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|2069: A service
of celebration and thanksgiving for the life of Erin Etheredge, All Souls, Jacksonville, Florida,
Jedijudy, accompanied by Daughter Unit, Amanda B. Reckondwythe,
Janine, Mr Janine, Ye Olde Motherboarde and Presleyterian.
Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
Anglican Church in North America, Gulf
It used to be a hardware store! The exterior is very utilitarian
in appearance. The interior was gutted, leaving a large sanctuary
that seems open, fresh and new. At the back and side there are
offices and classrooms fashioned out of model structures that
the hardware store left behind. Where one used to buy things
to repair one's home, now one can go to have one's soul and
The church: The community we saw today had one very special bond: they all love Erin and her family.
Jacksonville, in northern Florida near the border with Georgia,
is Florida's largest city. It is home to a major military facility
and deep water port. All Souls Church is located in the Orange
Park section of the city, to the southwest, a typical suburban
community with strip malls and housing of all types. There are
several other more traditional looking churches of varying denominations
in the area.
The Revd Harold Haugan, pastor (better known as Father Whitey
because of the color of his hair, which he told us was white
even when he was a boy), was the celebrant. The Revd Jeff Gatlin,
pastor of Freedom Baptist Church, St Augustine, Florida, preached.
The Revd George Hall, Mr Terry Vliek and Mr Bill Bunch served
as lectors. A lady in clerical collar whose name was not given
was in charge of the music.
The date & time:
Friday, January 7, 2011, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving for the Life of Erin
How full was the building?
We counted about 300 seats and would say that about seven-eighths
of them were occupied.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We got several smiles and nods, but most folks were either preparing
for the reception to follow or quietly talking to each other.
We were among the first to arrive, so there were not many people
in a position to greet.
Was your pew comfortable?
We sat on padded chairs. They were fairly comfortable, but perhaps the backs were a bit too upright.
How would you describe the pre-service
Very subdued. People were quietly talking and giving friends
and family hugs. Music was playing softly over the PA system.
What were the exact opening words of the
"I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord."
What books did the congregation use during the
A specially prepared leaflet. The Holy Bible, New International
Version, was available in the rack under the seats.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Several members of the St Augustine Police Department were present
in dress uniform out of respect for Jason, Erin's brother; they
provided a handsome distraction. Miss Amanda spotted a woman
who looked like Governor Janet Brewer of Arizona, although she
doubted that Her Honor was actually present. But the most annoying
distraction was that the microphone wasn't always on when the
priest was speaking.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The worship was very relaxed. There were a few people who seemed
to feel comfortable raising their hands during the service,
but most did not. It certainly wasn't stiffly formal at all;
it felt very intimate. It was basically a low Rite II eucharist
from the Book of Common Prayer. The altar was dressed
in a white frontal and the chalice veil was white; likewise,
the priest wore an alb and white stole. Pastor Gatlin, the preacher,
wore a dark blue shirt and black slacks. There were candles
on the altar but no bells or incense. The host and chalice were
not raised at the consecration, nor was there a "little
elevation" at the end of the eucharistic prayer. There
was no exchange of peace. Father Whitey made it a point to say
that all were welcome at communion, and took a few minutes to
explain how communion was ministered. Even so, several people
did not go forward to receive.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Pastor Gatlin said that he was used to taking the stage
as he preached rather than being confined to a pulpit ("box",
he called it). Even so, he spent a lot of time looking down
at his notes, although every now and then he seemed to depart
from his prepared remarks. Those moments were the most inspiring,
we all thought. The overall effect was not that he was preaching
to us, but rather was sharing a lesson.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Pastor Gatlin asked us to "remember, review and refocus", not
only as regards Erin, but in other aspects of our lives. God
knows our response to the death of a loved one. Jesus wept when
Lazarus died. The passing of a loved one gives us pause to think
about our own lives. Erin taught people about life, and that
bills and gadgets aren't the important things in life. Death
also reminds us that we will all be called one day to answer
to God for our lives. We need to refocus on Jesus as our personal
savior. We need hope for our souls, people we love and who love
Which part of the service was like being in
After communion, several people shared anecdotes from Erin's
life. For instance, it seems that Erin's little sister once
wandered into Erin's bedroom and found what she thought was
a headband. She put it on and proudly showed herself off to
her older sister. Only it wasn't a headband; it was a wire from
Erin's bra! We all agreed that every word that was said revealed
a personality that was exactly the Erin we Shipmates knew and
loved, even though most of us had never met her. Ye Olde Motherboarde
spoke about how blessed we are to be able to love people without
ever having met them. Miss Amanda said a few words about Erin's
contribution to the Ship.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The times we couldn't hear the priest because of the microphone
situation dragged my attention away from the purpose of the
service. Also, the songs were mostly "light contemporary
Christian" and seemed unfamiliar to most of the congregation
(no notes were given). Also, they were pitched too high for
comfortable singing. The Ship of Fools contingency tried bravely
to sing out, but our tears often got the best of us. The one
exception was the closing hymn, "How Great Thou Art",
which we managed in lusty multi-part harmony.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We all tried to work the room, meeting family members and expressing
our condolences. We met Erin's parents and, of course, her brother
Jason. Everyone was surprised to know of Erin's involvement
with the Ship: "We had no idea!" was something we
heard over and over again. Many people questioned us about the
Ship; we'll bet that some of them went home and fired up their
browsers. And what a wonderful surprise: we spotted another
Shipmate, Presleyterian, among the congregation. She came right
up to us and hugged us!
How would you describe the after-service
People had brought assorted platters of sandwiches, cheeses,
fruit salad, and pastries. Miss Amanda pronounced the coffee
eminently drinkable. Jedijudy thought the sweet iced tea could
have stood a tad more sugar. But to be honest, all the emotions
of the occasion dampened our appetites.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 The people were so very nice, and we liked the feel
of the service. But most of are traditionalists at heart, and
prefer a traditional church building with organ and acoustic
piano, even though we know that the building is not the church,
as they say.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Absolutely! What an affirmation not only of Erin's life and
her contributions to our lives, but of our love and service
for each other. What do non-believers and their families do
when they pass on? How do they have hope? We have hope and a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
It was an honor and a privilege for us to have attended Erin's
memorial. It will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
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