed and prayed over. I don't want to go ahead, but I must, and am so very thankful for all who have been with me, near and far, to help me, the children, Alison, John, and Greg, and Bonnie (Greg's mom and Jim's wife for many years), to get through what lies ahead. Please continue to keep us all in your prayers.

I cannot begin to name all the names I would like to thank now, but I must name a few: The Rev. Sarah Lewis, who will be dressing and praying over Jim today; Bishop Skip Adams, who anointed him and prayed over him Saturday at the hospital, was with the parish and me Sunday, and will be celebrating the Requiem Eucharist on Thursday; Jim's very good friends and colleagues, Fr. John Wingert, who will give the funeral homily and Fr. George Greene, who will be assisting along with Sarah Lewis; Fr. H. Alan Smith, who left the ordination service to be with Jim and me at the hospital during Jim's final hours; Mike Killian and Lisa Firsching, our wardens, the vestry, and Bruce Smith, our choirmaster and organist and pastor and friend to us all. As for the rest, I'd have to name every member of the parish, including the choir, and a whole host of friends and family, near and far. Please know I have felt your love and support and it has meant so much to me.

I also wanted to give special thanks to my online friends and church community, especially Fr. Jonathan Haggar, Fr. Terry Martin, and June Butler (Grandmere Mimi), among others, who alerted so many to our tragedy. Jonathan, I cannot begin to tell you how much Jim must have appreciated you closing down your site at OCICBW on the weekend in his memory. That was such an incredible honor and something that must have made him leap for joy on the slab - seriously! For a long time I used to just occasionally send him links to your posts, which he enjoyed, but later he came to read you more regularly, when he could find the time. Jim also had a quick wit, an earthy sense of humor, and a special love for bog standard folks, as he was also from a working class family and community (Racine, Wisconsin and Newcastle, U.K. may have much in common). He recognized you as a priest's priest - one who knows all that us lay people can never quite grasp about what being a priest means to you, your sense of humility and unworthiness unspoken, the dutifulness to God, all his people, and their needs, never mind the slings and arrows of life in the Church. And you made him laugh, as you have done for so many, about things that might otherwise make us cry. In fact, thanks to you, just the other day when Jim was talking about retirement (which he so rightly feared he'd never make), he smiled and said that maybe what he'd want to do is blog like you and Fr. Christian Troll (this from the man who resisted reading blogs for a long time and, I think, dared not look at my own, and mainly only read The Lead, which he loved and appreciated a great deal, for "real" news and commentary - thanks to you, Jim Naughton).

There was so much more I wanted to say now - musings in the middle of the night (as I am still not sleeping well at all) - but I don't remember them exactly now. Someday maybe I can pull them altogether. For now, let me just say briefly, that what I've learned so painfully and beautifully the last couple days is how glorious is the Church, the Body of Christ (which, forgive my heretical views includes Christians and non-Christians). In the past I have been often critical of the institutional church (which despite the lowercase "c" encompasses "ours" and lots of "theirs"). While we may have gotten past the Crusades and the Inquisition, Christian institutions still have much to answer for in the way of harm they have done, rather than good. But, as I once was more cognizant of when I first returned to church 20 years ago, after a time in the unchurched wilderness, the church's flaws stem from our humanity, and to criticize church or religion in general is to miss the point that it/they are the best we have and what makes us want to be our best, as close as we can to what God wills for us. Religious communities may be declining in numbers in the West, but they are essential.

Ah... descending into my usual wordiness and drifting into netherlands. I don't have the right words for this now, maybe I never will, but these last few days, no doubt the most painful of my entire life, have shown me Christ incarnate. I used to give Jim a hard time about not wanting to talk much about theology, doubt, belief, etc. with me, which I nevertheless understood because his ESFJ just did not communicate easily or well on such matters with my INTP, and, more practically, he needed time off from the pastor gig once he got home. But the core of his Anglo-Catholicism - incarnational theology (yes, with the smells and bells but without the misogyny and homophobia of some) - is what I've been seeing and feeling this week. All I can say is, thanks be to God.

Jim at Reagan's Baptism, Grace Church, Utica, 2009, courtesy of the proud grandfather, Chris Williams


Eileen said...

((((((Kathy))))))) You remain in my thoughts and prayers.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Kathy--if there is anything we can do, other than pray, please let us know. My heart just aches for you...


Grandmère Mimi said...

Kathy, what a lovely reflection. What grace-filled words.

May God bless you and your family and all who love Jim. May God grant you comfort, consolation, and the peace that passes understanding to keep your minds and hearts in Christ Jesus.

Much love and many blessings.

Caminante said...

Your reflection brings tears to my eyes.

May God continue to hold you close... and surely Jim's spirit is hovering nearby, too.

Prayers of thanksgiving for those who have walked with you... and most of all, prayers for you.

[As for the photo of him in the church, why not put it up top on your sidebar?]

Roberta said...

Dear Kathy, Our love and prayers to you all. I didn't know you, but did know Fr. Jim, who held a special place in my life and in our memories here. He was our priest 25 years ago at Christ Episcopal Church in Delavan. We were all saddened to hear of his death when it was announced on Sunday at Church. Fr. Jim was very instrumental in bringing me into a loving relationship with Christ, for which I am eternally grateful! I've added some photos from your site to my blog as well, and a link to your blog so others here may read some of the sermons & info you've posted about Fr. Jim.
Please know that we continue prayers for you ALL, and share in missing Fr. Jim too.
In Christ's love,
Roberta & John Karstetter & family
Delavan, WI

Erika Baker said...

Kathy, I was so shocked when I first read the news on Mimi's blog. There seems to be nothing helpful or comforting anyone can say, well, at least I can't. Instead, I send you virtual hugs and real prayers, and lots of love.

The Rev. Dr. Christian Troll said...

Please let me break out of my terrible alter-ego to say thank you for this, and to let you know that my prayers are with you.

And please believe me, the real Father Christian's great hope is to be a priest of Fr. Jim's caliber.

gerry said...


I only know you via the Internet and Jim through the Convention of Central NY. His passing will leave a large hole in the convention this weekend.

Your reflection is lovely and in response you and the family are in my prayers.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Chris said...

What a wonderful post. Prayers from another OCICBW reader at this sad and God-close time.

Fran said...

Your words are so poignant and rich. You and your entire family are in my prayers.

Paul said...

I cannot think of anything to write besides what has been said above. You and all who love Jim are in my prayers.

IT said...

OUr hearts are with you!!!!

IT and BP

MadPriest said...

Thank you for your kind words, Kathy. The honour, as they say, is all mine.

As you rightly imply, I am a down to earth sort of guy. But I must say, at risk of sounding a bit soppy, that I was overwhelmed by the honest, very real and, above all, caring reaction to your husband's death within our blogging community. People who say the internet is not the real world are wrong. Everything I do as a parish priest is informed by what I've learned from my blogging friends. When I stand up in front of my congregation on Sunday morning I do so knowing that I am not alone. I know that people throughout the world are joining in with my prayers and that my sermons have been honed by the finest bunch of editors in the world.

There is always redemption, and I hope and pray that there will be redemption for your family and yourself. But of one thing you can be certain. Already, many people, myself included, are that bit closer to the kingdom of God because you have suffered. I wish it did not have to be that way but, it seems, that is the way it works.

You are in my prayers.