Celebration of the life of Jim Kelsey
The heart of ministry: the death and life of Jim Kelsey
By Herb Gunn June 09, 2007 (Episcopal News Service) Ecclesiastical orders melted at the church door in Marquette, Michigan, on Friday, June 8, as 600 people touched by the life and stunned by the death of Jim Kelsey, an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, gathered for his funeral. Concurrent services were celebrated at his former parish of Holy Trinity in Swanton, Vermont, and at the cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Also celebrated on the same day was a funeral mass at St. Joseph Church in Lake Linden, Michigan, for Michael Charles Wiita, the second man killed in the June 3 auto accident. The father of Wiita's fiancée, Jessica Slavik who was injured in the crash, came to Marquette to sign Kelsey's guest book and extend the family's respects.
At Kelsey's funeral, there was no liturgical procession for the nearly three-dozen bishops who traveled from across the Episcopal Church and sat with family or friends in St. Michael Roman Catholic Church. Save the presider, Bruce Caldwell, bishop of the Diocese of Wyoming and Kelsey's close friend, and the deacon, Teena Maki of Northern Michigan, no one wore vestments and there was no special seating. Some priests wore neckties with others in street clothes.
Gene Robinson and Fredrica Harris Thompsett spoke:
Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire also spoke of Kelsey's work at the margins of the Church and his passion for justice.
"How did Jim come to have such a passion for justice?" Robinson asked. "Jesus listened with his heart, and in doing so, he touched the untouchables, he drew in the outcast, he raised up the downcasts, and he loved those not unloved by society but those unloved by themselves.
"Jesus and Jim listened with their hearts and then believed the truth that was spoken and then reached out," Robinson said.
Fredrica Harris Thompsett, faculty member at Episcopal Divinity School, rose to speak to "a powerful legacy, the abundance of grace in our midst at this tender [time of] heartbreak and celebration."
Speaking directly to Kelsey, Thompsett said, "You incarnated among us an unpretentious grace."
She credited Kelsey, who has a twin brother Steve, for learning to share space even before birth, and said, "We were reminded by your presence, Jim, that flexibility, making room for another, inviting other ways and sharing space are connected to ministerial vitality.
"I know of nobody who is better, Jim, than you at playing in the fully inclusive waters of baptism," said Thompsett. "Your legacy paradoxically reminds us that one person can make a huge difference, especially when that person insists on working along side and valuing others."
In days and years ahead, she said, many others will extend and pass on Jim Kelsey's legacy, "a shared mission of vitality among the baptized. What an abundant legacy of grace. What a truly amazing grace has been revealed for each of us to carry forward in days ahead."