I write on the day of the burial of Revd Graham Roy Smith. It is for others to write a full obituary but my admiration for him and my sadness at his death compel me to dedicate this last Umbrella Chaplain’s Corner to him.
It is hard to fathom the depth of the perseverance and humility and dedication of an expatriate Anglican minister who in his late 60s would raise the funds and then launch a new congregation in the middle of an insalubrious, paramilitary-controlled community. Add that he had serious health problems and impeded speech and it is plain heroic. Of course he would have denied any such eulogy. I spoke to my predecessor Revd Canon John Saunders, to inform him of Roy’s death, and he said:
“Roy was a wonderful servant of God. Humble, dedicated and deeply committed.
Two vignettes from my visits to the Ponto Missionário de São Pedro. One was on Mother’s Day, when other churches tend to have a dip in attendance (“family lunch, I’m sure you understand”). This little church was packed. Tempted by Noreen’s violets? It was full of children. Far more children than any parish or mission or indeed Cathedral in the Diocese. Roy knew, as Noreen does, the truth of Jesus’s words:
“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:14 in the Authorised Version; I know it is our readers’ favourite!).
The second was when I foolishly attempted to drive to the church in my kombi. I learnt the truth of Jesus’s words:
“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14)
It was the deepest scratch the kombi has yet suffered, as I tried to negotiate my way down those narrow roads. But the journey that Roy made at least once every week in his final fifteen years was one he made knowing that there was nothing greater to live for, or to offer, than the hope of life with God. He made that difficult journey to meet with his congregation, to celebrate their life together in God. And he made that occasionally dangerous journey with his eyes always fixed on his Lord, fulfilling his calling to share, with whomever he could, in whatever way he could, the hope he had found in Him.