During today’s workshop on living our faith in the public life, participants were invited to name the saints who have gone before us – those who have witnessed in public life in a variety of names. After we had the page filled with names, facilitator Ryan reminded us that behind all those we named were many people whose lives they had touched – people who had also faithfully witnessed in the public life.
In the conversation that followed, Sam and Claire observed that the people we named were well known. They also observed that there are many, many, many other Saints of the Public Life: people who each day work in the public life for peace and justice faithfully, carefully, passionately, and constantly. They do so known only to a few – those who work with them, those who love them.
Tonight, I was reminded of one such saint – I remember and give thanks for Steve Brown.
We knew it was coming.
We had been warned – a number of times.
Yet still, the news, the final news, coming tonight, carried surprising force.
We met over thirty years ago.
Tricia, Sue, and I were students.
Steve a trailing spouse.
We played tennis. We laughed.
Steve was a patient, gentle, creative man.
He also had a deep commitment to peace and justice, a commitment he lived in many, many ways on issues ranging from nuclear disarmament to ending war to just immigration to access to health care – on the list could go. .
Steve, and Sue, put themselves into the struggle for full inclusion of GLBTQ people in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
For a number of years, Steve has faced illness.
Sometimes he seemed to gain – there were periods of remission.
But the struggle continued.
From time to time, the reports came – the illness was getting worse.
When his presbytery voted on the most recent initiative to include our GLBTQ sisters and brothers fully in the church, Steve made the effort to be there – his commitment to justice transcending his illness.
He voted, again, for inclusion. His presbytery did the same.
Tricia and I leave for Colorado tomorrow.
Our plans included a visit to see Steve and Sue.
A few days ago, we heard that the end was drawing near. We began to reconsider those plans – to perhaps go to Greeley sooner than we had intended.
Late last night (OK – early this morning – I don’t sleep much) – we heard more news: the end might come before our arrival.
We called Sue a couple hours ago – so we would know how to finalize our plans – and we heard the news – Steve died this morning.
I give thanks for Steve’s life and witness; I give thanks that his pain has ended; but the world seems a little bit less bright and my heart aches for Sue – we will figure out how to see her as she walks this shadowed valley.
See you along the Trail.