Thursday, October 1, 2009

In Memoriam: Rev. Forrest Church (1948 - 2009)

I learned of the passing away last week of the Rev. Forrest Church, senior minister to the All Souls congregation in New York City. He had faced the challenges of apparently inoperable esophageal cancer since 2006, when he was told he only had months to live. It appeared that he had undergone a successful operation for the cancer, however, the cancer returned two years later and spread to his liver and lungs. Finally, last week, cancer’s demon won and claimed him in his prime. He was 61.

One might wonder how a life-long Idaho resident could feel a sense of personal loss when a New York minister and author dies. However, when I read a very nice tribute piece on the Idaho Statesman website, the deeper into the story I read, the more freely the tears flowed. Even as I write this Blog Post, I feel myself trying to choke up.

There are some reasons for this visceral reaction. For one thing, in the 1970's I met Forrest on at least a couple of occasions while a campaign volunteer for his father, US Sen. Frank Church. He impressed me as very warm, caring and easy to converse with. Had I been living in the New York City area, I really feel I would have become a member of his congregation, in part because he was so down to earth, and in part the Unitarian Universalist Church is one whose values and beliefs I generally agree with.

But there is a more personal reason for feeling this loss. Like me, Forrest and his brother, Chase, are natives of Idaho’s capitol city, Boise. In the 1950's their pediatrician was my paternal grandfather.

The Idaho Statesman article cited a frequent comment of his that I feel really helps me, so it will live on within my life. “Do what you can, want what you have, and be who you are.” Simple. Eloquent. Empowering. Indeed, the embodiment of this perspective truly is universal.

My heart and compassion very definitely extend outward to his own family, his brother, Chase and his mother, Bethene. I also wish to extend my sincere condolences to the All Souls congregation as they seek to deal with their sense of loss.

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