Seeking Deep Peace midst cold, snow, ice

Several boats yanked free by an ice logjam on the Hudson River closed several  bridges.

gaelic blessingSUNDAY: Almost every church in the area was closed, with heavy snow overnight. It was changing over to sleet and freezing rain around 7 a.m., just as I began shoveling for the first time.

Our church, however, was open. At the 8:30 service, the two pastors, their elder daughter, the tenor soloist, the organist and the couple who ushered were present. My wife and I took the bus to church because getting the car out of the parking space was impractical in the time frame.

At the 9:30 choir rehearsal, there were but nine of us and the director, plus the organist. The choir director was impressed that we had that many, and we carried on, with a total of 26 at that service.

My wife and I with our friend Sue went to lunch at Mamoun Restaurant that 1) was open, 2) has very good Mediterranean food, and 3) is only a couple blocks from my church. We thought Sue had been attending the church longer than we had,, but it turned out it was that we all started attending the same year, 2000.

We returned to church for the 3 p.m. funeral of Charlie Kite. Eleven in the choir now. to sing A Gaelic Blessing by John Rutter, subtitled Deep Peace..

The Kite friends and family were out in force, and it was a great event with the church 3/4 full on a lousy day, weatherwise. In-laws, kids, grandkids and old friends all paying tribute. Among other things, we heard how Charlie loved boating.

After the reception, my wife and I went home, and after a change in footwear, started digging out her car around 6:30 p.m. We were tired, but we knew snow emergency called for Monday night, plus the forecast of plummeting temperatures meant that we did it then, it would be too difficult the next day.

MONDAY: An Arctic blast. as it was a federal holiday, I didn’t have to go anywhere, and except removing the snow that the city plows applied in blocking in the car, I never left the house. My daughter’s play rehearsal was wisely canceled.

TUESDAY: Library Foundation meeting, then work. Moderating temperatures.

THURSDAY: Because it was exam week, and my daughter was home alone most of the week, I took the day off, and in the afternoon, went to the movies. It was raining all day, but the temperature began sinking. I took the bus to church.

As I was getting off the bus at Washington and Lark in Albany, some guy sitting in a seat to my right hit me in the arm. It didn’t especially hurt, but I stopped and said to him, “What did you that for?”

The burly white male maybe half my age said: “Just keep going.” I repeated my query. “I’m crazy. You know. I could kill you if I wanted to.”

“No doubt that’s true. But why are you being such an @$$4013?” (I had decided that showing fear to this dude was not in my self-interest.)

I tried to retreat to the rear entrance, but he blocked that.  I went out the front entrance, as he continued to yammer something. I gave a WTH look at the driver and got off. The guy did not follow, fortunately.

Taking the bus home after rehearsal, the problem was black ice, especially stepping from the roadway to the sidewalk. I’m shocked that I did not fall.

FRIDAY: More black ice on the way to the 11 a.m. funeral of Bob Lamar. The choir must have numbered over 30, including a few folks from other FOCUS churches. we sang How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place from the Brahms requiem, in English. I’ve it so often, I pretty much know it by heart.

A full house for the service, despite some roadway chaos in the area. Several boats yanked free by an ice logjam on the Hudson River closed several bridges.

Among the tributes was one by the former bishop of the Albany diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, Family, friends and former colleagues spoke, and golf was a repeated theme.

At the reception, I saw my old racquetball competitor, Ward Greer, formerly the head of the Albany United Methodist Society. I was talking to Ken Screven, a retired local news legend when one of the choir members said he has a voice like a Stradivarius, which is true.

I was really touched to note that my blog post about Bob Lamar was included alongside family photos. One of my wife’s colleagues expressed surprise that she would take off from work for the funeral of someone not a family member. Bob was a huge part of our church family for a lot of years.

Reverend Bob Lamar (1922-2019)

Bob Lamar had become the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Albany in 1958, and served in that capacity until 1992.

Bob LamarLong before I started attending First Presbyterian Church in Albany in 2000, I knew Bob Lamar. My previous church, Trinity United Methodist, only two blocks away, was part of something called the FOCUS churches. FOCUS was where faith communities of different backgrounds (initially Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist) worked together to create a food pantry and other needed functions. Bob Lamar was instrumental in bring that about.

Periodically, there would be joint FOCUS services, so I got to sing at First Presbyterian, my current church, and see the then-current pastor, Reverend Lamar. I wouldn’t know for another decade and a half why he was so interested in the folks in the other choirs. It was that he himself had a beautiful singing voice – I saw him perform with his old quartet when he was in his eighties, and he sounded quite good – and had other musical talents as well.

His oldest son Paul is quoted in a news article that his father “knew from when he was a teenager he wanted to go into the ministry.” Robert Clayton Lamar graduated from Yale University (1943) and Yale Divinity School (1946).

After a stint in a Connecticut church, Bob had become the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Albany in 1958, and served in that capacity until 1992. He was instrumental in developing an interfaith community in the Capital District with then-Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and the late Rabbi Martin Silverman. After leaving the first Pres pulpit, Bob became executive director of the Capital Area Council of Churches. He was a lion in the ecumenical movement, not just locally but nationwide.

A bit of his history I only discovered recently is that Bob Lamar rose to become moderator of the United Presbyterian Church in 1974. He was co-chair of of the Joint Committee on Presbyterian Reunion from 1969-83 that resulted in the unification of the southern and northern branches of the church. Being a Methodist, I knew that denomination had its own racial and geographic skeletons before the United Methodist Church was created in 1968.

He was always very active in social justice concerns, both locally and nationally. He served as an officer and/or board member for a slew of organizations way too numerous to mention here. So he had a lot of amount of gravitas by the time I was attending First Pres.

But I never found pompous or self-absorbed. He was genuinely interested in what others had to say, even this former Methodist. As his obituary read, he had “lived a life of faith, gratitude and grace.” I’m pleased to be part of the choir honoring him on January 25 at 11 a.m. at FPC.

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