ARCHBISHOP WILFRED PORTIER
Funeral Eulogy Preached April 7, 2011 at
St Marks Anglican Church Brooklyn New York
In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
There is no death yet there is a body, life eternal now begins as our beloved mentor and brother has already passed thru the gates of heaven. Today’s gathering is not merely one of paying tribute, but respect for the life work of a man who gave his life to God serving him faithfully, even when he was unable to do so. But let’s begin at the beginning.
It was because of our beloved Archbishop that I personally stand here before you as a Bishop of the Anglican Church Worldwide. Back in May of 1996 I was called to the office of Bishop, recommend by then Patriarch Archbishop George Ford and Archbishop Waterman, I ran from the responsibility given, avoiding phone calls and letters written.
In November of that year he found me and called asking to see me in Illinois. He came and when I was looking for a long decision making of discussion and arguments, he sternly, but lovingly, told me “Hartley this foolishness MUST STOP”, and invited me to New York to see Archbishop Ford. I obeyed.
Had it not been for Archbishop Portier this angry soul at the time suffering from personal lost, would have continued to wander the borders of the American Midwest; but it was he who brought order to the process of my life and ministry as he told upon the day of my consecration in February of 1997, ‘your journey NOW begins’.
Upon his first visit to Illinois, November 1996, with him standing with me, we opened Good Shepherd Anglican Church. He installed me as Rector of that Parish; he preached its first sermon, charging the first 17 members of this beginning parish, most of who had never heard of the Anglican Church, to be diligent and show ourselves unto God and work to witness the charge which we have begun. In his homily he carefully reminded us not to be over zealous in promoting the Anglican faith, but to be a witness of God’s word.
His vision lives on though the charge he gave in Illinois. We say with confidence today, his vision began the journey. His legacy remains with for the body that begun with 3 parishes in Illinois, Arkansas & Tennessee, has now evolved world over.
His legacy not nationally known, but it was his advice, prayer and constant consultation when trials arose with glaring difficulties in the ever confusing continuum of the Anglican faith. It was he who charged me to settle down, ever pressing forward to the duty given you. In 2000 when through some grave organizational challenges I wanted to walk away, he again reminded me of the task that I was charged.
In 2002 he sent me a box laden with artifacts of his spiritual life. Within there was a letter about this duty, that I stand before you today. Back then I told him that I do not discuss funerals with people who are alive; but yet he pressed on with his words. In his words he said make sure that the hymn ‘Blest Be the Tie That Binds’ is sung at my funeral, which we shall do today. This hymn depicts the 18th century writer, the Reverend John Fawcett, fleeing his parish because of membership frustration, only to pack up his mules and cart and return to do his duty to his congregation. It was one of where obedience to the call of God and the love of a parish was most important in his life.
Three years ago when before he became unaware to those of us he knew, I called, he came on the phone, he said I was glad you called, I was just thinking of getting in the car and bringing you some money. I knew then he was fading into another life; but his constancy of commitment showed ever giving support to the work as he did often with his financial gifts.
Back in the mid 90’s he experienced some difficulties with his then chosen spiritual organization, they tried their best to reduce him to back bencher. At the opening service of their synod, he was not allowed in their procession, yet joyfully sat in the back vested, never complaining. I personally was angry at this, but he displayed the courage of a servant, letting no earthy rank take away his joy or his spirit. Never bitter, never angry. He showed the true nature of a man of God whose wisdom, vision and outlook of ministry was humble giving essence to those who passed his way.
Within the last year of his life when I would call Paulette, his daughter, she would tell me there were good days and bad, but the loving daughter that she is she never complained. In fact when she spoke of him, you would just think he was just unavailable or busy, she never spoke in past tense. Paulette may the loving hand of God grant you his mercies and peace for the love and care you showed to your Dad. Your love with him has been one of constant care and you shall forever be blest as you begin a new journey in your life without him, ever mindful that through the grace of God you will visit again with him. As the requested hymn of “Blest be the tie that binds” give reason for joy today, hear the writer give us hope in Christian love and fellowship, he concluded his word with, “When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain, But we shall still be join in heart, and hope to meet again”, you shall with your father, Dad.
Indeed the legacy of the Archbishop will be along for years to come as new generations take the mantle of leadership within the church. At Good Shepherd his picture adorns the lobby our sanctuary as a constant reminder of how he got us on our way. As I thought of this message today I wonder what would he ask me to say to you. Perhaps in his quiet way he would have not wanted me to share his vision brought, he would simply say send me to my rest as a servant who served.
Thus, as we bid Farwell to one I loved, I have written this poem of his legacy, love and devotion to God, with a smash of Shakespearean folklore, for with all he knew as we all gathered here, that death will tarry with us all, as the necessary end.
For all that he has seen, and he has seen much
He stood bravely listening to the echoing voices of life
Noting to its core that
Cowards die a thousand times before their death
Those with courage die only once
We must face death, because
It is the necessary end that will come when it will come
He fought hard to merge life and ministry as one
But as the twilight of his days arrived
He faced it with serene and dignity
Extending whatever courtesies he could
Rendering advice to those who passed his way,
Constantly stirring the souls of men
His true quality of that which was charged was done
Always knowing that death
The necessary end that will come when it will come
If I could untangle his words to you this day
Fragile flesh and blood, as we are
He would charge us not to be Apprehensive
But constant and strong, Forsaking earthly rank
And press forward, where God’s grace abide
And bear whatever there may be
Preparing that when life reaches its final end,
We all shall know
That death the necessary end that will come when it will come
Farewell O Noble Son
In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit be ascribe now and forever AMEN