They Stand Upright

Yesterday morning, for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, I shared with our congregation this reflection by Debie Thomas, in which she says so much of what I would have wanted to say, and says it so well, as usual. The day before, Volmoed had hosted a memorial service for Elvia Bury and, in the time since her death, I have been thinking about both the Sunday Gospel and Elvia’s life, and how these intersected.

elvia bury

The Gospel reading is one of the most moving for me of the stories of healing by Jesus. The plight of the woman, the length of her suffering; the way Jesus notices her and then stops everything he is doing to speak healing into her life, so that she stands upright and is restored to dignity in community.

Elvia was 94 when she died, and she was full of years, having lived in so many ways an extraordinary life. I think she had much the same spirit that Jesus displays in the gospel. She was physically small and never wanted to draw attention to herself, yet she could be quite a formidable presence, fierce in the face of injustices such as lack of access to education or healthcare, and irresistible in her efforts to right these wrongs, efforts characterized by a gentle insistence on what needed to be done.

Our monastic community had just a few years at Volmoed to enjoy Elvia’s regular attendance at our Sunday Eucharists, but I am grateful for even that time. She was attentive to everything and took an interest in everyone. She extended great kindness to those who came across her path and responded out of deep compassion to those in need.

The full chapel at her memorial, with a considerable variety of people whose lives had been enriched by knowing her, was testament in itself to the ways in which Elvia Bury had helped so many stand upright.

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