Celebration of the Life of ART CORRIN
When you think about Art Corrin, what is the first word that comes to you? I did that this week and was surprised – because the first word that came to me was not curmudgeon. It was servant, followed immediately by faithful. And I think that is as it should be. Art was such a faithful servant in and to this church.
The Gospel lesson blesses those servants who keep watch for their master, and that seems so appropriate for Art. I can’t begin to list all the things he did here. He was the unpaid organist for many, many years. He bought this organ and paid for its maintenance. He counted the money every week and deposited it. He put in and tended the mini flower garden outside the front door every summer, deadheading and watering every week.
Art was vigilant, where the church was concerned and if you should leave a door or window open or leave a light on, not only would he come in and take care of it, he would make sure he said something to the offender. We may not even find out what other tasks he did regularly, until we notice now that they aren’t getting done!
And Art was first and foremost the Gatekeeper of this faith community. He was an Anglican to his core and wanted to make sure that everything that happened here was done properly and good order. He unlocked the church on Sundays and always seemed to know who was here – or not.
When I moved here in 1977, I attended pretty much every Sunday from September through May, but during the summer I sailed. So when I returned on the first Sunday in September, Arthur would always say, with that twinkle in his eye, something like, “Wouldn’t you like to sign the guest register?”
In some memories of Art written by Holly Davis, she talks about his sense of humor. “As we all sat at afternoon coffee he’d pick the biggest guy in the room, lean in, and say, ‘You think I can take him?’ Or he would see something I was making and say, ‘I wouldn’t wear that to a dog fight!’” She loved it that at Christmas time he would sing a bit of The Holly and the Ivy to her.
As you probably know, Art also served his family, probably in many ways, but especially in caring for his mother and his sister.
When I saw the first part of the Gospel lesson, I realized something else about Art that I had not paid attention to before. He lived very modestly – in the home he grew up in. He didn’t buy stuff they way most of us do. His frugality on behalf of the church was an extension of what he had learned growing up and practiced at home.
Not that he was without vanity. Mavis Tanem told me about Art complaining that people didn’t speak up and he was having trouble hearing them. She said, “Well, Art, why don’t you try using hearing aids? They have certainly helped me.”
“Oh, no,” he replied. “I don’t want hearing aids. They’d make me look old.”
We all know that Art was terribly “proper,” a word he always said with a British accent. He loved traditional things and resisted change of any sort with great passion. While frustrating at times this is not entirely a bad thing. I suspect that his appreciation of tradition had a lot to do with the way he chose to live his life.
The fact that he lived frugally allowed him to be very generous, although he hid that light from public view. He made sure there was a purse for the Rector every Christmas and I’ll bet he was the largest donor to it. Any time the church needed some big item – a new roof, new carpeting, a kitchen remodel – Art, Walt Mahle, Fred Day, and Fred Boeck would say, “We’ll take care of it.” They said that they went around to personally put the touch on all the members (meaning, of course, all the men in the church) and they always came up with what was needed. I, at least, never knew where the money came from, but I feel certain that Art was a major contributor.
I chose the passage from Paul about nothing being able to separate us from the love of God, because the confidence of that statement reminds me of Art. As a traditional Christian he knew that God was with him. One time, when I was grousing a bit about our priest Art told me, in a most patient tone of voice, “Oh nothing he does bothers me.” And just as I was starting to think Art was being very saintly, he added, “I’ll be here long after he’s gone!”
To say that Art was reliable, faithful, a pillar of the church is still an understatement. He never seemed to have any doubts about his faith, in good times or bad, which led me to the passage from Job that we read today. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; . . then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold and not another.” Somehow that just sounds like Art.
As I’ve thought about Art all this week what has kept flashing through my mind was imagining Art’s arrival in heaven. That vision wavered between seeing Art just assume the organist’s job with the heavenly choir and seeing Christ greeting him, probably with a very proper handshake, saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”
And I could hear Art reply, “Well, finally I’m home.” Then off he goes to join the Corrin brothers – for coffee at the heavenly version of Grandma’s Pantry or joining their mother for popcorn and beer.
We will miss Art and at the same time are honored to be a part of sending him home to the place he so richly deserves. AMEN