It could have been written yesterday...Lib Reynolds on love never dying at St. Mark's

Posted on by Howard Pugh reading Lib's words

“Others may write of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church as a part of the history of Richmond. I can only write of it as a part of my own history. Love never dies at ourchurch

This past Wednesday we lost a long-time member of the St. Mark’s family. Lib Reynolds was ninety-nine and lived at Westminster-Canterbury. I met Lib here, as a fellow parishioner. She had retired from forty years of teaching British literature. At that point I had myself taught British lit for over twenty years. I envied her prodigious memory, her encyclopedic command of the Shakespeare canon. I prided myself on a certain knowledge of Keats, which she considered a modest accomplishment. Lib and I fell into the happy pattern of greeting each other with lines of poetry. Each of us would challenge the other to identify the poem and poet. She usually won.

Several decades ago Lib was asked to speak during Stewardship Month: “Why did you come to St. Mark’s and why did you stay?” I would like to share her answers.

“Others may write of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church as a part of the history of Richmond. I can only write of it as a part of my own history. I am not a long-time member, only twenty years! I’m not even a cradle Episcopalian. I was confirmed at Christ Church near my little farm on the river. And I made St. Mark’s my “town” church, eventually transferring my membership as I approached retirement and gave up my river life.

I was drawn to St. Mark’s from the beginning because I had been one of Pope Gregory’s friends since the 1960s. He was then the [curate of St. Mark’s as well as the] unofficial street priest for the flower children of Grace Street—and for my rebellious students at VCU. You couldn’t know Pope without knowing, and loving, St. Marks.

When I joined St. Mark’s twenty years ago, I thought it was a very ordinary church: not rich, not stylish. But as I lived in it, I began to taste the unusual flavor of the place. For one thing, it was integrated, with a comfortable participating congregation that had settled down together long before any other churches in Richmond, or even the national church itself, had really accepted integration. For another, it had included, seamlessly and without comment, many gay and lesbian communicants. It was a diverse, loving, and nurturing congregation.

When, on my own journey, I came back to the church at last, I thank God that I came to St. Mark’s. For this church has brought me close to Jesus. It has helped me live my way to God in the simplest and most humble ways. For me, St. Mark’s is:

Roberta Aiken, sweating over a pot of stew for the homeless

Petronius, sternly reminding us to watch the budget: “It’s sinful to spend money you don’t have.”

Kevin, dying of AIDS, and grateful that St. Mark’s allowed him to play the organ

Maria, on a high stool, happily scraping plates at every Neighborhood Meal.

Tim O’Malley, rescuing the St. Mark stained glass window and lovingly directing its restoration.

And Catherine Sargent, whose blindness gives sight to the soul.

St. Mark’s has brought me back to God. Love never dies at ourchurch.”

Godspeed Lib!

Lib Reynolds died last week  -  a few months short of her 100th birthday