Sunday, 2 August 2015

Old friends, gratitude, and a great reunion in Celebration, FL

I will, for as long as God gives me breath, be grateful for the friendship I have with Dr. Grace Jones.

I met Grace, (and her former husband Chauncey), with their children Elizabeth ("Libby") and Derrick when I became the Rector at St. Stephen's in Pittsfield, MA.

At that time Grace was the Assistant to the President of Berkshire Community College. When he resigned (under pressure) Grace resigned too.

She then worked in the School Department in Pittsfield - it was not a happy match, so she quit.

She came to see me and said that since she planned to take time-out to re-assess her career choices she would also have time to serve her church - St. Stephen's.

Thus she became the Junior Warden of the parish. She and I found a common purpose in our service at St. Stephen's.

Grace went on to bigger and better things! She was appointed as a vice-President for multi-cultural affairs at the State University of New York at Oneonta. I visited her there.

Next she moved to Utah, there to become the President of a Community College: the first woman, and the first African-American to attain to such a position in the congenitally conservative State of Utah.

Grace was then appointed to be the President of the Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT. This was the crowning achievement of her stellar career. She presided over the merger of two campuses, and she created a "magnet" High School: - a feeder into the Community College system.

Grace and I were able to sustain and deepen our friendship when she was in Norwich, CT and I was in Cambridge, MA.

In the meantime I have been able to stay on touch with her son, Derrick. I stayed overnight at his pad in Los Angeles when I was en-route to Australia.

And I was blessed to be the officiant when Libby got wed to the love of her life, Sam Gillen, at St. Stephen's in Pittsfield, MA, and later to baptise Libby and Sam's daughter "Gigi" (Grace Gillen) in Amherst MA, and their son Theo in Chatham, MA.

Theo is now aged nine. He has no idea who I am, nor does his older sister GiGi who was only three years old when I baptised her little brother.

This nine years old Theo is a member of a Little League baseball team (based in Austin TX), which had qualified for a tournament in Orlando, FL.

"YaYa" Grace conspired to have me travel from SRQ to ORL to surprise Libby and Sam, and to enjoy some "Little League" baseball.

In the event Theo's team (the "Banditos") did not do well.

Ne'er mind! I was able to spend some gracious time with Grace and her gentleman friend Mack at a Hotel in Celebration, FL a (in my opinion) "Stepfordian" community (see,_Florida) and to:-

reconnect with Grace and Mack; and with Sam and Libby; and to remind GiGi and Theo that I had baptised them.

GiGi (now 12) was distinctly un-impressed. After all, why should a 12 year old girl be impressed with a 71 year old Pastor.

Theo (now 9) kept his distance until I began to tell him that I had never liked him, and that he was a horrid little boy. He caught on to my silliness and responded (after some coaching) by asserting that he never liked me!



What a blessing to be with Grace, with her pal Mack, and with Libby, Sam, GiGi and Theo.

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