Monday, October 25, 2010

We grieve the loss of a giant in our parish and The Episcopal Church

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness."
2 Timothy 4:6, the epistle for Sunday

Yesterday morning, just before we got started with the 10 am service, I received very sad news: my dear friend and mentor, Charles Perry, had died suddenly the night before. On a trip to North Carolina, he had sat down on his bed and collapsed. He had just finished watching the Giants get into the World Series, and yes, he was a Giants fan.

Charles and his wife Joy had been members of St. Paul's Memorial Church for many years. The announcement of his death was met with gasps at our 10 am service Sunday.

The Very Rev. Charles A. Perry was a giant in the Episcopal Church. He had been the Provost of the Washington National Cathedral and then, after his retirement from that position, became the Dean and President of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., the seminary from where I graduated.

Charles had been immersed in every major church issue of the last 40 years. He completed the construction of the Washington National Cathedral and put the cathedral on a firm financial footing. At CDSP he had presided over a difficult era of transition into a more inclusive and wider vision for theological education. Some very good priests came through CDSP in his time.

On a personal note, Charles was instrumental in bringing us to Charlottesville. He was on the rector search committee for St. Paul's, and three years ago sent the parish profile to a mutual friend and asked for a recommendation. My friend recommended me to Charles. One thing led to another, and Charles traveled to Berkeley with members of the search committee to talk with me about St. Paul's. To have Charles Perry come talk with me, to put it mildly, got my attention.

After being called as rector, and once we arrived, he and his wife, Joy, extended to us unstinting hospitality, introducing us to their many friends, and providing much support and friendship. Charles was a wise counselor and mentor, and he let me bend his ear about the challenges of the last two years. We had lunch together regularly, though not regularly enough. Last fall, he and Joy hosted us at their rustic house on "The River" near the Chesapeake Bay. They were supposed to be coming to our house for dinner yesterday evening.

Last January, it was our pleasure to host one of his CDSP graduates for three days at St. Paul's -- the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop the Episcopal Church. Among the events was a private luncheon Lori and I hosted for Katharine and our clergy staff. As it turned out, the luncheon came during a blizzard, but somehow Charles and Joy made it. We made sure they were seated with Katharine. The photo above shows Charles, left, with the Rev. Rod Sinclair, right, the next morning before the procession at the 10 am Sunday worship.

There is more that I want say, but for now let suffice that I am deeply grieved and I miss Charles greatly.

As of this writing, plans for his service are not finalized. It is my understanding Charles wished for his memorial service to be at St. Paul's, with interment at the National Cathedral. I will keep you posted here in this space as details emerge.

Please keep Joy and her family in your prayers.

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Update: The memorial service for Charles will be on Sunday Oct. 31 at 3 pm at St. Paul's Memorial Church, Charlottesville. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to any of the following: Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge; The Washington National Cathedral; St. Paul's Memorial Church.

Photo by Bonny Bronson.

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