The following are the prepared remarks of the managing director of Alban, Nathan Kirkpatrick, at Loren Mead’s funeral at St Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, on May 21, 2018.
In 1994, after Loren had announced his retirement from the Alban Institute,
The presiding bishop and the president of the house of deputies
of the Episcopal Church wrote Loren.
They thanked him for his contributions to the church and wrote
That he would “go down in history as one of the great thinkers
And innovators of the Episcopal Church.”
A few weeks later, he wrote back
in characteristic fashion,
“Your letter was superfluous and you know it.
I have done what I have done because ‘I could do no other.’”
But, oh, what he did.
At heart, what Loren did, vocationally,
was to tell the world the truth about the church
and to tell the church the truth about itself,
Even when that truth was not fashionable or expedient.
He took seriously the One from Nazareth’s promise
That the truth has a power to liberate us
even as it challenges and changes us.
In 2014, when it was time
for the Alban Institute to change
Loren had the courage to say that, too.
And when the Alban name and legacy
came to us at Duke as an unexpected gift,
he came to see these new caretakers.
He talked to us about familiar themes.
Of congregations and their challenges,
Of congregations and their hopes.
And he told us about Tangier Island.
Did he tell you about Tangier Island?
It’s out in the Chesapeake, not far from here.
In Loren’s telling,
Every time the tide comes in,
Tangier Island loses another 20 square feet of land mass.
The government is spending a small fortune to figure out how to save it.
Loren told me that and paused, and as he paused,
I thought his point would be that
we in the church are spending a small fortune
to keep some things afloat that we shouldn’t.
Instead, he looked at me and said,
“The margins, Nathan,
That’s what we’re loosing.
We’re loosing the churches on the margins,
[That serve the people on the margins,]
And we aren’t doing enough.”
When Alban came to Duke,
The email list we inherited had over 45,000 names on it.
45,000 people who care about the congregations they serve,
Who struggle with the questions and challenges of congregational life,
But who, with Loren, believe that communities of faith — after families —
Do the most to shape our society, our culture, our lives.
Many of them are at the margins;
many of them are watching the tide come closer.
45,000 people, including one pastor from rural Georgia I met two weeks ago,
Who told me that every week
he opens the Alban Weekly email when it arrives in his inbox.
Why? Because it has the name Alban on it.
Because — his words —
“If it says ‘Alban,’ I know I can trust it.”
That’s Loren. That’s what he did.
Because he could do no other.
Loren and I were separated by more than one generation,
the Alban Institute was four years old when I was born.
But at Alban at Duke Divinity School,
Loren’s passion is still our mission.
We are doing our best to hear his call
And lead with the courage he had.
To tell the truth about the church.
It’s what we do because we can do no other.