It’s been a long week. Two deaths, two people critically ill, several people in hospital wanting a visit, people dropping in to talk about their challenges. And the sudden death of a dear church member, Hugh Creighton. I spent yesterday talking to his family, calling his various church commitments to tell them he would not be there this week. Then I called his ministers and the people at Brunswick Street. Everyone was in shock and everyone wanted to talk about Hugh.
I was so pleased to have Heather working with me at Brunswick Street. She knew it was fitting not to call another organist for tonight, we needed to call the member of our church right away (Saturday night). I was so pleased she was able to let me know this and the calls with parishioners last night were very meaningful.
This Sunday morning at Bethany was filled with sadness, two deaths and one person very ill, a brother of two sisters died last week. I tried to give an inspirational sermon on not giving up, I was passionate and focused but the emotions that came from the awareness of these deaths and illnesses overwhelmed the theme and the words of the service. People were sad. No matter what I said or did the sadness lingered and dominated the tone. In the end I knew I could not change it so decided to go with the flow, give the sadness some space and affirmation. And that is how it ended.
It was an odd morning, it didn’t feel like a lot of people where there but we ran out of bulletins. People were in a generous mood but the sadness was everywhere. It was like people were aware of their mortality and were grateful for life but all too aware of its fragility. There is a difference between resignation and sadness, the former is despair and the latter is savoring what was. I know the sadness comes from a time of joy and a remembering.
Tonight 22 people gathered in the circle to remember Hugh. A few newcomers arrived just to be there and mourn and share. We ditched the bulletin (my idea), sang a few hymns (thanks to Hugh’s friend Emanuel) shared a prayer or two but mostly we shared memories of Hugh. The memories included generous acts of kindness, calls of concern, and his deep emotional connection to others, and his love of people and his want to be positive and see the good in all. But there was humour too, everyone loved his scripture reading in Python lingo, his reading of Psalms in high Anglican voice, and his sharing of the Ten Commandments (stopping after each one to share how he had broken it, when and where). Hugh was funny but his humour was combined with a serious need to ask questions, to probe and “kick the tires” of orthodoxy and institutional church. Hugh was a true searcher and an honest believer.
Brian Williams brought us the photo that accompanies this blog and placed it on the Communion Table. The smile, the innocence, the openness, the emotional fragility, the “don’t take yourself too seriously” and the wish to bring compassion and kindness to every situation and person, these qualities made Hugh the person we loved and will dearly miss. He truly was one of a kind.
Music was Hugh’s mission, his ministry and where he truly felt and lived the Divine. Emanuel’s heartfelt playing tonight brought Hugh to life. It was a Spirit-filled night, we shall miss our friend.