There has been much electronic ink spilt this week about the death of Harvard professor and chaplain Peter Gomes, as well there should be. He was a prominent voice in progressive Christianity and a force for social change. But on the same day we lost Peter we lost another, lesser-known cleric who nonetheless had a greater influence in my life than did Gomes.
The Rt. Rev. Richard Shimpfky left this world at 6:00 a,m. on Monday 28 February. I knew he had been ill. I didn't know that the illness was life-threatening.
I have fond recollections of Bishop Shimpfky. I encountered him four different times in four different churches in the Diocese of El Camino Real.
The first time I met him was at St. Timothy's in Mountain View. I had become disillusioned with Religious Science and was just beginning to explore the Episcopal Church. The first church I visited was St. Timothy's because it was within walking distance of our home in Mountain View. It just happened to be his visitation Sunday there. He was very gracious and said, "I'm a visitor here too."
My second encounter with him was when I joined All Saints' in Palo Alto and he confirmed me into membership in the Episcopal Church. It is a day that I won't forget.
I next met him after Terry and I had moved to Gilroy in 1997. I realized that I could not continue to commute to All Saints' on Sundays and was exploring local churches. I visited St. John the Divine in Morgan Hill at a time when they were without a rector, and on a day when the bishop just happened to be visiting informally. He said he was just there "helping out."
The last time I saw him was at his vsitation to St. Stephen's In-the-Field San Jose, where I was a member and shortly before I ran screaming from there (a subject for a different day and time).
I know his departure from the diocese, while I was away in the Lutheran church, was not under the most pleasant of circumstances, to state matters mildly. Yet I always liked and appreciated him, and do not have a negative word to say.
I can only wish that he rest in peace and rise in glory.