November 9, 2011 was a very special day in the life of St. Timothy's Anglican Church. During the offertory, a mortgage burning ceremony was held. This was made possible by the generosity of Mr. Bill Petrey, a member of the Church of the Holy Communion, Dallas, Texas, and in loving memory of his mother Mrs. Margaret White Petrey on the occasion of her birthday. From the paving of the parking lot to the handwork of the kneelers at the communion rail to the pavement lights in the sanctuary, Margaret Petrey's hand touched so many and diverse elements of St. Timothy's worship and fellowship. We will all fondly remember Margaret's infectious joy in her life in Christ, witnessed in her work and in her unwavering dedication to His Gospel.
Woman's devotion to church celebrated
Margaret White Petrey would have been overjoyed to see the faces, clasp the hands and hear the voices of those in attendance at her church Sunday morning.
She would have been proud that her gift meant so much to the church community she called home.
Margaret died Sept. 10, 2013. She was 73. I didn't know her, though I may have met her on the two occasions I attended St. Timothy's Anglican Church before she died.
I've been an absent Episcopalian for the past several years, usually attending a Baptist church with my wife, who's a devout believer in her faith.
On rare occasions, I've attended St. Timothy's — three more times in recent months.
I had no idea of the celebrations planned for last Sunday's service, so I was thrilled that my wife and I happened to be in attendance. It was a special day.
It's always uplifting to witness the confirmation of young church members, reconfirming their baptism in the Holy Spirit. That's why The Most Rev. Royal U. Grote Jr., presiding bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, was in attendance — a big day indeed!
But he was also there for another celebration.
It was Bishop Grote's homily — his sermon — that put a lump in my throat and tears in my widened eyes. The larger-than-life yet humble man in the bishop's hat who spoke sometimes in a clearly audible Santa-like whisper easily convinced those in St. Timothy's pews that sunny morning that God was indeed among us. And so were those parishioners, friends and family members who had come and gone before us.
They were all looking down.
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," Bishop Grote reminded us of Matthew 18:20.
Little did I know that a special guest was in the pew in front of us. Bill Petrey, Margaret's son and a member of the Church of the Holy Communion in Dallas, Texas, was in attendance. He'd driven all the way from Dallas to be there on this special day.
You see, Margaret White Petrey loved her church. She loved its pastors and her church family. She loved her God.
"From the paving of the parking lot to the hand-work of the kneelers at the communion rail to the pavement lights in the sanctuary, Margaret Petrey's hand touched so many and diverse elements of St. Timothy's worship and fellowship," the church bulletin read with a photo of Margaret's smiling, grandmotherly face printed in color on the back page. "We all fondly remember Margaret's infectious joy in her life in Christ, witness in her work and in her unwavering dedication to His Gospel."
No finer words could have been written about a woman who gave so much, yet gained so much more for her devotion.
When Bishop Grote had finished his uplifting sermon and the church filled with the Holy Spirit, a large metal bowl was placed on a stand at the front of the nave. Bill Petrey was asked to come forward.
A short mortgage burning service was recited by Bishop Grote and the parishioners. Candles were lit and a large piece of paper — the church's mortgage — was lit aflame. At first just the corners were ablaze and then nearly the entire piece of paper was engulfed before it was dropped into the bowl, the smell of burned paper pungent in the air.
And then they sang with much enthusiasm the Doxology, words Tomas Ken penned in 1674 to a score attributed to Louis Bourgeois in 1551:
"Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
I believe Margaret White Petry was there, looking down on her son and her church family and joyful in the thought that her good works would continue through the decades and on, especially now that a financial burden had been lifted from the congregation.
The young men and women who reconfirmed their faith that morning have an inspirational role model to follow — a woman who showed that through faith and hard work all things are possible in His name.
Reprinted with permission from Chris Wessel, editor of The Sun.