This liturgy was extraordinary in every sense of the word.
Grace Church is gorgeous, a fine old church with an amazing organ. It was quite full as there were many present to pray with Kathy and her family and to celebrate Jim's life.
The music was sublime; I knew that this was important to Kathy and that a lot of effort went into choosing the right pieces. There was a beautiful prelude before the service began.
The crowd as I mentioned, was large and also quite diverse. As I sat there praying and listening to the prelude music, I was aware of so many different kinds of people who had come together for this moment.
The entrance hymn was 379, "God Is Love, Let Heaven Adore Him" and that was followed by 208, "The Strife is O'er." The processional made me weepy as I watched the choir and the many clerics and others make their way up the long, center aisle.
And did people sing! I sang as loud as I could as singing is a powerful prayer.
The numerous priests and deacons really struck me because there were men and women and it was quite a diverse group. That changes a church very much, something that I will comment on more in another post. Then the bishop, The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III, made his way up last, with his mitre and crook.
The first lesson was the one I plan to have read at my own funeral, Wisdom 3:1-9. No I am not planning on going anywhere, but I do have clear thoughts about what I want to have happen when I do.
This was followed by Psalm 46 sung by the choir and it was transcendent.
The second lesson was from Revelation 7:9-17 and I was also reminded of where we are in the liturgical year. Kathy had mentioned on Facebook that the theme of the eucharist was Easter and the sense of life into death into life was most profound in song and word.
The Holy Gospel was from St. John 5:37-40 and I did cry as it was proclaimed. I wondered about Kathy and her family up in the front row, how were they doing? I thought of all those who loved Jim and who worked with him and prayed that consolation would come. It will, but not in any easy way. I also love how the Gospel is proclaimed in TEC, right from the center aisle - that is very beautiful and moving to me.
The Rev. John A. Wingert was the homilist and he spoke about this soul, taken away and how Jim's family and friends will mourn freely. He talked about how Jim had many relationships as Rector and how in his various roles, he touched so many people. It was also noted that Jim's passing will be felt profoundly at the deanery level and also at the diocesan level. Jim's gentle spirit and abiding faith were brought up and how he had a sense of humor - but never at anyone's expense.
Ultimately Rev. Wingert reminded us all that Jim had become one of the "great cloud of witnesses" and that those who mourn will draw strength from "sacrament and scripture," especially the Gospel which reminds us that "I will raise him up," as we are taught in John.
Again my thoughts were with Kathy and her family as they heard these words about their beloved husband and father, plus any other family that might be present. Of course the staff of Grace Church and all those in TEC who worked with Jim are mourning this loss and I pray for them too.
Communion was beyond words. As we all approached the Table of the Lord, the choir sang. As we slowly made our way up, I found myself standing in between the choir stalls waiting and surrounded by music. I had chills and I had a sense that this was what the Kingdom must be like.
My heart and mind were also infused with thoughts of Roseann that were so strong. It felt like she was passing at that moment, but of course she had not yet done so. My prayer for her was so strong and I wept as I slowly went to the altar to share in the Eucharist. (I am not sure if she has entered into the heart of God in death yet, but if not, it will be soon.)
The Holy Eucharist was nearly over. There was the Commendation and the prayers to give rest to Christ's servant, James as he went on to life everlasting.
Jim's casket, covered with the funeral pall slowly passed by on this part of the final earthly journey. Kathy and her family made their way down the center aisle, their sadness and pain was visible. The hymn "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," one normally only heard at Easter was resounding through the church.
While I am deeply grateful to have been there, I was struck by such sadness. Yet I was also moved that we have such a profound community online, one that stretches far and wide. It is great that we walk in joy from our distant outposts, connecting on blogs and Facebook but it is also a tremendous gift to be able to hold and support one another in our sorrow and loss.
Our hearts are united in prayer with Kathy and her family and all who loved Jim at this sad, sad time.