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by Jennifer Morse, Parishioner
One of the great blessings for us over the past year has been the chance to minister to Christopher and Jennifer Morse. Sadly, Christopher passed away last July, and Jennifer recently gave an incredibly generous gift to Christ Church Cranbrook in his memory. To honor Jennifer and Christopher, I asked Jennifer to share a bit about how they came to join us and support our life and work together. Knowing them has been one of the greatest blessings I have received as a priest and as your Rector.
— Father Bill
If you have ever wondered if the ministry of Christ Church Cranbrook really matter to the world, if it really touches people to meet them where they are and carries them through their darkest moments, then I am writing this to assure you that it does.
Where is your home church? It’s a simple enough question, but for us it was a complicated one. A year ago, my husband was starting palliative care to manage his pain. He had pancreatic cancer, and had beaten all the odds. He should have been gone years before, but his pain and anger had started many years before his diagnosis. His immediate family had turned their backs on us because of a conflict my husband had with his mother and other matriarchs of the family. He was angry with them, and that anger began to bleed into our life together. It worsened when politics shortened the military career he loved, and deepened yet again when the cancer was discovered during his medical exit exams. This was not the life we signed up for, and it was a bitter pill to swallow.
With his initial treatments completed and his cancer in remission, we arrived in Bloomfield to live in the peace of the family home he had inherited. His grandmother and uncle are interred at Christ Church Cranbrook, so it made sense for us to worship here. I fell in love with the place, the people, and the choir immediately. But it didn’t take long for him to find fault, to blow a slight out of proportion, and to cut short our time with the full communion of the congregation. Other churches did not pass muster. We became Christmas/Easter attendees, and put reconciliation with the church on our “someday” list.
When faced with this question, the answer was both simple and complicated. Christ Church Cranbrook was our church home, but we were strangers to it. Not long after that we ended up in Father Bill’s office in crisis. The anger was too much, and we didn’t know how to move forward. Bill was there for us, the virtual strangers, listening and counseling. That’s when the ministry of Christ Church Cranbrook really started to work a miracle in our lives.
You know how the Eucharist are commissioned to minister to “others” at the end of communion? We were the others. My husband was so wounded that he would only accept the counsel and ministry of other men. He had no patience for the ministries of women, including me, so Anthony Estes brought us the Eucharist every week from October to May. In those seven months I witnessed Anthony’s ministry to my husband and was amazed. No matter what hurt, anger, or poison, Anthony kept coming. He kept ministering the sacraments, and slowly life changed as God’s presence became more powerful and tangible in our lives.
My husband sought confirmation in the Episcopal faith, so Anthony added a confirmation class to the sacrament. We started praying the evening devotions from The Book of Common Prayer together every night. He forgave his family and sought their forgiveness, something which friends and family never thought would happen. Ultimately the Bishop gave Father Bill permission, and Christopher was confirmed in our home. When hospitalized in May, my husband – who just months before would not accept the ministries of women – accepted Pastor Manisha to take his confession.
As his health continued to deteriorate into July, Pastor Imogen came to perform Last Rites for him. In his final days as he slipped away, he clung to two sustaining practices: video calls with his ailing mother, and our evening prayers together. Father Bill was with us on his last day, and prayed with me over him in his final hour. My husband ended his life well, thanks to God working through the ministries of this church body. Today I can confidently answer that Christ Church Cranbrook is my church home. I am so grateful to those who built up this body to the point that it could minister to me and my family in our time of crisis. Thank you. And thank you for allowing me to join you in this ministry. It is my hope that through my gifts and service that I can in some small way help to further these blessings to others, and that the ministry of Christ Church Cranbrook may continue to shine God’s light in the darkest of places.