Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

When did you last see Lynda?

Bishop Victoria Matthews' sermon at the requiem mass for Dean Lynda Patterson in the Transitional Cathedral on July 29.

Taonga News  |  29 Jul 2014

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

When did you last see Lynda?  Was she laughing?  Perhaps being incredibly funny?  At General Synod during some pretty tense days Lynda kept the Christchurch table laughing as she sang her Goblin song, squishing up her face, so that this most diverse Diocese communicated to the rest of Synod that we would not be split or overcome by the contentious issue at hand.  

At General Synod Lynda, who was nominated to lead the clergy caucus because she was trusted by all the Tikanga, opened with these simple words, “How shall we handle this?  Shall we pray?”  And all the clergy prayed in silence for the entirety of the first session.  

When did you last see Lynda?  Was she with her beloved dog Tobes who transformed her life and brought her great joy.  He was with her when she died.  Lynda’s mobility challenges latterly meant she could not walk Tobes so she arranged for him to go to doggy day care.  At home she would throw the ball for him endlessly.  They were great mates.

When did you last see Lynda?  Do you remember her when she did not limp?  Do you remember her before the three pneumonias one winter?  Although her house was repaired twice after the various earthquakes, it was still flooded so badly she had to walk away while the powers that be fought over who was responsible for the next repairs.  Throughout this time she was incredibly present to others.  Did you last experience Lynda preaching in a way that made you laugh and cry and meet the living Jesus? 

When did you last see Lynda?  Was she chatting to children?  Talking with someone older and frail?  Visiting someone in hospital?  She thought she lacked seriously in all those ministries and we knew she was brilliant.  

When did you last see Lynda?  Was she excited about her Study Leave in Rome and Edinburgh and the idea of travelling through Russia and China by train?  Did she tell you about the Visigoths?  Or did you see her as she headed off to the UK to teach continuing education courses to the United Reform Church clergy?  Or perhaps helping prepare the Bible Studies for the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Auckland?  It was there she was inspired by the question posed by Archbishop Rowan, “How do we become faithful to the faithfulness of God?”  Her final Bible Study received a standing ovation and she flew home with double pneumonia.  

When did you last see Lynda?  Did her appearance look somewhat free form?  Was she wearing her black knee high boots with the pink satin laces?  When ordering the flowers for her casket we asked for a few trailing vines as a floral arrangement that was all neat and tidy was not what we wanted for our Lynda. 

When did you last see Lynda?  Was she dressed as a dog for the Cathedral Regulars’ mid winter dinner?  Or as a shepherd for the children and animal service at the Cathedral?  Or as a chick; or a parrot; or an octopus?   Lynda enjoyed poking fun at herself. 

When did you last see Lynda?  Was she praying?  Prayer was central to Lynda’s life.  Was she presiding most beautifully at the Eucharist?  Perhaps you were present when she was installed as Dean.  On that occasion we were wonderfully reminded that all Cathedrals are transitional.  Today we realise Deans are transitional also and we weep.  Whether it was preaching in a parish church, or teaching at the Clergy Conference, or presiding at Evensong, Lynda had a battle with her nerves.  She never felt worthy or properly prepared.  But we know she changed lives to the glory of God.

When did you last see Lynda?  Was she talking Biblical Theology?  To quote Bruce Hansen, she was delightfully intelligent.  She loved Scripture and Theology and when she had had enough of talking about the construction of this Cathedral, she would switch and explain theology and worship to the Cathedral visitors.  Lives were transformed.

When did you last see Lynda?  She told the story that she would get panic phone calls from clergy that the bishop was visiting and they needed to know what the first reading at Morning Prayer had been.  Regardless of what it had been, Lynda would airily say, “Oh you know the story of the golden mice in 1 Samuel 6.”   Just talk about that.  And that dear friends is why she wanted that incomprehensible passage read today.  She wanted to share her joke.   

When did you last see Lynda?  Was she witnessing to the resurrection?  At the end of the gospel of Mark the women at the tomb hear Jesus is risen and are sent out to tell the world.  They leave in fear and amazement.  Fear was a reality in Lynda’s life because she did not believe that there were solutions to her increasing health problems.  But amazement was also present in Lynda as she knew that the resurrection of Christ also meant her resurrection.  She knew the love of God in Christ from her childhood, and she felt caught up in Christ’s never failing, loving embrace through the Eucharist and the Cross.  “Take up your Cross and follow me”, the Saviour said and Lynda was quick to explain that taking up your Cross meant quite simply that we are meant to carry each other.  Lynda carried many of us.

When did you last see Lynda?  Whether it was in the Cathedral in the Square; at Christ’s College Chapel, here at the transitional Cathedral or in the wider community,  she was deeply loyal to the people she served.  There were many invitations from the UK for her to return to teach or lead in a College or Cathedral.  But Lynda felt called to Christchurch and she offered her deeply generous and extravagant ministry to the very end.  I remember well the day Lynda leaned over to me and whispered, “Sacrificial ministry is no longer a metaphor in this Diocese.  We have the real thing.”  And we laughed and laughed.

It is often said that when life is fragile and waning, it becomes more precious.  But that suggests putting it behind locked glass for display purposes.  Lynda would have no part of that.  Lynda’s life became both more difficult and more delicious.  She would not cut back and give herself a break.  With extraordinary courage she lived every moment and gave of herself in service to others. She was extravagant in what she gave to us.  She did this as a beloved child of God; a faithful and devoted priest of the Church and an outstanding teacher of the faith.  Those privileged to spend even a brief time with her went away blessed.

When did you last see Lynda?  Remember and give thanks to God. Amen.