Friday, April 29, 2011

He Cared -- A Celebration of the Life of William Donald Shaefer

On Wednesday I attended a service celebrating the life of Governor William Donald Shaefer at Old Saint Paul's in Baltimore. I was deeply moved by this great funeral for a great, good man. He wanted to be remembered by "He cared." He cared deeply for the citizens of Baltimore, of Maryland and, by being active Episcopalian, all the people of the world.

The music was deeply affecting. The Maryland Boy Choir led off with the great "Miserei Mei." From then, through such things as "The Star Spangled Banner", "Amazing Grace" (we all sang along with that one) through the final "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by the Morgan State Singers I was moved to the deepest emotions.

Before the service began I found myself discussing our respective denominations with a Roman Catholic named Rosemary. She mentioned how alike our services were. I agreed -- and then went on to describe some of our differences. I informed her that the Protestant Episcopal Church was organized as a representative, constitutional democracy. I then described our Presiding Biship Katherine Jefferts-Schori. Rosemary commented that she's really smart and that I am not bothered by women priests. I agreed, quite friendlily, noting that I knew some wonderful women priests.

The inclusion of "Amazing Grave" touched me. I heard the song first when Judy Collins sung it. It seemed much more my generation that my parents. Mom and Dad liked my music -- and let me know that. After the funeral I read the credits for "Amazing Grace." It is 19th century. Great music lasts -- and moves good people of many generations.

A number of political leaders were present -- both Democratic and Republican. People from all walks of life respect Governor Shaefer and his accomplishments for both Baltimore and Maryland. I first experienced Baltimore at the 1983 World Science Fiction Convention. I was very impressed -- especially by the Inner Harbor, right next to the convention center. Later on I moved to Maryland in 1990 to work at Goddard Space Flight Center. Before I moved a friend told me to register Democratic. I, being a moderately liberal Republican at the time, expressed surprise. I knew I would almost certainly vote for some Democrats, just as I had in New Jersey and my Eisenhower Republican parents did before me. Then I got to Maryland. Governor Shaefer was running for reelection that year. I investigated both parties and their candidates. Just comparing Governor Shaefer with his Republican opponents led me to register Democratic. The difference was that dramatic -- and that much in favor of the Democratic Party.

Four spoke at the funeral at some length. They were political figures Mrs. Lainy Lebow-Sachs, Senator Barbara Mikulski and former Congressman Kweisi Mfume. Both Mikulski and Mfume noted that they had conflicts with Governor Shaefer at some point in their careers. Both spoke of what they had learned, their great respect for Governor Shaefer and how they had become fast friends and allies of Governor Shaefer. The homily was delivered by a Methodist Reverend Luther Starnes, who worked with Governor Shaefer in Maryland government. He spoke highly of his character and his work for the people of Maryland.

One thing surprised me, though. I had not known that Governor Shaefer was an Episcopalian until I read his obituary the previous week. I knew that Governor O'Malley, Senator Mikulski and several others are Roman Catholic. I knew that Senator Cardin was Jewish. But I did not know about Governor Shaefer and I sharing the same religious faith. Do we Episcopalians keep our religious views too hidden? I think we have much to be proud of. All of us, whether we consider ourselves liberal or conservative in our views, are remarkably open to others -- at least as far as I know. We try to help our fellow humans -- whatever their backgrounds. These are just a few thoughts, brought on not only by this week's service but by other things as well. More later -- when I can discuss such things with friends at St. Mark's and elsewhere.