Gracious God, grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, Amen
Today as we gather we mourn the loss of a great and wonderful person. We are present as family, friends and members of this Church. We are here in person as well as on-line. We are gathered to say farewell, and offer our grateful thanks to God for being part of the life of this woman Shirley.
Shirley Cook was one of the founder members of this Church and for the last 52 years has been part of the life and soul of the place.
What Shirley lacked in height was more than made up for in personality, faith and sheer determination.
Life was not always smooth for Shirley, but she never allowed that to stand in her way or prevent her faith from coming to the fore. She lived her life in dedication to God, her family and friends, and the Church.
Shirley has made an impression on all of us over the years. Until very recently when COVID limited all of us, she was ever present at Epiphany. At the Eucharist on Sundays and midweek, carrying out her Altar Guild duties, driving kids to Sunday school events, partnering with Journey to Adulthood young people, attending social events and Coffee Hour, was just part of what Shirley did.
As a long-time member of the Bible Study group, it was Shirley who suggested a group come and meet in her residence when she moved to Fleetwood Villa a few years back. We met in the media room, residents and non-residents alike, with Shirley handing out the sheet to residents in advance. Even with COVID we have met weekly via Zoom, and each and every Sunday Shirley came to the Epiphany service by phone.
This parish is made up of some remarkable women. Always pleased to see you, always grateful for the support she received, and always putting her life in the hands of the Lord.
The gospel passage we just heard was the raising of Lazarus.
When we think of Shirley it isn’t much of stretch to think of her as both Martha and Mary in this episode. This is because she was both a Martha in that she was a great activist for the church, but also a Mary because she knew when it was time to be still and in God’s presence. As a veteran of the Bible Study group she was still trying to work out her faith and as such was an inspiration to us all. When Jesus spoke to Martha he asked her if she believed in the resurrection. Jesus assured her, as he assures us all, that those who believe in him, though they die, will live and that those who live and believe in Jesus will never die. This was the faith that Shirley lived, she knew Jesus was her redeemer and Saviour, she believed in him with all her heart, soul and strength, and she points us in the way of Christ, following her gracious example. We have every reason to be so grateful to her for that.
A few days before Shirley died I had the privilege of visiting her in hospital with Betty Higginbottom. She was delighted to see us and though she was not well, she was asking about our families and sorry to have missed the service that morning. She was very clear that her life ‘was in the Lord’s hands’. As she was anointed, receiving the sacrament for the last time, there was a sense of sadness, but also a sense of peace and acceptance. Shirley knew her life was coming to a close and she was ready to go. I was so grateful for that visit, where Shirley ministered to us, as we went to minister to her. We do not learn our faith from others but people point the way and she certainly made very clear where the path led, to God, to Jesus Christ, her Saviour and ours.
We’ll miss her, but we will always and forever be inspired by her faith, her devotion and dedication to everyone she knew. And for however long we knew Shirley we will be so glad that we were a part of her life. We will always be grateful to her for the influence and direction she gave to our lives.
Shirley was and always will be one of the greats. In her family, amongst her friends and as part of this community of the Church of Epiphany. We loved her and with certainly miss her.
Shirley, may you rest in peace, and rise in the glory of Christ, Amen.