Wednesday, September 17, 2008

".....husband, father, missioner, youth worker, musician, blogger, priest, disciple...."

A congregation gathered in St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh this afternoon for the funeral of The Rev'd Tom Allen who had recently taken up a post with the Mission to Seafarers in Scotland and was living with his family in the town of Linlithgow, outside of Edinburgh.

Tom had only been in post for a few months and so he was a newcomer among us. He had already made himself known to many of us as Big Bulky Anglican and as Bishop David states in the sermon (which appears below) Tom's interests were many and the accumulation of experience and insight over his years as a musician, a youth worker and a priest were really quite remarkable.

The majority of Tom's contacts will have been outwith the Scottish Episcopal Church. A number of colleagues and friends with broad northern accents were in attendance including one young priest (there with his wife and little baby) whose vocation had been nurtured during Tom's time as a youth worker.

There were two hymns sung at the funeral: "Come down O love divine" and "My song is love unknown". Steve Butler was present as well and sung "Hill of the Angels"

Sermon at the Funeral of Rev Tom Allen
St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh,
17th September, 2008

Rt Revd David Chillingworth,
Bishop of St Andrews
Chair of the Scottish Council of Mission to Seafarers

"Death is not an unforseen accident, not something left out of the scheme of our Creator. Rather it is something natural in the sight of God. … As we give thanks today, we are also given a blessed opportunity. We are each given a loving invitation to trust in God, and let him turn our fears into faith, our sorrows into joy, our loneliness, into divine companionship." Tom’s words not my words.

Anne has asked of us two things today: that we should remember Tom with thanksgiving and that we should worship God as Tom would have wished. So we put death in its place – something natural in the sight of God. We give thanks for Tom. Through our tears, we glimpse death not just put into its place but destroyed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

But we are only human. We begin by offering our deep sympathy and our love to Anne, to Katherine and to Matthew – to Tom’s father John – and to Tom’s wider family and friends. We who shared with him in ministry are bereft. Our loss is but the outer edges of yours. You are held at this moment within the prayers of a wide community – all sorts of people whom you have never met but who knew of Tom and what his coming here promised.

My first meeting with Tom was a virtual one – when I met Big Bulky Anglican in the community of bloggers. What impressed me about Big Bulky Anglican was the breadth of the agenda – his music, his reading, his reflections on his ministry.

When I began to get to know Tom, I realized that he was big in every sense. There were many parts to his life and he lived very intensely in each of them.

In the family, he was Do Do – beloved husband and adored father. This was the family life of the priest in which all were committed and sacrifices were shared.
As a youth worker, Tom adored children and young people and he held their affection and admiration in return. And always, he wanted to offer them more.

And that’s how he was in life and love and ministry. Restless energy and incisive mind. Music, theology, communication people. Parish and community. Taking people where they didn’t expect to go – and isn’t that just what Jesus did? Giving people the courage to step out of the conventional, the ‘what everybody does’ – so that they might grasp the fullness of life which is God’s will for each of us.

And those who, as Anne says, ‘Got it’ – were inspired and led and opened up to the Spirit of God in new ways. Tom was new wine – and he sometimes made the old wineskins look a bit frayed and tatty. To mix the metaphors, the word ‘dinosaur’ did cross his lips occasionally. But it was kindly meant. And Tom was unusual because he had a majestic God-centered vision – but he read and understood the small print as well. So he was deeply theological and intensely practical at the same time. He was usually – and sometimes infuriatingly – right.

It was the love of the sea which drew him to Mission to Seafarers. It was about seafarers but, above all, it was about mission. He was going to lead us too in directions where we didn’t expect to go. ‘Do you mind the traveling?’ I asked him. ‘No it gives me time to think’ was the reply. He was already reshaping our whole approach to chaplaincy and that would have had an impact not just on maritime ministry but on chaplaincy in many other areas of life.

But the righteous, though they die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honoured for length of time, or measured by number of years; but understanding is grey hair for anyone, and a blameless life is ripe old age.

Death came to Tom in the midst of life. He lived intensely, richly, completely the journey of his own love of God and of his family.

"When we have done everything, and said everything, we realise it isn't enough. At death we come to the end of human knowledge. We are left to the mercy of God. Comforting it is, therefore, to have a God to trust in, and one who has perfect love, absolute knowledge, boundless forgiveness and infinite patience. God is love, and that is a glorious fact to lean upon now. "

Not my words – Tom’s words.

Tom – husband, father, missioner, youth worker, musician, blogger, priest, disciple. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The sincerest form of flattery

They're complete sponges, aren't they. They soak it all in even if we think they're not listening. Quite obviously a baby who's been listening to the pastor ranting on a Sunday morning. I suppose that Episcopal babies would be lifting their cups up in the air and inviting Teddy, Dolly and Ducky to come up and have a little bits of their teething biscuit no matter what their denominational affiliation might be.

Children do pay attention.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A day trip to the Isle of Inchcolm

Caireen, Stewart and I hopped on a small ferry this morning and took the trip down the Firth of Forth to the Isle of Inchcolm. The buildings of Inchcolm Abbey are in relatively good shape (with the exception, of course, of the ruined Abbey church). It was great visit. I missed the two grey seals lying on the edge of the buoy which we passed en route.