Saints

by the Rev. Dr. Jason Parkin, Rector

When I was at Holy Comforter the first time around from 1987 to 1991, I was blessed to get to know well a colorful, absent minded, slightly eccentric priest named Francis Chesebrough Lightbourn. Francis was a 7th generation priest in his Bermudan family, and was a scholar, librarian, researcher, and author. He had long been retired when I served as the associate rector, but every year, on the anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, Francis would ask if he could celebrate the weekday Eucharist "before I forget how," as he would say annually. I remember vividly assisting him on his 55th anniversary as he preached and presided at the altar, somewhat shaky and tremulous but decidedly determined. As it turns out, there was only one parishioner present-the late and lovely Irene Bower-so Francis, when it was time for the homily, simply walked out, stood about three feet from Irene, and gave his short sermon. Both Irene and I were in tears at the depth and beauty of his words, but also because of the model Francis provided of faithful service, unwavering commitment, and God's grace.

I think of that moment often, for some reason, even though it took place 27 years ago. I think of Francis, who became a beloved friend: indeed, my mother drove him to church the final few years of his life, and his was the last funeral I officiated before leaving Holy Comforter in 1991. I ponder his decades of living in God's presence, of being a person who, as we sometimes used to say, walked very closely to God. Francis was, in my life, one of those "saints" we all encounter during our journeys: someone who pointed the way to God, who provided an (admittedly unique) example of what it means to be one of God's holy people, one of God's servants and children and messengers.

I also think of Irene and how, on that particular morning, she stood in for all those who couldn't be present that day. Irene was a true saint herself, as those who knew her will remember; but on that day she represented for me the "communion of saints" we mention in the Creed: that invisible yet still-present community of God's people stretching across thousands of years and around the world, all woven into one family of faith by the Spirit of God. On that chilly morning at Holy Comforter, Irene connected me to the thousands who have filled the pews at Holy Comforter for 114 years, as well as to people of faith through all generations and in all places and conditions.

This is the month when we are reminded that we are all saints of God. That is the very purpose of the Feast of All Saints' on Sunday, November 6. We have all been created and called by God to shine with God's light, to serve one another, and to be beacons leading the way to the richer, more abundant, new life offered to us in Christ Jesus. Faulty, frail, broken, often uncertain of ourselves and our faith we may be, but, nevertheless, we are God's holy ones, God's hands, God's voices. So come, on that day, and take your place in the unending procession of people in this parish and throughout time who have turned their lives Godward, and rejoice that we are all part of the Communion of Saints.