When I came to serve Advent those first Sundays five years ago I was told just a little about what necessitated Bishop Alexander’s call. The story of the Rev. Reed’s departure was sketchy and disjointed yet full of urgency and resolve. Minds were made up and hearts were broken and soon up walked a gentleman who had not been introduced to me during my first visits. It was Deacon Charles.
Looking back I’m pretty sure he introduced himself to me because he saw how much help I needed. He didn’t say that but instead talked about how he’d stepped away from serving and had even written a letter of resignation to Bishop Alexander. A letter that to this day is unacknowledged. What I experienced in that conversation was Charles’ gentle and humble hope for another turn at serving.
I thought I was being generous by saying “bring it!” I didn’t know the whole story but I believed in the deaconate – I still do -- and I believed in that order being well represented in the life of our congregation.
The next Sunday or two Charles was there asking me questions about what I wanted and how things ought to be done. It didn’t take long for my intuition to pick up on a subtext in his questions. He knew what to do but was making sure not to hurt my feelings while he guided us Sunday after Sunday.
It ended up that we had the same understanding of his role both ceremonial and actual. When I learned of his deep involvement with the community I celebrated that Advent had real deacon.
Over the years Charles and I grew into a pretty good liturgical team. One that only suffered in his absence when he and Sue were gone to Amelia Island or spectating soccer games and tennis matches. Wait . . . that’s not true. Our team suffered when I didn’t check with Charles first. That’s the truth.
It is so true and I had it confirmed this passed Sunday, when the acolytes assembled and looked at me for direction with a clear message in their eyes, “You’re not Deacon Charles! Boy are we in trouble!” But we instinctively made room for each other and muddled through thanks to what they remembered from Charles’ instruction and constant care.
Charles and I were a good team because in humility and grace he made room for the crazy Prayer Book lover that I am. He came back and humbly made room for me to stay in service to this parish that misses him now more than ever. Like the deacon should do as a “holy housekeeper,” he made room for me. Sunday in and Sunday out he made room for every new acolyte and every acolyte who aged out of service.
And that might be the best lesson for us to learn as we grieve and proceed so carefully and without great confidence: how we make room.
How do we make room for each other in our different temperaments of grief and sadness, for the memories he gave us and lessons he taught us, for those strangers as they meet us in our feeling a little lost and hurt, for those who will come to serve this community in leading so many benevolent efforts and rise to leadership in service like Charles, for the next person that God calls to serve as deacon to this parish?
Let’s make room for each other and honor Deacon Charles in the making. Let’s make room for each other as we build the occasion of our honoring and remembering him. Let’s make room for celebrating as well as the sadness. Let’s make room for this community to join us in our grieving AND celebrating.
Jesus said “in my Father’s house are many dwelling places. I’m going to make room for you” Let’s give thanks that we saw how God can use his servant to make room, sing Alleluia and take our turn to make room.