[Episcopal News Service] A memorial service will be held Oct. 5 for the Rev. Terry Parsons, former program officer for stewardship for the Episcopal Church from 1996 to 2008, who died Oct. 3 in Bay City, Michigan.
Parsons, 65, was vicar of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bay City at the time of her death. The service will take place at St. Alban’s.
She had finished a Master of Divinity Degree while working at the Church Center, according to an obituary in the Bay City Times newspaper, and was called to St. Alban’s in August 2011.
“It was for her the completion of a long journey and the realization of her life’s ambition: to offer her leadership to a church,” the obituary said.
Diocese of Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel wrote on his blog Oct. 3 that Parsons was being treated in a hospital for complications from a series of falls she suffered over the past few weeks.
“Terry didn’t just talk about the Christian call to stewardship, she lived it and her legacy and example will live on,” Rickel wrote. “I have lost a dear friend and guide.”
Parsons always insisted that stewardship was about more than what she called the “October Beg-A-Thon” and what many Episcopal parishes call the annual stewardship drive. She said that the traditional fall season in which members are encouraged to pledge their financial support to their congregation ought to be just one part of a year-round effort that helps people discern how to respond with “joyous acts of thanksgiving” to all that God has given them.
Stewardship, she said here and elsewhere, is about changing lives, is guided by grace and not guilt, and grows out of one’s relationship with God.
“If you’re not talking about Jesus, it probably isn’t stewardship,” she was known to say.
Tributes to Parsons and her ministry began shortly after word of death spread. On Oct. 3, the Rev. Jeffrey John Purchal tweeted that her “ability to teach and to help make stewardship accessible was, and will continue to be a great gift to the church.”
Many people went to Parsons’ Facebook page to leave messages.
“Terry’s faith and energy and devotion to her church was more than admirable — it was inspiring and Christ centered,” wrote Jay Pierce, of Versailles, Kentucky.
Lisa Mayntz wrote that, while it is hard to pick the most important thing she learned from Parsons, “there was the lesson of generosity and learning how to not fear talking about money. But, I’d have to say I appreciate her grace and continuity and what she told me one day in her office about absolution. She also taught me to order room service in hotels sometimes. Her friendship was gold. I wish I had the chance to tell her one more time.”
Mark Le Von Vincent, of Kohler, Wisconsin, wrote that “more people are generous because of your tireless love for them.”
“We who administrated projects you dreamt of or volunteered for were sometimes aggravated with you, but it was only because we wanted more of you,” he added. “Now the courts of God get the benefit.”
Just before those tributes begin on Parsons’ Facebook Timeline, there are birthday wishes. Parsons turned 65 on Sept. 22.
She is survived her mother, Edna Parsons, her brother and sister-in-law Ray and Julie Parsons, her brother-in-law John Lackey, her son and daughter-in-law Chris and Melissa Fannin and her grandchild Erin Fannin, and her son and daughter-in-law Brian and Inessa Fannin and her grandchildren Leia and Miles Fannin.
— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.