Monday, August 25, 2014

Remembering Joel Harvey

My friend Joel Harvey died yesterday.  We weren't the closest of friends, not like my friends from college or high school, and he wasn't exactly a mentor, though he might have been if we'd been a little more intentional about it.  We served together for several years on the Commission on Ministry, doing the work of listening for the calls of those who want to be ordained.  Sometimes I gave him a ride to and from clergy conferences.  It was on those rides that we learned that we had both worked in professional theatre before becoming priests.  There's something about theatre people that I can't quite explain.  Maybe it's the same for anyone who has been in a previous vocation and meets someone who had the same experiences, I don't know.  For me, finding people who understand both the challenges and blessings of the theatre and the church is a gift.  Sharing the stories of the two worlds created a bond between Joel and me. 

Joel was sweet and kind and gentle.  He told the truth.  In a direct way.  Not mean.  But the truth all the same.  As a CPE supervisor he was well acquainted with how human beings work, and I often found him a source of wise counsel.  When I was making my transition from parish ministry to SpiritWorks, Joel supported me and offered guidance.  He came out to SpiritWorks a couple of times to meet with us and see what we did, and last year he donated a large number of books to us that he thought we could use at the center.  We treasure them. 

Joel was one of those special people who had a big impact on me, even though I didn't spend a tremendous amount of time with him.  I am grateful that I got to see him at Jan's 50th birthday party and several times this summer when I preached at St. Martin's where he attended on Sunday mornings.  He always had a kind and gracious word about my sermons, and I enjoyed being able to look out at him in the congregation.

Today I walked the labyrinth at Eastern State Hospital in Joel's honor.  I could feel his presence with me as I walked, comforting me, blessing me.  I didn't want to say good-bye.  As I was walking the circuits on my way out of the labyrinth, I saw a hummingbird flying between crape myrtle trees.  As I watched, the tiny bird flew out of sight.  Though I longed for it to fly back so I could see it again, I knew it wouldn't.  Joel is gone.  He will no longer suffer from aches and pains or troubles with his heart, but our hearts will have aches and pains as we miss his presence here among us.  Good-bye, my friend. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day
our brother Joel. We thank you for giving him to us, his
family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on
our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion,
console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate
of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue
our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with
those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.                                                    -BCP