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Monday, June 04, 2007

Good night, Ian and Jim

The newspaper headline in the carefully folded NY Times jumped out at me from where it had been placed on my desk for me by my former Senior Warden: "Rev. John Macquarrie, 87, Scottish Theologian, Dies".

I still can't get my head wrapped around it. John (or "Ian" as his family and friends called him) Macquarrie was one of those larger-than-life people you simply expect will live forever. Of course, you know he won't, but the double shock comes at his death and the reporting of his age.

It seems that he slipped gently into that good night, as soft as his Scottish burr.

The obituary in the Times reports that "One of his goals was to develop an accessible theology relevant to a world that after the Holocaust and World War II seemed to doubt divine guidance. . . . He went on to write evenhanded surveys of modern theology, address practical concerns like prayer, find similarities among great Eastern and Western thinkers and detail his own beliefs in his masterpiece, PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY (1966)."

That last book was the first I read of Macquarrie's work. It was given to me by John Beaven, then dean of the Cathedral of St. Luke in Portland, ME, the congregation that supported me for ordination. "Here," said Dean Beaven, "you'll need to have some of this under your belt before you go to seminary."

It still sits on my shelf, its pages yellow and dogeared from continual use all these years.

As the Episcopal Church also grieves the untimely death of Jim Kelsey, bishop of Northern Michigan, who died Sunday afternoon in an automobile crash on his way home from a parochial visitation, I am strangely comforted by the image of the good bishop and the brilliant theologian, having a chat together, and perhaps a wee bit of a laugh, with the Holy Trinity and the heavenly hosts of angels and archangels.

Good night, sweet princes of the church. We are less for your passing, but greater for the gifts you left behind.

May their souls and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Mark said...

I just finished Principles . . . this past Lent. A book given to me by my parish priest.

just another piskie said...

Oh, my goodness! John MacQuarrie's wife (I don't think I ever knew her first name -- she was always "Mrs. MacQuarrie) was my sixth grade homeroom teacher, and their daughter Catherine was in my high school class. The youngest child, son Ian, was a year or two behind us. This was while Dr. MacQuarrie was at Union Theological Seminary. The whole family is bright or even scarily bright and very very nice. Good people. My prayers go for all of them at this time.

Jim said...

Eternal rest grant them oh Lord, who put their trust in you and lived their lives in your service.