Friday, February 26, 2010

+ Joseph DeHart, R.I.P.

Mrs. Edy and The Rev. Joseph DeHart

It is with a heavy heart that I report the death this afternoon of my friend and fellow presbyter of Christ's Church, the Venerable Reverend Father Joe DeHart, rector (pastor) of St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church in Akron.

Fr. Joe was first and foremost a churchman. He was a servant of Christ. He loved his parish and was loved in return. Always smiling, generous, witty, and bubbling over with practical wisdom, Joe always made people feel at home, ever ready with a funny story - a rascal with a twinkle in the eye, a deep voice, a big personality, and a hearty laugh. And his devotion to his equally-devoted and sharp-witted wife Edy was apparent to everyone. Fr. Joe was a kind of American and Anglican version of Fr. Duddleswell.

While I was a seminarian in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we would visit St. Mary's from time to time while visiting my folks just outside Akron. On one occasion, Sunday happened to be October 31. And although the Anglican tradition of Christianity grew out of the 16th century Reformation, and in fact owes much to Luther and the Wittenberg reformers - Anglicans are not Lutherans. That October Sunday was Christ the King to the Anglicans, not Reformation Day. But because Grace and I were in attendance, just before the last hymn, Fr. DeHart announced to the congregation and the organist that there would be a change in plans. We sang A Mighty Fortress Is Our God instead of the assigned closing hymn. The parish sang it with gusto.

We were always treated like members of the parish when we would visit (though we never asked for communion, and like the LCMS, the ACC practices closed communion and never offered it). In spite of the differences between our communions, Grace and I were always treated with great warmness by Fr. Joe and Edy and the entire parish - and I still exchange e-mail with one of the parishioners of St. Mary's. We spent many a joyous Sunday sipping coffee in the undercroft of St. Mary's after Mass.

Fr. Joe also gave me a copy of the Anglican Missal and the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer, originally published in 1549 (bearing some influence of the Lutheran reformers), became the standard English translation of the ancient liturgy - much of which has survived even to our own current Lutheran Service Book. What a treasure we western catholic and anglophone Christians have in the common liturgy that we share!

Needless to say, Joe's gift to me is itself a treasure, and his kindness in giving these books to me typified his generosity and hospitality.

Grace and I remember fondly when Fr. Joe and Edy once took us out to dinner. It was glorious, something we will always call to mind with joy. Knowing that I was going into the pastoral ministry, and being a "second career" couple themselves, Joe and Edy really took us under their wings and were of immeasurable value as friends and mentors. They always welcomed our phone calls and e-mails. We always learned from (and laughed with) both of them.

Please keep Edy DeHart and St. Mary's in your prayers. Fr. Joe has entered eternity victoriously in Christ. Thanks be to God for his life and priestly ministry at altar, font, and pulpit. Even in grief, I look forward in hope and in joy to being reunited with my fellow churchman in that heavenly eternal Jerusalem where sin, death, and the devil will be no more, where the light of Christ will shine unimpeded for eternity!

May Fr. Joe rest in peace, and may all of his family, parishioners, and friends take comfort in the resurrection of our blessed and risen Lord Jesus Christ!

His obit can be seen here.

Fr. Joe and a parishioner enjoying a birthday picture


Kevin said...

requiet in pace Fr. DeHart.

Tim said...

May he rest in peace, and Light perpetual shine upon him!