Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3
Over the past couple years I have been experiencing a growing awareness of the “great cloud of witnesses” that is in heaven even as I type, cheering us on to glory. I’ve shared some of their stories in the Church History pages of this blog.
But on this page I’d like to remember those in the ‘great cloud’ who I have known personally… those whose names, smiles, hugs, and kindnesses are still fresh in memory. In a way I feel way too young to be writing a page like this, but it’s never too soon to say “thank you” to those who have given their lives in service… especially when that service is as eternal as it was temporal. These are the people in my life’s ‘apostolic succession’.
Feel free to add names from your own roll of honor in the comments section below.
~~ The Roll of Honor ~~
Mom (Barbara Bush Guilbert) – passed into glory 7/9/11. She’s the one who got four kids (and a husband) scrubbed, fed, and in the car every Sunday morning without fail… who had Bible studies and discussions around the dinner table, and challenged our friends to join in… who, where it came to the Faith, never quit, never gave up, never stopped praising God. Our relationship was often stormy but there is no denying her influence: all four of us kids, now grown, have a rock-solid faith. There is no greater legacy than that.
Fred Delaney – Friend and fellow Bible-study attender, loving father to two sons, Fred was the epitome of the “anti-prosperity” gospel. How often he remarked that true witness to God’s greatness was not “look at the car He got me” or “look at the spouse He got me” but “look at how He saw me through this difficult time and I feel closer to Him than ever”. Fred’s quiet, dependable service to Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry during its early years, in the field of audio/visual technology, won him no fame or fortune whatsoever… but when he passed at too early an age the people who gathered to remember him packed Trinity’s chapel to standing-room-only.
Helen Jean Elliott – Former Administrative Assistant at St. Stephens Church under John Guest and Mike Henning – Helen Jean was a woman of great kindness and compassion for whom friendship was forever. I owe her my livelihood: she taught me how to use a computer back in 1985 (a dual-floppy Kaypro running WordStar 1.0), showing great patience as I struggled through the typical newbie angst. Less than four years later I launched a computer training consultancy that has been my bread and butter since 1989. Bright, cheerful, a woman of great faith and strength, who coined the term “God-incidence” (as in, “there is no such thing as coincidence”) she remained as active and outgoing as her illness allowed her to be, right up to the end. One of the world’s great ladies. Our loss is heaven’s gain.
George Gray – Loving father and grandfather, Meals on Wheels volunteer, loved throughout the Carnegie community. It was my great fortune to be the most recent director of the choir he sang in for over 50 years. His solos were unforgettable. To this day whenever anyone at Carnegie Presbyterian Church sings “How Great Thou Art” they remember George’s powerful baritone singing along. Now joined in the Great Cloud by his wife Charlotte, also a long-time choir member and much missed. 1/28/08
The Rev. William D. “Mike” Henning – Rector and Co-rector (“or is that ‘Corrector’?”) of St. Stephen’s Sewickley from 1990-1993; former professor at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. OK, I know the guy was human… but I swear I don’t remember Mike ever not smiling. Sparkling eyes, warm hugs, truly a beautiful person inside and out. When he found out he had terminal cancer he even planned his own memorial service. It was breathtaking.
Barbara Datig Jagielski – Member of Carnegie Presbyterian Church and of our home Bible study. Barb was fiery, passionate, fun-loving and loved Jesus like crazy. As easily at home cooking with the church ladies or riding a motorcycle, she was loving and loyal to family and friends. A good friend, and the first person to say to me “you’re my pastor”, she taught me both the joy and the awesome responsibility of this new life I’m taking on, and forgave much.
Charlotte Johnson-Morris – Trusted friend, confidante, and small group Bible study leader, Charlotte was one of those rare people who was able to accept anyone just as they were and really mean it. Former staffer at St. Stephen’s, her ministry of quiet caring and gentle encouragement made all the difference in many more lives than she knew. Char and I shared a love for all things English, and when then-Rector John Guest said “plan on it” she and I – despite being strapped for cash – planned and executed a 10-day tour of the U.K., the first time there for both of us. A friend of Bill Moore’s put us in touch with friends in Ampthill, Beds., and we were on our way. Char was one of those friends you could call at any time of the day or night… I still miss her tremendously.
Bill Moore – Teacher, recovery counselor, founder of Killick, member of St. Stephen’s. Grew up in Hell’s Kitchen NYC, lost a leg during the action in WWII. The son of alcoholic parents, Bill became an alcoholic himself, and shortly after marrying and starting a family he attempted suicide. He experienced a vision of Christ while in the hospital recovering from self-inflicted knife wounds to the chest, and dedicated his life from then on to Jesus and to teaching young people and helping them get clean and stay clean. He’s the one guy on the planet it wasn’t wise to try to B.S. “MacArthur — that b*st*rd”. I’ll remember, Bill, I promise. 😉
The Rev. Robert “Chip” Nix – Assistant Pastor at St. Stephen’s in the early-to-mid 1980s. Big bear of a man, warm-hearted, wonderful hugs, with a true pastor’s heart for people. The small group that met at Charlotte’s was organized and inspired by Chip’s vision: to evangelize through small group Bible study. Our group, which at the beginning held three believers and three nonbelievers, by the end held six believers. It worked.
Mr. Carmen P. Rummo – Professor of Piano at Duquesne University, who passed to glory Nov 5, 2001 at the age of 96. Mr. Rummo dedicated his entire life to developing the gifts and talents of others, and generations of musicians owe their skills and livelihoods to his teaching. In the classroom he was a holy terror, striking fear into the hearts of beginning and accomplished pianists alike… but once you passed his class he was a friend for life. A devout Roman Catholic, he never missed Mass and could quote large portions of the prayers by heart. Near the end of his life, when his wife asked if she should call for the priest, Mr. Rummo answered, “what for? I know God loves me.” Indeed. “Continuity is the word.”
Jim Sullivan – One of the members of Charlotte’s small group Bible study, his passing heralded the end of the group. He was one of the members who wasn’t so sure about God when he joined. Jim was raised Catholic and died in the full communion of the Catholic Church, and he’d never admit the faith meant anything more to him than the duty of going to Mass on Sunday. I never believed a word of it and told him so. One day he surprised me with a gift: a key chain with the word “Irresistible” engraved on it. I still carry it to this day. Funny, irascible, tender-hearted… and taken too soon.
Melinda (Hogan) Thomas – We met in our early 20s and have been through dating, marriages, divorce, and sickness together. Friends like that don’t grow on trees! I am forever grateful for our friendship. Melinda fought bravely against cancer for over a decade and her faith in the face of suffering and death inspired many. Taken too soon.
The Rev. Don Wilson – Assistant Pastor at St. Stephen’s (mid-1980s to mid-1990s) and at Christ Church Grove Farm till his passing. An Englishman with an amazingly keen mind and strong desire to share the Gospel of Christ to any who would listen. Gentle pastor, so very easy to talk to, and wonderful pray-er with a shepherd’s heart.
Members of the Carnegie Presbyterian Church Choir – whose faith, kindness and voices are very much missed: Victor Clay, Richard Esch, George Fiorentini, Charlotte Gray, Robert Ross