Friday, August 09, 2013

And all God's children said, "Amen!"

Services in the Episcopal Church often end with the dismissal, "Let us go forth in the name of Christ!" and response, "Thanks be to God!"

But our friend and mentor Sue Palmer's practice was to add from the rear of the church after those final prayer book words had been spoken each Sunday, "And all God's children said ..." to which the congregation was expected to add the ancient affirmation, a resounding "Amen!"

I'm fairly sure I heard that familiar voice and those words about noon Thursday as Sue's joyful funeral Mass  concluded at Trinity United Methodist Church in Albia, opened hospitably because tiny Grace Church --- Albia's oldest church building and also its smallest --- could not have begun to accommodate the congregation, hundreds of parishioners, friends and fellow clergy who gathered to celebrate a life well lived.

"That was a great funeral --- almost makes you want to die," said Fr. Richard Lintner, our vicar emeritus, some 10 years older than Sue and not moving very fast these days. He was told to forget that idea.


It helps, of course, to have the bishop as officiant, preacher and leader of processions --- the gracious and eloquent Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe. And a dozen or so fellow priests from the Diocese of Iowa as well as pastors from other denominations, plus a big church full of people to sing the joyful hymns and join in the liturgy. And fine soloists and ensembles reflecting Sue's love of music.

The liturgy itself, The Book of Common Prayer's "The Burial of the Dead: Rite Two," imposes structure and while in no way slighting the deceased, keeps the attention focused on scripture and the Eucharist. 

It was Sue's practice to meet regularly for breakfast at the Millerton Cafe with other women who serve as pastors of Lucas and Wayne county congregations. They were there, seated together.

Her fellow pastors in the south central Iowa cluster --- Fr. Terry Kleven of Oskaloosa St. James and Fr. Vincent Bete of Ottumwa Trinity --- were among those serving. And her friend and mentor, the Rev. Kate Campbell, rector of Clermont's Episcopal Church of the Saviour, so effectively invited all present to come to the table during the Eucharist that nearly all did.

Sue was notably proud of her Welsh heritage. Corydon's Enfys McMurry spoke the Lord's Prayer in Welsh at the appointed liturgical time.

Afterwards, during lunch in the parish hall, it was a delight to reconnect with my former pastor, the Rev. Wendy Abrahamson, formerly of Mason City St. John's, now serving as vicar of Grinnell St. Paul's. And to share lunch, too, with the Rev. Paul Walker and his husband, the Rev. Randy Lee Webster, who had driven up from Burlington.

To it all, I think, Sue would have added a resounding "Amen!" And perhaps she did.

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