A Note from Jim - July 7, 2023
Nor death nor life.
In his great epistolary exhalation, the letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul, across all the centuries that stand between his pen and our eye, assures us that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus–whom critically Paul titles Lord (a person to whom in Paul’s ancient ordered world one was both subservient and duty bound).
Over and over in my brief time with St. Martin’s, I’ve had occasion to try to preach that belief into the death of one after another of the parish’s long-time members or friends. In their lives, each of these people, each in their own way, brought their considerable gifts, devotion, and faith into the life of St. Martin’s, on the one hand, and on the other into the worlds in which they lived beyond the parish. Their loss is, individually and cumulatively, enormous. And still we proclaim, “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God.”
Though mostly I had not known these folks well in life, their deaths opened to me the privilege of sharing stories of their lives with those who knew and loved them most and longest: family members, friends going back sometimes to toddling days, parish and business associates. In every case, I came away enriched by the sharing and the stories and saddened by the almost immeasurable loss their deaths thrust upon the whole community. Yet still we proclaim, “nor death nor life…will separate us from the love of God.”
In that same time, it has been part of my ministry with St. Martin’s to try to bring new life and order into the parish staff in the aftermath of a period of turmoil that necessarily attended St. Martin’s loss of all its priests and key administrative staff across a single year, a year marked at its beginning by a pandemic that seemed then to be unending and now, the present, by beginning to try to understand and inhabit the world that still-active COVID has left us with. In that work, I have been encouraged by the support of a stalwart Vestry, including two Wardens, and by the faithfulness of a returning congregation. And yet none of this turmoil, what Paul in this same funeral passage might call suffering, “...is worth comparing to the glory about to be revealed to us.” And now I and the whole community are graced by a wonderful administrative team with whom I rejoice in keeping company every day: Parish Administrator Lorie Hershey and Director of Communication, Content, and Events, Noor Diskan.
This weekend we will remember and celebrate, on Saturday, in the solemn requiem and following-on party that was her wish, another pillar of St. Martin’s, Taylor Anderson. Then on Sunday we say a literal farewell to Anne Alexis Harra, who arrived at St. Martin’s as newly-minted Minister to Children, Youth, and Families in the heart of the pandemic and on the exact cusp of all those staff departures. Anne Alexis has labored through all the time since to express her faith into the community, all the while discerning with the parish’s support a path into a Postulancy that, God willing, will lead to ordained ministry. Sunday morning, Anne Alexis will preach her last sermons in her current role (though I believe she’ll be back to her “sending parish” with more in some not too distant time), and then we’ll gather again to party a little.
We’ll thank God for the gifts lived into this community by both these women, for the particular gift Taylor became as mentor to Anne Alexis and for the gift of accompaniment that Anne Alexis brought into Taylor’s last years, into our family ministry, into her support for Under God. And again, on two successive, likely very warm days, we will assert…”nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I invite you to put on your cool clothes, join us on Saturday at 4 PM and on Sunday morning in this powerful community in which each of you is unique and essential, and celebrate together that in death and life we are and will always be held in the glory of God’s cosmic love. Nothing will separate us…nothing at all.
Amen and amen.
The Rev. James H. Littrell