Rosemary Hopwood (1939-2015)
Address given by the Vicar at Rosemary`s Memorial service at Jesus Church, Troutbeck on 21st January 2016
I first met Rosemary just over fifteen years ago when I was invited to consider becoming Vicar of this Parish…. We met with a few others in what used to be St. Mary`s Parish Hall and typically Rosemary brought cake! She managed to turn what could have been a very formal `interview` into an occasion that was both warm and genial and this was typical of her. When Rosemary assisted with weddings here at Jesus Church she would bring a packet of sweets to share (just in case!) and if you were in what she thought was an `uncertain` mood she would say, “Big Hug!” Where do we go with these and the countless other stories and impressions we all have of this lovely lady?
Well, we gather and we share them… and we give voice to our sorrow that she has died… so quickly …..and so very sadly for David and the family. And we`re especially very grateful to them today for allowing us this opportunity to join our prayers and gratitude to theirs; we`re grateful that they have kindly shared her with us one more time, because that`s how it has been all these years…isn`t it? As well as being such a good wife to David these past fifty six years and a loving mother and grandmother Rosemary has been at the heart of our common life… In fact among the last things she said to me was how sorry she was, that in view of her declining health she wouldn`t be able to carry on with the many things she did and the groups she enjoyed so much….. such as the W.I. and Holehird and Windermere Manor and the Village Institute. And of course Rosemary was also a simply excellent Churchwarden for twenty-five years. She tried never to miss anybody out- she made sure we all got the Magazine- and she arranged flowers so that you could see the flowers rather than the arrangement… that`s a very rare gift.
The other day someone kindly described her to me as `a one-woman social service`! But that was it wasn`t it? Rosemary calling on the sad, the poorly and the anxious…. With gifts of flowers, a shepherd`s pie, cakes…. and many a greetings card. Rosemary offering kind words of encouragement and concern, with a memory for birthdays and anniversaries, an irrepressible positivity ….. a desire to see the good … and we recall so many happy village events where she was on hand and playing her part. But I will remember in particular how Rosemary has shared with other kind souls the task of opening up this Church in a morning so that visitors can pop in throughout the day. She was often on hand to physically welcome people as they came in -and one could tell many a tale of people who were deeply impressed by her hospitality.
But in the area around the Font she placed a Visitors Book and a Church Scrapbook and there are many little signs she`s written welcoming folk into this space. Indeed she liked it when I referred to Jesus Church as a `holy place`. So each morning she would unlock the door, put a light on, turn the next page in the Book of Remembrance, water the flowers… and make sure the Bible was open on the Lectern. And some years ago I saw her doing these things one morning and we got into a conversation about her favourite Bible Passage.… it was the one which Alf read a few moments ago…. those few lines from Paul`s letter to the Church in Rome. Maybe it was with this occasion in mind, I don`t know but I made a point of writing it down.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12.9-27
Looking at it more closely what intrigues me is that she full text, the exact verses….. In other words it was quite clear that it`s the WHOLE passage that mattered… and not just the first half of it….which, with a bit of editing could easily be reduced to a recipe for `doing good things`. No, the WHOLE passage includes those bits where our `goodness` discovers its limits… The bits where we hold a grudge… where loving and forgiving becomes hard… It`s these that always have a way of showing up our easy humanism don`t they? No, Rosemary picked out and lays before us not so much a pattern for `doing good` or being a `nice person` but the `narrow way`, the extraordinary way, the challenging way of being a Christian….. a way that`s so far beyond `nice` that it reflects the life of Christ … a way of life which would be impossible if it were all down to us.
You see, this passage comes at the end of a long section in this letter where Paul is talking about offering our lives in worship to God…. In other words these things, these actions and character traits he`s speaking about are what you expect to happen in the life of someone who has done just that….. given their life over to him. So the fruits of the Spirit of God at work in someone`s life… looks like this…..and yes, these are some of the things we have seen in Rosemary aren’t they? … Not just `niceness` but godliness…. and for this we give thanks.
When Rosemary came in here and made the place open and welcome she was as I say, practically speaking `creating a space`; a hospitable space, a space in which people might encounter the holy…. And what I`m driving at is that this is what she was ALWAYS doing… but without the bricks and mortar. This is the upshot of all those simple acts of yes, `kindness`. She created a space in which our God was made known. Revealed something of the way the world is meant to be…. Opened windows onto what Christ calls the Kingdom of God. Helped us see something of His goodness and mercy breaking in to our space …… and we noticed the difference…. And that I suspect is why we`re really here.
I don`t think for a moment Rosemary thought she had mastered all of what Paul says in that passage…. But I do think she`d caught the vision… She almost instinctively understood what the world looks like when it`s God-shaped…. As I`ve tried to say this doesn`t come naturally to us… This extraordinary way of life is God`s gift… It was a gift given to her as each morning she had her few quiet moments with the Lord; and each Sunday here at worship as Rosemary entered, if you will “The Lord`s space” and she has allowed that to rub off on her. The upshot is that some of her attitudes and the things she did brought US into that holy space too ……and yes, we noticed the difference…. We`re both grateful …… and invited to do the same… We`re called to be the same… to be those who draw others into the Lord`s hospitable space.
May Rosemary rest in peace and Rise in Glory.
Thanks be to God.