January 10, 2024
We were all saddened to learn of the passing of Coy Temples this past week. As I mentioned in Worship, he was a remarkable scholar, veteran, barrister, judge, presbyter and friend. My memories of him hail from 10-15 years ago, long before his lengthy decline. Truth be told, I prefer it that way. Our sympathies and prayers rest with his family.
Whenever a figure like Coy departs the earthly stage, I am reminded of the many remarkable folk I have had the pleasure of knowing as pastor. One such was Col. Joseph Mayton. He came to the U.S. from Russia early in the 20th Century to study for the Czar’s Diplomatic Service. After the Russian Revolution he literally became a man without a country and decided to make a career in the U.S. Army. To say that it was distinguished would be an understatement. Col. Mayton served as the translator for President Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference and I have seen pictures of him with the President on occasional display at the Little White House in Warm Springs, GA.
Of course, I knew him only in his later years. He was a faithful member of my Atlanta congregation and had the distinction of standing whenever I read the Gospel Lesson. Folk told me that he had been doing it ever since he joined the church and no one knew why. Churches are sometimes loathe to solve the mysteries of personal eccentricities.
I finally could stand it no longer and made it a point to sit next to him at a fellowship lunch. There, I asked him the reason for his action. “Well, dear Pastor, it is like this: I have spent the vast majority of my life as a servant to remarkable men; the Czar of Russia, officers in the Army, and the President of the United States. During all that time whenever my superior spoke to me I stood at attention. If I did so for them, why should I not do so for my Greatest Superior? To fail to do so would seem to be the greatest disrespect, bordering on blasphemy.”
At his request, I did not share his reasoning until I conducted his funeral. Then, when we came to the reading of the Gospel Lesson, a strange thing happened. I announced the reading as the Gospel of our Lord Jesus and the entire congregation stood without prompting. It just happened naturally and smoothly as if they had been doing it for decades. Oddly enough, they continued that tradition for the remainder of their life as a congregation.
Some folk have that effect upon us. They do things out of goodness and leave an effect which cannot be explained other than by God’s grace. Coy Temples was one of those, like Col. Mayton. We are better for having had them in our midst and their effect will last long beyond their days.
For them and those like them, “Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon them. May they rest in peace in rise in glory. Amen.”
I bid you peace!