In Memory of Jane Langmuir

Here are the recordings from the Eulogies from Karl & Christia Langmuir, and Mary Worrell given at Jane’s requiem this morning at St Martin’s.

Below is the text of my tribute to Jane

Jane was our friend. With her death we have all lost a valued and esteemed friend and member in our community. The first woman to hold the position of Church Warden, a position she held on two separate occasions; together, Jane and her husband Paul over several decades contributed their prodigious talents and energies to the building-up and sustaining of this wonderful St Martin’s community. Jane and Paul were integral members of a core of individuals, couples, and families – at a time not so distant but now passed, when church community played a greater role in East Side family and community life.

After Paul’s death ten years ago now, Jane gradually withdrew from much of the hands-on involvement in parish life– though still keeping an important oversight brief for the architectural preservation of this historically significant church. Although no longer able to play a guiding role in our recent extensive restoration project, the work recently accomplished brought her great satisfaction and peace of mind.

After Paul’s death, Jane began to forge a different role for herself within the community. Rather than her activity, it was her mystical spirituality that now began to emerge more prominently. Always a woman whose opinions others valued, Jane came to be increasingly seen as a trusted source for spiritual insight, emotional support, and wise counsel.

*

Jane was my friend. I well remember the moment during my first interview with the discernment team – when standing in the pulpit at St Paul’s Church in Pawtucket where the discernment team had retreated to privately assess the caliber of the new interviewee for the position of rector; looking down over the small congregation our eyes met. I was struck by the quality of the gaze in which Jane held me. Between us, a mutual recognition flashed. Held in her gaze I came to realize that I was indeed the right candidate. In her gaze I came to know without question that St Martin’s was the door God was opening for me.

In that moment Jane and I became friends.

Friendship between pastor and parishioner is always a wonderful thing. Despite the church’s official warnings to the clergy that our parishioners cannot be our friends, many variations of friendship flourish between pastor and parishioner. Yet, always there is the recognition that the pastor must keep in check – or at the very least, be mindful of his or her own personal needs in order to hold open the interpersonal space in which the parishioner’s needs take priority.

Jane was my friend, but not in the ordinary sense that I might say that of so many of the folk in this wonderful St Martin’s community. Jane was my friend and for Al and myself, she quickly became our friend – because in a real sense she needed nothing from me or from us except the desire for a balanced reciprocity – the ordinary everyday coinage of human friendship.

With Jane, I found that rare freedom to air my fears and anxieties without concern for lessening her trust and confidence in me. She received the revealing of my fallibilities – often expressed through the pent-up feelings and frustrations that any priest experiences within the discipline of the pastoral role. I received from Jane her unjudging compassion and her wise counsel that often concluded in a sound piece of advice for me to get over myself. She didn’t say it quite like that, but Jane understood the creative use of pain and suffering, and she expected nothing less of me than she did of herself.

*

Beyond speaking of friendship, I have another task this morning. It is to speak about how within the tradition of Christian faith we might imagine life for Jane now. For life is what she still enjoys – except it’s from the other side of the veil that separates the parallel dimensions of God Space from Our Space.

The medieval images of heaven as a place up there among the clouds no longer works for our 21st-century minds. We need to exercise our imaginations in a different direction. For us, heaven is none other than the divine dimension –God Space -that sits alongside Our Space; the dimension of time, space, and matter. The energies of the divine dimension interpenetrate this dimension of Our Space.

Having been adopted by the ancient spirit of the Langmuir name, Jane was intuitively drawn to the landscapes and Celtic spirituality of Scotland’s Western Isles; the isle of Iona in particular, which Jane and Paul visited a number of times. After Paul’s death it was to the holy Isle of Iona that Jane returned a portion of his ashes. She was to visit Iona again – where she still found the needed spiritual sustenance and confirmation in this thin place.

Celtic spirituality recognizes the thin place in both geographic locations and also in spiritual -nonphysical states of experience. Within the thin place the energies of the divine co-mingle with the energies of time and space. In her everyday life, Jane often experienced this interpenetration – or interleafing of dimensional energies characteristic of the co-mingling of divine and temporal dimensions; the God Space’s entry within Our Space.

Jane has now made the return journey. The event of her biological death has freed her to enter into the fullness of the God Space. Yet, Christian faith does not view this event as the end for her. There is too much emphasis these days on the souls of the dead living for ever in the presence of God as if eternity in the God Space is our ultimate destination. Christian faith views entry into the God Space following biological death as simply an interim stage awaiting the final renewal of the whole of the physical creation – in a new heaven and a new earth.

*

Jane was our friend. She was a friend to so many of us here this morning. As her friends; as her children; as her sisters – none of us experienced Jane to be a saint. Like all of us, she was far from perfect. To come close with Jane was also to experience her own particular limitations and struggles.

Let us be mindful of two things. In the words of the Prayer Book Preface for the Dead, which we will hear in a moment, for Jane life is now changed but not ended. And, that our task now is to take the gifts she has bequeathed to us through her love and friendship and incorporate them into our lives – qualities and values that hopefully will re-prioritize our living. So that in the meantime, Jane will live on in us.

I conclude with words from the great mystic poet, John O’Donohue in his poem For Longing. The late John O’Donohue was not a Celt of the Western Isles, but nevertheless, the next best thing, a Celt of the Irish homeland.

I offer us these words as Jane’s final benediction and blessing to us until the day of our eventual reunion.

For Longing

Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

May the forms of your belonging—in love, creativity, and friendship—  
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

May your mind inhabit life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.

May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

Amen.

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