Tuesday, June 05, 2007

unexpected grief

I am struggling this morning with the news of the death of one of our bishops, Jim Kelsey of the Diocese of Northern Michigan as the result of a car accident. I met Jim Kelsey several years ago at a national conference where we spent several days in the same workshop, and had occasion to talk informally at meals and in between sessions. His diocese is composed of mostly small congregations, and he was deeply committed to encouraging, supporting, and empowering the ministry of all people in their life of faith and in response to the needs of the world. He was passionate about this ministry and its partnership with clergy known as mutual ministry. One person described him as providing a large voice for small churches and dioceses. As one who has served such churches, I was deeply appreciative of his advocacy for the congregations throughout the church who are underappreciated and often overlooked because of their size. I was also appreciative of his advocacy for justice in other arenas of life and in the church, and admired his integrity and conviction.

The tears I am encountering this morning are for this bishop, but they are also a resurfacing of grief for a friend and parishioner who died just a month ago. Martha Bennett was a member of one of my churches on the mountain, a deeply committed, fiercely devoted and tirelessly active member of the church whose passion for small churches matched that of Jim Kelsey. Martha was the small church, and she loved it wholeheartedly. She and I worked together for nearly two years as partners in our effort to serve the churches on the mountain in our care. She never failed to tell me that she appreciated me, and was a model of cooperative ministry and teamwork that is too rare in the church. She was also good humored and had a wonderful laugh, offered her hospitality with regularity, and knew when to take things seriously and when to shrug them off. She took delight in reminding me that I was a Yankee, and I never failed to remind her that my ancestors fought for the confederacy. I miss her keenly.

On a larger scale, my grief today is for the whole of our church, who has been robbed of two remarkable people who were models of what it means to live a Christian life in the best sense. They were humble, honest and vulnerable, and weren't afraid of risk or confronting difficulty. If only the world had more people like them.

Here's to Jim and Martha, and to the all the saints who have left us for other shores.


Maria said...

Anne, I'm so sorry to hear about your losses and the pain you are feeling. It never gets easy does it? Especially when it's someone whose death comes as a surprise in such a tragic way. I will keep them both and their families in my prayers.

Pam in Moncton said...

You describe two very special people who will be sorely missed by many. It seems that they touched the lives of many people and will live on in the effects they have had on the world around them.

Jayne said...

May light perpetual shine upon them both...

Jules said...

Oh dear Anne, I am so sorry to hear of your and the church's losses. Their memories will live on with people like you who cared so much about them.

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