The Rev. Jennifer Adams
Sermon preached at the Memorial Service for Joy Culbertson Huttar on August 25, 2015
I was thinking this week about how on the Sunday that we celebrated Joy’s retirement after almost thirty years of serving as organist here at Grace, how on that Sunday she made me promise that there would be “no fuss.” I believe those were her exact words. She kind of shook her head at me and held up a hand an made it clear that the honors were to be offered quickly. I was sworn to keep my comments on that day to no more than about five minutes as we thanked Joy Huttar for the tremendous gifts she gave to us as Grace Church.
Well I figure we have almost 85 years worth of thanks to offer today, so I get more than five minutes, although I promise not to go on too long or to fuss too much over someone who never saw any of this as about her and who avoided the spotlight whenever it was offered her.
That was part of the joy that was Joy. She was herself more than most of us ever learn to be, or at least earlier than most of us learn to be. And Joy offered her life, her gifts, her talents not for attention nor any sort of celebratory response. Joy gave of her life simply because that’s what we’re called to do with who we are. It was all sort of wonderfully, faithfully matter of fact for Joy Huttar.
And through that life Joy touched more people than I bet she had any idea she touched. Look at us here today! I have heard from people all over the country and talked to people all over this not so small town who have stories to tell about Joy Huttar. And they smile when they tell them.
And most of the stories have to do with people being received into your home Charles, or into a particular group, or into this church or all of the above and most of the stories contain food, and music, and humor, sometimes shelter, and Joy’s very practical and kind, receptive intelligence.
Now one of the amazing things that is worth noting about these stories is that they come from an incredibly wide range of people. This was one of Joy’s greatest gifts. People were just people to her, each one child of God, if you will, but Joy never approached out of that faithful foundation of hers in an overly sentimental way. I think of it like this – while Joy was always very real herself, she allowed us to be ourselves too. I heard that in more than one email or Facebook post or note. One person put it like this, “I aspire to do what [Joy] did so easily make people feel calm and human and welcome and sane with just a glance, a shrug, an eye-roll, a smile. [Joy] read people so well, so quickly, could calm a squall among kids or grownups at 100 paces. And another “Joy was one of those women, who by example and encouragement, enriched others and give them strength to use their God-given gifts too.”
Joy could share conversation and (stats) topics from church hymnody to Cubs baseball. Puling out hymn numbers and batting averages without a blink of her eye. She could talk sherry and she could talk soil. She could talk thoughtfully and passionately about current events and then transition almost seamlessly to comment on what kind of paint should be used on china cups and plates. And so Joy could talk with and receive very genuinely just about anyone.
In this world today and in all of our days to come there are professors and prisoners, youth and older folks, Episcopalians and Baptists, non-musically-trained-but-willing-to- pick-up-a-recorder-and what-the-heck- give-it-a shot types of people and highly educated-professional-really-know-what-they-are-doing musician types of people – all of whom are giving thanks for Joy Huttar in our lives. In a way that was both very real and very faithful Joy received us all and shared whatever she had to give.
Now just briefly to touch on Joy’s presence and ministries here at Grace, you all should be aware that she holds a couple of records that might never be broken. One of those records is for the single food item that (as a single food item) raised the most money for a youth pilgrimage. I think we have to make about three hundred pigs in a blanket now to bring in what we did at one silent auction for a single cake baked by Joy Huttar. That cake alone carried a whole group of young people a very long way on their journey in faith.
The other record Joy holds is as the longest serving staff member here at Grace. In her almost thirty years as organist, Joy served with four different Rectors (an accomplishment in itself we would all tell you.) And three of us are actually here today participating in this service, and the fourth sends his thanks for Joy too.
Over that thirty years, factoring in Sundays, Holy Weeks, high feast days, funerals, weddings and other special services I figure that Joy led us in approximately 13,280 hymns. That number is an estimate, of course, but there’s at least some math behind it.
So that’s approximately how many times Joy supported the sung prayer of this community of faith. Think about that because it’s remarkable. Joy offered her gifts in ways that allowed for the musical and sung prayer of this community of faith to take hold among us and in us, probably forever because that’s how sung prayer works. Through Joy’s music that became our music (because Joy would have it no other way,) she gathered us in. She led us in our praise. Joy sustained us in our lament, gave shape to our thanksgiving, raised up our offerings, supported us at the table, and then sent us forth into this world as our prayer says, do the work God has given us to do.
In her life and in her formal ministry, Joy sustained and enhanced our ability to pray as and to be the people whom God created us to be.
And there is not a thank you big enough. At least I can’t do it alone. But maybe together we can. And Steve, back there on organ today, you can help us. And Huttar clan, through your voices and your lives you can help us too. As Grace Church and all the communities who were touched by Joy Huttar we can raise our thanks today, for the life of Joy Culbertson Huttar and for her new life in which she is free and she is whole and she is enjoying a feast prepared for her.
Together we give thanks to the God who created and loves us all.