Bishop Harold’s Letter
Brothers and sisters in the Gospel,
I write to assure you all of my love and prayers, as your father-in-God, at this time of great loss for the people of Knockbreda Parish.
The death of a pastor, suddenly and while serving his people, has a deep impact on his people, especially when the relationship was so deep, warm and long as it was with Philip. I think you all know that Philip and I were not just close in our professional roles as archdeacon and bishop, but were also close in our heart for the Gospel and biblical truth. You and I have lost a close, reliable and honest friend, and it will take some time to come to terms with that loss.
The way Philip died was an example to all of us. He continued to be open about his situation to the very end, and that meant a real honesty which those who prayed with him and ministered to him deeply valued.
His last letter to all of you must always be valued, kept and remembered in your hearts, because it is a model of how a Christian can approach death with no fear and utter reality. The hymn, ‘O sacred head’ ends with these words, which I prayed for and with Philip:
Be thou my consolation,
my shield when I must die;
remind me of thy passion
when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold thee,
upon thy cross shall dwell,
my heart by faith enfold thee;
who dieth thus dies well.
Philip died well, not just because of his realism on this earth, but because by faith he grasped the reality which is eternity in Christ.
One of today’s readings (Sunday 12th May) paints the picture of the heavenly city in Revelation 22, when John declares:
‘Blessed are those who wash their robes,
so that they will have the right to the tree of life.’
One of those is Philip Patterson.
Philip would not want us to be mournful, though we will experience natural human grief. He would want us to grasp hold by faith of Christ, to know his assurance and comfort, and to rejoice in his salvation as he himself does now, more fully than ever.
I also commend Eleanor to you as a dear sister in the Lord, and one who has served you well. She will need your love and fellowship more than ever over these days, and I know you will be there for her and for the family.
It is a comfort to me to know that Gerardo is with you as your curate, and I know that others are helping as well. He led the funeral service with such warmth and dignity. I can’t help feeling it was just as Philip would have wanted it to be.
I continue to pray with and for you that God would be closer to you, and that your passion for the Gospel more than ever before.