Since you see plenty of me,

I think it’s obvious that I’m sharing this picture so you can see Mahan Siler and James Lamkin, former Ravensworth pastors. We had a chance to visit during the Alliance meeting last weekend in Greenville, South Carolina, and it was great to be with these good friends who continue to care deeply about our life together at RBC.

In the midst of some soul-lifting hilarity, we shared our mutual love and concern for Bill Ratliff, a minister at RBC during and after Mahan. Bill provided important leadership during a critical period in our church, and went on to a distinguished career as Professor of Pastoral Care at Earlham College. It was my great fortune to receive the wonderful gift of Bill’s friendship after his retirement. He is a true soul friend, and I could say so much about him. I know that Bill reads our newsletter and has always followed Ravensworth news with deep interest. So I’d like to talk to Bill for a minute, as if he and all of you were here, which of course you are.

Bill, during your current health crisis…I won’t even say “battle with cancer” because you are as likely to befriend your illness as fight it…I hope you will feel the prayers coming in waves from our congregation to you and Virginia. If prayers have wings, they are carried by our love and profound gratitude for all that the two of you mean to us. Bill, your soul has the luminosity of St. Francis of Assisi whom you love and admire, and you are something even better than St. Francis to me. You are my friend Bill. On the CaringBridge website, my password is “Friend of Bill,” and that friendship is and always will be a treasure.

It is pretty extraordinary to say such personal words to a friend in a public forum, but this is not just any forum. In the presence of the congregation we have both loved, I want to share a handwritten note which hangs on the bulletin board next to me in my study at home. I look at it often, and have read it many times. You sent it to me less than two months after I returned from my 2009 sabbatical:

“Steve, in the middle of last night I got the message to pray for you–so I did. I pray that you continue to discern how to relate the deeper Mystery that you found on sabbatical to your life and ministry today–and that you continue to plunge ever deeper in to that mystery–and there find refreshment and nourishment.

The Light will lead you home.

I know that Mahan and James, Jean and I, and all of your friends at Ravensworth–including those who have not had the chance to be touched directly by your great soul–will continue to send waves of love to you, as we hold you in the Light.

I love you, Bill.


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