Yesterday I was back in Illinois to preach at the funeral of a lady named Elizabeth Carpenter, who died at the age of 98. Liz was the last of the founding members of St. Charles’ Episcopal Church. That I be the preacher for her funeral was one of the things she requested. It was a significant request, because Liz Carpenter had a difficult time accepting me as her new rector. You see, I came on the heels of the beloved Fr. Ludtke, founding rector of the St. Charles’ parish, who had served it for 33 years and then retired. There was one interim Sunday and then I arrived: my first parish. I was the new guy, full of seminary learnings, and I liked to make changes. Fr. Ludtke was the old guy, who had liked things to stay the same.
But Liz was a serious Christian. She believed in that Benedictine vow of stability which we talked about last week in the adult forum. This was her church and she was going nowhere. So she’d come to my office, sit herself down, produce a list from her purse, and we’d go through it item by item: why did I change this, why did I change that? And what happened was that Liz Carpenter learned to accept change, indeed to change herself. The present rector of St. Charles’ told me a story. A few weeks before she died, Liz was in church, sitting in her wheelchair at coffee hour. She was looking around at the coffee hour crowd and she said to Fr. Nesbit, “I don’t know all these people any more.” And then, after a pause, she added, “But I guess that’s a good thing.” A good thing for her church to grow and change.