Great is the mystery of faith

Jean Clarkson (1942-2017)

Today (11th May 2017) in a service at St. Bees Priory, Cumbria, we said farewell (for now) to our good friend Jean Clarkson- Churchwarden at St. Mary`s Windermere.

Following family Tributes I offered the following homily:

I realise that standing here I`m playing a little imaginative game with myself. Sunday by Sunday I would see Jean out of the corner of my eye (somewhere on my left) and today I am imagining her in the same direction… and somewhat embarrassed by all the nice things being said about her ….

Since it wouldn`t do to let us see too much evidence of that sensitive side of her nature, I imagine that this is the occasion on which she would likely as not want to `heckle` me!

It would probably go along the lines of, “Well, if you must, Vicar, make it short”… And I would likely as not reply (bearing in mind her often selective hearing) “Ah, you probably can`t hear me anyway….!”. And we would laugh…

So, let me say that keeping it short I simply want to say thank you to Jean. A personal one if I may… because Jean was extremely kind to me.

But I want (on all our behalf) to thank you Helen and Marcus- for sharing Jean with us; and especially for letting us share this time with you today. We can only imagine what her death will mean to you but we are grateful for being here because we`d like to give you some sense that you don`t bear these things alone.

I`d also like to say thank you to the people of St. Bees Priory. Those of us from St. Mary`s in Windermere are grateful for your kind welcome today.

But we want to thank you also for sharing Jean with us for these past nine or ten years. If I can put it rather bluntly, it has always been clear to me that we only ever had her `on loan`…. Because as she told me so often; this is where her heart lay.

But it`s because of this and because of what she described of her life here that I knew from the beginning what a wonderful Church Warden she would be.

It`s because of what she experienced here that she proved such a blessing to us. Because Jean understood that Church is people…. and that relationships matter, and no there`s nothing quite like a good Christmas Party especially when (as Jean did) you`ve convinced the hotel manager not to raise his prices from last year!

St. Mary`s is grateful for Jean`s humour and flirtatiousness… For the way she told the more po-faced us to `cheer up` and for all she taught us about the value of just being friends…. Because, it really isn`t `rocket science`. And yes, I`d like it known that we forgive her inability to get up on time for the ten o`clock service on a Wednesday morning!

And I suppose also, I again want to thank Jean for one little but very profound observation which I know meant a great deal to her.

You might remember, that there`s a moment in the service of Holy Communion where the president says, “Great is the mystery of faith” and we all respond, “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again”.

Well, Jean transformed that little moment for me… and I think I`ll always associate her with it. She would say in such an animated way, “It really is a mystery isn`t it….?”

Like many of us, I suspect that when it comes to faith, Jean vacillated between on the one hand a deep sense that here was something she really couldn`t fathom (and she loved a good religious argument!) whilst on the other hand she was simply bowled over by the notion that she was in touch with something simply awesome…..

“Great is the mystery of faith… Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again”. These are three things we might for all manner of reasons also struggle to get our minds around… especially today…

But let there be no mistake; in life and in death we are in the presence of something… someONE simply awesome. The living Christ.

This is Christian living and dying. Paul tells us “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face”. (1 Corinthians 13.12) There is so much we don`t as yet understand… But that`s OK.

The point is that we are known, we are understood. And “Great is the mystery of faith… Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again”.

May Jean rest in peace and rise in glory.


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