Saturday, January 18, 2020

Friend Bill Sharpe, 'We Knew He Was a Christian.....

Today I was honored to attend the Celebration of Life for friend Bill Sharpe on the campus of Elon University.  It was held in historic Whitley Auditorium where Bill held many chapel and counseling sessions as Elon chaplain and where I attended many mandatory chapels as a college student at Elon in the late 1960s.

Bill was such an accomplished, delightful, cool person, one of those 'forever age 50' people. Bill was a Duke undergraduate, Duke Divinity School graduate, a pastor, a college chaplain, and college administrator,. He had a love for the theater, he wrote plays, and he wrote poetry. He loved sports and was active in the NC Senior Games. He had a beautiful wife of 60 years, 3 beautiful daughters, and 7 grandchildren, one of whom was Atlantic Coast Conference Golf Champion in 2016 and is now a golf professional.

Bill's life was characterized by inclusion, social justice, and an open-mindedness to the world and God's possibilities in it.  He participated in the Durham civil rights sit-ins in the early 1960s as a Duke student and later served on a community race relations committee. He heard Martin Luther King preach in 1960 and was moved and inspired by it. He opened his heart to gays and lesbians as early as the 1970s.  He once told me the story of, as a teenager,  thumbing from his small eastern NC hometown, with a buddy, to the 1952 Democratic convention in Chicago and hearing Harry Truman's give his Farewell Address.  His life of activism, accomplishment, and adventure amazes and inspires me.

Most of all, Bill's life was characterized by his deep love of God  and commitment to his faith. Bill lived fully into the story of Jesus. He was faithful to God's gifts to him. He touched many lives with his kindness, his humor, his intellect, and his love. He lived life fully. Bill wrote the prologue to the celebration of his life. It was beautiful and moving. He reminded us, among many favorite, meaningful passages, of John 13: 35 ….'they'll know we are Christians by our love for one another….'

Patrick Murphy, Pastor at Front Street United Methodist Church in Burlington, read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:7) from the Message Version of the Bible.  Please read that version.  He also prayed the beautiful Gaelic Blessing, "Deep Peace", which I had never heard and which was a favorite of Bill's:

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep Peace of Christ to you.

I am so grateful I got to know Bill Sharpe. It reinforces to me how many wonderful people there are in the world...…….. some of whom we are fortunate and blessed that God sends our way.  

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