Taking the Time

Weekly Reflection, Friday, July 1

By: Elizabeth Starling

It wasn’t long after I started working at St. Mary’s in 2017 that I met a man named Allen Ferguson. I can’t remember what exactly it was that he said to me that day, but I remember laughing and joking around, as we often would in the years to come. We eventually made the connection that I had grown up at Hampden-Sydney College, where Allen was at one time a member of the Board of Trustees. It wasn’t until I mentioned his name to my parents that I learned that Allen had known me when I was a toddler—I used to occasionally tag along to Trustees events with my parents, so he’d sort of known me my whole life. Once we made that connection, he spoke so kindly of my family and often inquired about my parents. He hadn’t seen them in years, but considered them old friends and always wanted to make sure they were doing well—“Hey Elizabeth! How’s good ol’ Paul Baker doing lately?” was a regular greeting.

You see, Allen wasn’t really the warm-and-fuzzy type. In fact, he’d probably laugh at me if he knew I was writing that. But, I had the privilege of serving with him through the pastoral care ministry here, and I can tell you that he cared so deeply for people. Allen had a way with words, and was known on his pastoral care team for writing beautiful, lengthy letters to parishioners who were sick or hurting or celebrating. When it was his turn to prepare birthday cards to send out (and it was a large batch of birthday cards…), he wrote long notes to each individual, whether he knew them or not. These days, we’re so accustomed to a quick “Happy Birthday!” or “Get well soon!” text or Facebook post that to receive a thoughtfully handwritten card means so much.

I talked to Allen briefly just a few weeks ago—I specify “briefly,” because I was hurrying off to do something else and didn’t feel like I had a lot of time to linger. And, when I heard the news that Allen had died, that was my first thought—I should’ve taken the time. Life is so hurried these days. Messages can be so impersonal. We’re just busy and caught up with work and school and extracurriculars and I honestly can’t tell you the last time I sat down and just wrote someone a nice note. Today on this Friday, we gather to celebrate Allen’s time here with us. And I hope if you can, you’ll linger—share a story or a funny Allen memory. And as the days go by, I hope you’ll consider taking time to write someone a card. It might mean more to them than you know.