Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Cup of Water

Every Sunday, when our pastor begins to preach, he takes a sip of water from a glass that has thoughtfully been placed on the pulpit. Last Sunday, he noticed the glass of water was missing, so he came down into the congregation, during a hymn, and asked one of the members of the congregation to get some water for him.

Thus it was that we learned that the church sexton, who was on vacation that week, had for years been unobtrusively performing a loving service.

Many years ago, the church custodian--who preferred to be called the sexton--was a somewhat elderly man named Harry. We really didn't know what he did, except look disapproving at almost everyone who entered the church. He seemed to project a sense of ownership of the entire church building, and looked as though he alone decided who entered the church and who did not.

Since Harry was so senior, he needed helped with some of the more physical tasks--and that's how Jim came to be hired. He first began on a part time basis. Thus began a long term love affair between an unassuming man and the marvelous church structure that is our church home.

Jim used to tease and joke with my husband--he would say: be careful what you wish for because you might get it. The part time job, you see, had become a full time job when Harry finally retired. Jim became the church sexton.

The decades rolled by. Jim saw pastors come and go. If there were any mystery in the church--what's behind that door? where do we store the supplies to fill the bathroom towel dispenser? how do your turn on the air conditioning in the sanctuary?--Jim knew the answer. He probably had crawled over every square inch of the structure of the church. The church structure was built in the mid-1800s and has undergone significant renovations and additions several times. So there are lots of nooks and crannies--Jim knew them all.

While we didn't panic when Jim went on vacation, there were always little things that got overlooked. His presence was so subtle that people didn't really know all he did--like placing a glass of water on the pulpit for the pastor.

Last Friday, while he was on vacation with his family in Virginia Beach, Jim--now in his mid 70s--suffered a heart attack and died.

What a huge hole this leaves in the church's life. Of all the things he did, the one church activity that gave him the greatest joy was participating in the Easter Sunday service. He would wear a white robe, and lovingly carry the cross in as part of the processional.

It is easy to imagine him now--robed in white--laying down that cross.

Farewell, Jim.

18 comments:

Peruby said...

So sad. His poor family. What loving memories this man has left with the world.

Jayne said...

Oh, how sad for your church family. Prayers ascend for them and for Jim's family.

Ruth said...

What a beautifully written remembrance, especially your last sentence. His job may have appeared humble, but in truth was very important and his reward is great.

Anvilcloud said...

If just a cup of water I place within your hand
Then just a cup of water is all that I demand,
But if by death to living they can Thy glory see,
I'll take my cross and follow close to thee. (Ira Stanphill)

warriormom said...

Thank you for sharing ~ a beautiful tribute and a great example of humble service.

egretsnest said...

What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing some of the joy this man brought to all of you.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

You wrote a beautiful, loving tribute to such a fine man.

Beverly said...

I left a comment here last night. I'm sorry for your church's loss but happy for his promotion to glory. I hope that your next sexton will have learned much from this dear man.

Beth said...

I enjoyed reading this very much. I hope that you sent a copy to his family.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

text for Jim's memory:
His lord said unto him,Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will maketheerulerover many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

Your church will be hard pressed to replace your friend and servant to the church.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

A really nice piece about a fine man, who came with a servant's heart and cared faithfully for your church—both building and body—with thought and love. You have been blessed. Wonderful closing line…

possumlady said...

A wonderful tribute. Another one of our many unsung heroes.

Godspeed Jim.

JeanMac said...

Oh, Donna, what a touching story.

amarkonmywall said...

Lovely. And that photo of Jim speaks a thousand words. Would it be gauche to say that it sounds as though he lived a good life and died a good death- on vacation, with family, not much suffering? Some folks are really blessed.

Mug said...

Such a beautifully written tribute...

NCmountainwoman said...

Wonderful tribute. Far too often we fail to appreciate the things men (and women) like Jim do for all of us.

Denise said...

What a lovely tribute to a very special man. I am sure he will be missed.

Anvilcloud said...

You asked me about book titles, and I don't know where to answer you since you don't post an email address and I'm not in the habit or commenting on comments. Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels, and Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene by Bart Ehrman. Maybe I've simply read enough of this type. I've certainly previously read and liked Ehrman. Or maybe it's just summer.