“Thomas Southworth”

Tom Southworth never went to funerals.

I don’t know why—maybe he didn’t want to be reminded of death. Maybe he preferred to grieve in his own way.

So I hesitated to talk with him about his own funeral. And, I admit, I didn’t want to think about it myself. Anyway, Tom’s funeral is here. God Bless Him.

Tom was very precious to us at Incarnation, especially those of us who saw him six days a week—at his post in the parish office or inside the front doors of the church.

If souls arriving at the doors of Heaven get credit for “time served” on earth, Tom will have had no trouble getting right in!

He was a member of Incarnation for more than 30 years. But I actually met him in 1970, when he was ushering at another New York Church. So I was very surprised to see him here when I arrived at Incarnation in 1985. At that time, he was already retired; he filled in as our receptionist when the full-time secretary we had at the time was on vacation.

Tom would never say why he left the other church. I later happened to learn the reason. The usher corps at that church had decided to upgrade, and Tom with his plain clothes and crippled arm (from polio) was removed from the roster.

Most people would have given up on any church after that brutal treatment! Happily, Tom was a stronger spirit. He moved to Incarnation—which was a huge gain for us.

Many of you will have stories to tell about Tom; maybe you’ll want to share some of them at the reception after the service.

One of my favorite stories centers on his devotion to the New York Times, which he used to read like the Bible faithfully every day. One afternoon, I came into the office and remarked, “Tom, it’s snowing!”

Tom replied, “No it isn’t. I read in the Times that there would be no snow today!” “Tom,” I said, “look out the window!”

Tom was a kind of journalist himself; he loved to collect news of the parish. If someone called on the phone for me when I was out, for example, he would be sure to tell them that I was at the dentist! At one point, when I was on vacation, he reported that I was getting married in Paris!

Like all of us, Tom had his likes and his dislikes. Unlike some of us, he was admirably constrained in expressing the dislikes.

In the end, he was a Christian of the best kind. He bloomed where he was planted. He put up with whatever came his way. He served long hours and despite his many disabilities and his advanced age, he made a huge contribution to our ministry.

We are still finding it hard to replace him; we don’t expect to find anyone to fill his shoes. We all miss him terribly.

Now we commend Tom to a just and loving God who welcomes him into the arms of his mercy, and who recognizes a sheep of his own flock, a truly humble soul raised up by the Spirit to do great things for God’s Kingdom.

Amen.


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