Tuesday, March 19, 2013

H. Coleman McGehee, Jr.

Eternal rest grant unto Coleman, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him!

He gave a conscience to law.

Coleman did.

After six weeks in the hospital, the good bishop, shepherd and servant leader died last Thursday at 89.

Coleman rocked for justice.

He did.

As assistant attorney general in Virginia, he spoke up against discrimination in education, and more.
He told me of the Klan, of his relationship with Desmund Tutu, how he respected Agnes Mary Monsour, among others.

We first met organizing the ecumenical Michigan Coalition for Human Rights in the 80s when he asked Edmund Szoka, my bishop, if I could be the first executive director for a year, to get this important work started. 

Coleman's office was across from my own at St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral on Mack at Warren, near downtown Detroit.

His office door was usually open. 

He was very welcoming.

Once, he called me in to talk about the Trappist monk, Father Thomas Merton of Gethsemane, Kentucky.  Merton's Seven-Storey Mountain book was an international head-turner of a tome that steered searchers and seekers toward their way of life, vocation or career.

Coleman was intrigued by this man of peace who tried to bridge East and West ways of spirituality.

Most recently, monthly we met for spiritual direction.

He wondered if I was getting anything out of our hour sessions.

I was, I assured him. 

His collection of stories through time, and, his experiences of standing up for life especially for the downtrodden inspired me.

Ever so often he would spout some poetry, or remind me that life was not over until it was indeed done.

Coleman wanted me to live life fully.

The way Jesus did.

Similar, it seems to the way, Coleman did.  Full of life.

A passion for justice pervaded him.

The reign of God was central to Coleman's mode of operation.

He told me how much the prophet Isaiah meant to him. 

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has chosen me to prach good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and, to set free the oppressed."

My talks with June, Coleman's wife, were as engaging and exciting.

Most recently, telephone conversations got animated as we talked about the oppressed.

Justice seems to run in the bloodline of the McGehee's.

I will miss Coleman.

Memory lives on, however.

The torch is passed.

Truth is like that.

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