Richard Rodney Kirk, priest, 1933-2001
The Reverend Richard Rodney Kirk died on Thursday, July 12, at his home in Saint Croix, Virgin Islands, where he had lived in retirement since 1997. He was sixty-seven years old.
Father Kirk was born and reared in North Carolina, was graduated from the University of the South and from the General Theological Seminary. He returned to North Carolina and served there until 1967, when he came to New York City to be chaplain at Saint Luke’s Hospital. From there he moved to the staff of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. He became the first director of Manhattan Plaza and was during all his years in New York a great friend, supporter and promoter of our parish church.
Father suffered from a progressive and debilitating lung disease which shaped his choice to live almost all of the year in retirement in Saint Croix. He did come to New York a few times a year, and shortly after my arrival as rector he was in town and he invited me to lunch. He wanted to meet another rector of Saint Mary’s – he had known Father Tabor, Father Garfield and Father Wells during their tenures and had met Father Williams too. He knew Saint Mary’s, he knew the Diocese of New York, he knew our neighborhood, he knew this city and he wanted to be a help to Saint Mary’s and its new rector. And he was.
Saint Mary’s has many great friends. Father Kirk was an especially helpful friend to me as the new rector of this parish. He listened to my concerns. He shared his incredible knowledge of the wider Saint Mary’s community. He was so very, very sympathetic about the demands that are made on a new rector in a parish. He had absolutely no agenda except to be as helpful as he could. His approach bespoke a deep faith and trust in God and his own commitment to the wonderful work which is Saint Mary the Virgin.
Father Kirk was not well. Although I can recall his shortness of breath and an occasional cough, it is almost impossible for me to bring him to mind without seeing a smile on his face and hearing a smile in his voice. He laughed easily and well. His eyes sparkled. He was a giver. His enormous courage in face of his physical suffering brings tears to my eyes when I think of it and I know to others like me who knew in just a small way this remarkable person.
I spoke with Father’s companion, Richard Hunnings, on the evening of the day Father died. They had been together forty-two years. Rodney was not doing well; but there is something unexpected about death. We were born to live. Rodney Kirk did live. He died, and now lives in the Father’s house.
His requiem will be at Saint Mary’s on Wednesday, July 25. In May of this year Father knew his death was approaching and he began to put on paper the details for the service he discussed with me some time ago. He planned his funeral and I was so very glad he was able to do this for his partner and family and for the rest of his friends. He took care of the details, which I suspect has been a characteristic of his entire life. It seemed so right to me for this priest to do this even when he had almost no control over the course of his illness.
I hope very much that many in the parish community will be able to be here. Father Wells will be preacher for the liturgy, I will be the celebrant, and Bishop Walter Dennis will preside at the Commendation. Father has chosen beautiful music. Kyler Brown will be the musician for the liturgy and his Virgin Consort will sing.
There is a particular strength that comes to Christians when we bury one another. It is always hard. But Christian grief is always transformed into something greater. We are put in the presence of resurrected life. Richard Rodney Kirk, priest, believed and lived in eternal life. Pray for him, for Richard, for Rodney’s son, Kirk, and for all who mourn.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Marisol, Beatrice, Jack, Henry, Harold, Olga, Carl, Eleanor, John, Peter, Joseph, Elwyn, Shirlah, Michael, Kenneth, Ursula, Jessica, Russell, Evelyn, Susan, Esme, Tessie, Richard, Evelyn, Barbara, priest, Charles, priest, and Arthur, priest, and for the repose of the soul of Rodney, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 22: 1960 Mary Waters.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Genesis 18:1-14, Psalm 15, Colossians 1:21-29, Luke 10:38-42 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, July 21 by Father Shin and on Saturday, July 28 by Father Smith . . . The music before the Solemn Mass on Sunday will be Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 654, by J.S. Bach (1685-1750). The postlude will be Präludium und Fuge in C-dur, BWV 547 (“9/8”) by J.S. Bach. The soloist is Mr. Joseph Chappel, a regular member of the Saint Mary’s Choir.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to all who helped with the New Member Dinner last Monday in the Rectory, especially Jon Bryant, Penelope Byham, John Delves, Jim Dennis and Barbara Klett! Bishop Epting was able to join us too. It was also Father Weiler’s first day on the job, a wonderfully full day for him. The next New Member Dinner is scheduled for the third Monday evening in October . . . The Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene will be observed on Monday, July 23, this year, transferred from Sunday, July 22 . . . The Feast of Saint James the Apostle is observed on its eve at 6:00 PM and on the day, Wednesday, July 25 . . . A new member for Saint Mary’s Guild: Penelope Byham is now helping with small altar linens. Penny, thank you! . . . Father Breidenthal is on vacation beginning Sunday, July 22, through the week of August 12 . . . Holy Baptism and Confirmation will be celebrated on All Saints’ Day, Thursday, November 1. Bishop Sisk will be presiding. Please mark your calendars now! . . . Work is underway on the fifth floor apartment in the Parish House for Father Matthew and Janna Weiler. We hope they will be able to move from New Haven in early August. In the meantime, Father is commuting . . . Doris Weller’s grandnephew Wesley Michael Sprinthall was baptized in Minnesota, last Sunday, July 15 . . . Flowers are need for several Sundays during the summer, August 5, August 19, September 23 and September 30, and for Holy Cross Day, Friday, September 14. Flowers can be given in memory of the departed. They can also be given in thanksgiving for God’s blessings, in honor of another person or on the occasion of an anniversary. If you would like to give flowers, please call the parish office at 212 869-5830 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . . . Attendance last Sunday 156.
NEW STAFF AND HOURS . . . There are now two full-time and two part-time sextons at Saint Mary’s. The biggest change is that the church building no longer closes from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM Monday through Friday, but is open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday through Friday. Saturday hours, 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and Sunday hours, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, remain unchanged. Lazaro Terron continues as one of our full-time sextons. Joining our staff as our second full-time sexton is Wilfredo Zapata. Agustin Terron, who has worked one day a week, is now working three days a week. And Alex Jean Francois, who has recently begun helping in the kitchen on Sunday mornings, is working a full day on Sundays.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Saint Mary Magdalene (transferred)
Tuesday Thomas a Kempis, priest
Eve of Saint James 6:00 PM
Wednesday Saint James the Apostle
Thursday Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Friday William Huntington, priest Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Allen Shin, The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curates, The Reverend Thomas Breidenthal, assistant,
The Reverend Arthur Wolsoncroft, The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison, The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.