Rest in Peace, Rise in Glory: April 2, 2020

The following obituaries appeared in the April 5 issue of The Living Church.

The Rev. Canon Robert J. Brooks, a liturgical scholar who also served as the Episcopal Church’s Director of Government Relations for a decade, died February 29, aged 72. 

A native of Austin, Texas, he was a graduate of St. Edward’s University and prepared for the ministry at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Following his ordination, he served as vicar of All Saints,’ Baytown, Texas for ten years. During his ministry there, he earned a masters’ degree in liturgy from Notre Dame, and introduced the catechumenate to the parish. He would later serve on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Liturgical Commission and was also the church’s representative on the Anglican Consultation on Liturgy. 

He served on Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning’s staff from 1983-1993, representing the Episcopal Church’s public policy commitments before Congress and the Executive Branch. He worked as a back-channel negotiator during efforts to end El Salvador’s civil war and was made an honorary canon of the Anglican Diocese of El Salvador in recognition of this work. He later served as director of the Business Partnership for a New Global Future, a coalition which secured Congressional funding for debt relief for the world’s poorest countries in 2000. 

He became rector of St. Paul’s, Willimantic, Connecticut from 2001 until 2015, when he retired to his native Texas. In retirement, he served as chair of the Episcopal Urban Caucus. He is survived by his partner Adisak Nernbok, and by many relatives and friends. 

The Rev. Canon Gwendolyn J. Dillon, the first black woman to be ordained to the vocational diaconate in the Diocese of Chicago, died January 6, aged 93. 

A native of Minneapolis, Dillon was a leader at Chicago’s Sts. George and Matthias Church for decades, first as a layperson, and then as a deacon. She was the founding director of the Fr. Charles Pond Memorial Kitchen at the church, and led its work of preparing and serving breakfast for the city’s homeless for nearly thirty years, until well into her eighties.  

She was honored with the St. Stephen Recognition for exemplary ministry by the Association for Episcopal Deacons in 1995, and was made an honorary canon of Chicago’s St. James Cathedral in 2008.  She is survived by three grandchildren and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

The Rev. Steven R. Ford, a longtime contributor to The Living Church who was sometimes called the world’s only travel theologian” died in Tempe, Arizona on February 9, aged 66. 

A native of Upstate New York, he was a graduate of Hobart College, where he studied sociology and cultural anthropology His freshman year roommate there was future presiding bishop, Michael Curry.  After his graduation from General Seminary, he served in a series of parishes in the Diocese of Arizona. He was rector of St. Paul’s Church in Phoenix from 1987-1992, and assisted in churches in Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, and Tempe. Since 2016, he had assisted at St. Mark’s Church in Mesa, where his primary ministry was care for the dying and their families. 

He had a great love of travel and adventure, and visited over 200 countries, often writing reflections on people he encountered, especially fellow Christians who faith inspired him. Many of these reflections were published in The Living Church over the past few decades. A final travel piece, about his journey to Southern India with his sister, is included in this issue.  

Father Ford was preceded in death by his beloved Becky, and is survived by a stepson, three grandsons, his sister, Virginia, and five nieces and nephews. 


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