EASY ESSAYS
EASY ESSAYS
Syndic Literary Journal

In Memoriam ~ Rev. John V. Moore by LeRoy Chatfield

In Memoriam: Rev . John V. Moore  /  September 1919 – July 2019

 

Pastor of the Hungry, the Homeless,

the Poor, the Persecuted & the  Dying

By LeRoy Chatfield

With this Easy Essay, I undertake the impossible, I ask your indulgence. 

I am unable to  find words with enough breadth and meaning to communicate John Moore’s lifetime of religious service and compassion for others . . . and I mean all others,  that is his difference!  John did not pick or choose, pass judgment or ignore anyone hurting, rather he embraced, consoled and lifted them up. I say John Moore was called to serve others and he was faithful to the end, even into his late ninety-ninth year. Yes of course, he was tired, but never too tired to be present and helpful to others.

I knew John Moore as the director of Hope House, a hospice for those dying of AIDS; I knew him as a Loaves & Fishes board member; I knew him as a long-time volunteer in the Loaves & Dining Room; and I knew him as a trusted advisor and counselor. However, I did not know him first hand as a sandwich maker to feed the hungry in the Richard’s Boulevard area long before Loaves & Fishes existed. In fact, John and his wife, Barbara, were part of the sandwich making volunteers in the very early 1980s that gradually led to the founding of Loaves to better cope with the growing numbers of hungry and homeless people in Sacramento.

Finally, I knew John Moore as an accomplished writer and  advocate when I published his essay in Syndic Literary Journal ~  “The Struggle for Gay & Lesbian Rights in the Methodist Church“. 

I am a better person for having known Rev. John V. Moore – I mean it!  May he rest in peace ~ may we emulate his life’s work.

~ LeRoy Chatfield,  Loaves & Fishes Executive Director (Ret.)

Essay: Lesbian/Gay Rights by John V Moore

 

Official Obituary ~ Rev. John V. Moore /  September 1919 – July 2019

John V Moore died peacefully on July 27 in Friday Harbor, Washington, six weeks shy of his 100th birthday. The retired United Methodist minister had lived in Friday Harbor for four years, enjoying the company and care of residents and staff at Village at the Harbour. A faithful member of Lutheran Church in the San Juans, he had many friends in the congregation who appreciated his wit and wisdom.

A graduate of Stanford University (1941), he earned a divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School (1944). John then worked in more than a dozen different parishes in northern California and Nevada in his forty year-long career. He was senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco during the Haight-Ashbury era, and a founding member in 1965 of the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, a group that advocated for gay rights.

During the Vietnam War years, he served as a campus minister at the Cal Aggie Christian Association in Davis, California, where his major task was counseling young men about the draft. He and his wife Barbara retired in Davis in 1986 because of their love of the campus, the community, and their friends of many years. John worked for two years as an interim pastor at a number of churches in retirement, including Davis United Methodist Church.
He also held leadership roles in the United Methodist Church at the local, state, and national levels. In his retirement he directed an AIDS hospice in Sacramento and helped found Loaves and Fishes, a program that assists homeless individuals.

When his Grandfather Buxton saw him as a newborn almost one hundred years ago, he told John’s mother that “this one isn’t going to make it.” But John outlived all of his siblings, their spouses, his wife of sixty-two years, Barbara, two daughters: Carolyn and Annie and two grandchildren: Kimo and Hillary. Carolyn, Annie and Kimo died in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978; subsequently John and his wife counseled other parents whose relatives were involved in cult-like groups.

He is survived by daughter Rebecca and son-in-law Fielding; grandchildren: Timothy Edgar and December Pomerenke (and her spouse Cory), and great-grandchildren: Conner and Breann.

 

John’s Reflections on Dying

Two years ago John developed a statement on his feelings about death as part of a theater piece produced by the San Juan Community Theater. It was called “Up Close: Voices of Our Elders.” Composer and pianist Grisha Krivchenia teamed up with the theater in Friday Harbor to present these stories in Friday Harbor. Grisha wrote: “Our elders have powerful words to share from a lifetime of experience, and a song delivers their messages beautifully.”  Grisha composed background music to accompany these words which John read out loud to a packed house.

“I feel that a sense of grace is the ground for this life and what comes after death.

I believe grace precedes achievement and anything we’ve earned or feel we deserve.

 Grace is the unearned gift of the good that is given to us by our family and our communities and our ancestors.

