From the Rector
July 27, 2007
Due to a variety of factors, family and friends often live farther apart today than ever before, making it extremely difficult to spend time with those whom we cherish. If it weren’t for email and unlimited long distance calling rates, it might be almost impossible to stay in touch. We don’t have time to write letters the way people once did. So, when you have a friend or family member with whom you remain extremely close over a long period of time, that is a real treasure.
My friend, The Reverend John E. Fellers, was such a treasure. He died two weeks ago of complications following a stroke. We have been friends for almost forty years and we saw each other, talked on the phone, or exchanged emails at least once a week. We’ve been there for each other at significant points in the lives of our families; births, deaths, weddings, baptisms, anniversaries. Last year, he and his wonderful wife, Bobbie, celebrated their 50th Anniversary and we had such a great time. Many of you will remember that John led our Lenten series several years ago. John and Bobbie often worshipped at Trinity Church. He loved to take us to the Hotel Galvez for Sunday brunch. His parents took him there as a child and it had a family feeling for him. It is so hard to realize that he will not be there if I pick up the phone to bring him the latest news from Galveston, tell him a good joke, or ask his advice about something.
One of the most moving and difficult things I’ve ever done was to carry his ashes out of the nave of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston down to the Columbarium in the undercroft. He made countless trips up and down that aisle during twenty-five years of ministry there, first as an associate, then as senior pastor, and finally in retirement in an assisting role. Helping what remained of John make that last trip was both an awesome privilege and a dreadful responsibility.
My head understands but my heart is still working this out. That’s the way it is with grief. In time, God uses our faith to bring together the thoughts of our minds with the emotions of our hearts in a remarkable process of healing.
It really is our Easter faith that helps in times like these. It is making a difference to me right now. Although I would just as soon not have had to find it out in this particular way, I am relieved to know that the faith I have shared with others who are coping with grief is the same faith that is helping me face my own. Once again, John, you have turned a difficult situation into a learning experience.
A mutual friend was anointing John a couple of days before he died. During their brief visit, he said, “John, every word you have ever preached was true.” John looked over at him and, with a twinkle in his eye, whispered, “I know.” It is good to be able to preach the truth. And it is even better to have believed it. We are better, stronger, more faithful people because John touched our lives.
As one of your Priests, I am often called upon to be there with and for you in times of sadness. I’m sharing this experience with you because I want to be sure you know that I have experienced sadness too. We are a priestly people, called to uphold and comfort one another in the intricately textured life God has given us. That is part of the healing process. The word “comfort” comes from the Latin con fortis, meaning “together strong.” My friend, John, and I were strong together and remain so because the larger fellowship in which our faith, hope, and love has been nurtured so long continues, even beyond time and space, in the Communion of the Saints. In time and in that Communion, with him and with you, my heart will understand what my head already knows.