by The Reverend Sandy Webb
The photograph over my desk was that of a living legend. He served as a General Convention deputy longer than anyone else in memory – a veteran of 15 conventions by that point, with two more to go before he retired at age 95. Complex systems are hard to master, but this man was able to blend grace and force in a way that moved the Episcopal Church forward. He left the Church better than he found it.
I was 19 years old when I sat at the desk under that photograph. An undergraduate intern in the General Convention’s executive office, I knew virtually nothing. I was a worship planner who had never planned worship. I was a clerk who did not understand the legislation. I was a witness to history who did not comprehend the significance of the moment. Every experience was new, every task a challenge. Yet, I was filled with aspirations, and I was seated beneath one of the greats.
I do not remember the first time I met Charles Crump in person, but I encountered him for the first time in New York: The man in the photograph, and the boy at the desk. Charles Crump, Holy Communion’s first senior warden, was a “churchman” in the best sense of the phrase. He was part of the steady-handed generation of leaders that inspired me and so many others in the early days of our careers.
In its only 65 years of existence, Church of the Holy Communion has shared a remarkable number of its churchmen with the wider Episcopal community. The Reverend Reynolds Cheney, our third rector, was also recognized as a “senior deputy” and was tapped to chair several church-wide commissions. The Reverend Eric Greenwood, our first rector, was a named editor of The Hymnal 1982. There have been many others.
Nearly two years ago, I came to serve the church that Mr. Crump worked so hard to establish, and to sit in the chair once occupied by Fr. Cheney and Dr. Greenwood. Every church stands on the foundation that was laid by the saints of its past; Holy Communion’s foundation is as firm as any.
I grew into my adulthood directing worship for the General Convention, and I will do so for the fifth time this summer. I no longer have pictures of great churchmen and churchwomen over my desk, but they do linger near my heart. Their legacies remind me that we are but the current generation of the communion of saints, that we are part of a denominational family that is worthy of our service, and that we are destined to do unimaginable things with God’s help and for God’s glory.