 Learning to trust and when not to trust begins in early childhood. Infants are startled by loud noises and falling. When a parent responds by holding the infant and comforting the infant, this nurtures the feeling of safety. Feeling secure empowers a child and prepares the child for a time of rules and laws in the home, school, and community.

 I have been fortunate in receiving and sharing gifts of grace. Because I have always felt part of the church’s community, as well as other communities, I can approach the last stages of my life without anxiety.

 For most of my life, I have held to my church’s traditional view of resurrection and survival beyond death.  Now, at age 98, I acknowledge that I am a mortal and I accept my mortality. This did not come to me after deep reflection. It was a realization – and a gift – that came without conscious thought.

 Now, I feel no need for everlasting life because I am sustained and upheld by God and the love and acceptance I have always received from my family and a Christian community.

 During my life, I have helped to feed the hungry and support the weak and protest injustice. But there have been those who have done this for centuries before me and I know when I die, there will be those who will continue to care for their neighbors and those in need. I feel a kinship with them all, century after century.

 This continuity of community gives me strength and comfort. I don’t see myself simply as an individual nourishing the soil of my existence, but part of a continuum of humankind.

 Perhaps when there are no more humans, we will become a drop of water falling into the sea, with the self finally becoming a part of the sea and losing its identity.”

 

Memorial Service For Rev. John V. Moore

John V Moore: Eulogy

Delivered September 7, 2019 by Rev. Dr. Mary M. Maaga

Davis United Methodist Church

            Some natural features are so large they create their own weather – so it is with massive mountains, and lakes of a certain size, and on very rare occasions with human beings.  John V Moore was such a person.  Whether we are family, or friend, or colleague, or parishioner, or neighbor, or some combination, we felt the power of his “faithing” his living out of Jesus Christ, not as a noun, but as a verb constantly in motion, relentlessly calling us to courageous acts of justice and mercy and love.  And always action and advocacy.  As a young Christian in my 20s, who walked into the United Methodist Church John Moore was pastoring at 21st and J in Sacramento, I learned quickly that to believe means to act.  Praxis was the name of the game.  It was never enough to claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you had to live so that people figured that out without your needing to name it.  And John understood that action in the name of Christ has a cost.  Some people wouldn’t like you.  He taught me, and many of you gathered here, to leave behind the need to please people and win friends.  Doing the right thing – and being willing to sacrifice popularity or comfort to do so – is the highest calling.  Those of us gathered here have been caught up in John’s weather pattern.  This is a day to remember the power of his storm.

            With his beloved Barbara by his side, John served with humility and a quick intellect, being informed both by all that he read and all that he experienced.  Who among you was not asked the question, “What are you reading right now?”  To glance at his side table one would see stacked books on a wide variety of subjects:  politics, theology, science, ethics, biography – anything to expand the conversation.  THE conversation.  For John there was not the western division of sacred and profane, holy and mundane.  John saw the ALL in all, from the children he would entertain with his hand puppets during children’s message, to the former prisoners and mentally ill people Barbara and he welcomed to the Churches he served and around their Thanksgiving table, to the homeless men and women Barbara and he served and advocated for as founding members of Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, to the gay men and lesbian women he welcomed into Church starting at Glide Memorial in the 1960s and continuing to the very end of his life, to the last, the least, the lost, the excluded, the forsaken, people from every background, every ethnicity, every religion.  Rev. Dr. John V Moore was the embodiment of ALL MEANS ALL before that was a hashtag, for that matter before hashtags were hashtags.

He came to the California Nevada Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in 1949 to serve Del Paso Methodist Church.  He had been a Baptist up to that point, but never thought of himself in denominational terms, but first and foremost as a Christian.  For a man for whom good-byes were hard, he certainly itinerated a lot, serving Methodist and then United Methodist Churches in Hayward and Chico, Glide Memorial in San Francisco, Cal Aggie Association in Davis, Bay View District Superintendent, Reno First, and finally Sacramento First.  Even after retirement he was called upon to provide short term leadership in three Churches experiencing crisis, including this one.  Since John’s final illness and passing, I have had the privilege of hearing from many people about the impact he had on their lives.  How his thirst for justice and his transparency as a wounded healer changed them, made them more willing to be on the losing side of a righteous cause.  John’s faithing included the belief that when we live for justice, even when we lose, we win.

John Moore was a storm maker.  He was on the front lines of the fight for full inclusion of LGBTQIA persons in the life of the United Methodist Church ever since he served at Glide Memorial in the 1960s.  While serving there, John preached a series of sermons on sex that – no surprise — made the papers, including one entitled “The Church, Community, and Homosexuality.”  Glide Memorial Church was packed as Rev. Moore preached that “our society and our Church had been relating to lesbians and gays in ways contrary to the way of Jesus.”  For the rest of his life, he was one of the voices for full inclusion.  John himself described this as his “Kairos moment” when he knew that trusting in the Spirit also would mean standing against authorities.  This he did from then on, but always with the ethic of treating those who were opposed to his views with civility.  When he was nominated for Bishop at the General Conference in 1980, as an openly progressive, inclusive Episcopal candidate – what we would now call an “ally” – John insisted that all caucus conversations be had with open doors.  When he decided to withdraw his candidacy after 45 ballots, he stood in front of a room of weeping supporters, stating “We have completed our work.”  What did he mean?  I have known and loved Rev. Dr. John V Moore for more than 35 years and I think I know:  our work is always about HOW we faith.  The results are not in our hands, only the honorable, passionate, hopeful ways that we conduct ourselves while pursuing justice in the spirit of Jesus Christ.  In that sense, every day we have an opportunity to complete our work, even as John Moore did every day of his life.  At the 1984 General Conference he was called upon by colleagues to write a minority report in response to the majority inclusion of the phrase “celibacy in singleness, fidelity in marriage” in our United Methodist Book of Discipline, a callous and obvious effort to exclude gay men and lesbian women from pastoral leadership.  How like John to call his report “Faithfulness and Constancy in All Relationships.”   Faithfulness, constancy, patience, gratitude, kindness – most of all “chesed” that powerful Hebrew word that is translated as “steadfast love” – these were the elements of John Moore’s faithing.   He once wrote, “To trust in being loved casts out all fears.”  He wanted the Church to be a place where ALL people could trust in being loved.  To show how deep his desire for full inclusion ran, John’s daughter Becky told me that this past May he had a vision/hallucination in which he had died and there was a Kafka-esque trial that included a quiz.  What was the quiz on?  Support of gay and lesbian people!  At his core, John Moore believed that the depth and breadth of our inclusion was all that would ultimately matter to God.

I cannot eulogize John without speaking of the catastrophic storms that battered John and Barbara’s personal life.  They lost two babies before birth, a son who lived only a few hours, two grown daughters Caroline and Annie in the tragedy at Jonestown — a young grandson Jim-Jon died there too — and Hillary, Becky and Mac’s daughter, December and Tim’s sister, who died of a congenital heart complication at age 15.  Throughout these tragic losses, John and Barbara felt the presence of God through you:  you who uplifted and sustained them through your prayers, your cards, your calls, your emails, your visits, your caring.  You carried John, and he expressed gratitude for all of you in the last visit I had with him 10 days before he passed away.  He wanted me to be sure and let you know how grateful he was for your love and many kindnesses.  When I was there in Friday Harbor, I witnessed tender steadfast love on the part of Becky for her father, and on the part of Mac for his wife and his father-in-law.  On behalf of all of us here, and many hundreds of others who cannot be with us today, I want to thank the two of you for loving John and caring for him as you did. You have been the embodiment of “chesed.”

Perhaps because of Jonestown, John Moore preferred questions to answers.  I recall many times when I was a young person in my 20s and 30s, struggling with my call and the occasional personal problem, and wanting my mentor – who was my father figure – to tell me what to do.  Surely I am not alone in having been pointed toward this writing of Rilke:

“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Of course, I found that sphinx like response to my direct questions to be frustrating.  Only in time would I learn the wisdom of allowing people to live into their own truths, their own relationship with God, their own call to righteousness and justice and mercy.  What John Moore did was model these things for us, and invite us into the life long inquiry that would lead us to our own answers. 

To close, I want to share something that may surprise some of you.  John Moore did not love preaching.  He was an introvert, a little shy by nature, and he set the bar very high for himself on Sunday mornings, feeling both the privilege and the weight of proclamation.  He wrote, “I see scripture as a witness to the word that God is speaking to us this day.”  Any of us who had the privilege of hearing John preach knew that God spoke through him with the same passion for justice that moved the prophets of old.  But lest he become too serious there was always Barbara, John’s beloved wife of 61 years who would encourage light heartedness and humor in these sermons as well.  I will send you off today as Barbara sent John off every Sunday: “Be witty, wise, and wonderful.”  John Moore you have completed your work.

 

John V. Moore Memorial Program

 

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