Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

 

Father Ambuske memorial service
Holy Cross Anglican Church, Webster, NY

 

Let us pray: I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.

 

The words of this prayer have deep meaning for all who hear them. They have enormous power for those who hear them for the first time, for the thousandth time, and for the last time. Those words are eternal. Those words include the truth of our faith. Those words are known with absolute certainty by those who pass to eternal life.

 

We are gathered today as the people of God to celebrate and remember the life of Father David Ambuske of blessed memory. Father Ambuske ministered in this place for nearly thirty-four years. That is a remarkable amount of time. Few clergymen serve any one parish for that amount of time. Few priests serve thirty-four years in parish ministry.

 

During his long ministry, he celebrated Mass at this altar thousands of times. In this holy place, he marked out the spiritual moments in the lives of God's people: the baptisms, the weddings, the confirmations, the funerals. He consecrated the bread and wine, the spiritual food of God's people. He performed all the required rites of God's holy church. He was a priest of God, a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

 

A priest is required to perform many functions, to do many particular things in the service of God's church. He must be a man of prayer. But above even that, he must be faithful to his calling, a calling issued by God to those He specifically ordains to serve His church is a sacramental way. A priest of God must, above all things, be faithful.

 

There are priests who are great theologians. We admire them for their learning. There are others who are excellent teachers. And we look to them to instruct us accurately in the faith of Christ crucified. Still others are wonderful pastors, humble men who serve God's people quietly and with a generous spirit. Some priests, indeed, are excellent administrators; they keep the church on track in many ways. And some as well are called to be monks, devoting their lives to prayer.

 

God calls each clergyman because of his unique gifts, just as God calls each of us to serve in very individual ways. And God honors our contributions, however simple or profound they may be. If they are given in a spirit of love and forgiveness, they are valued and honored by God. But there is one gift that God values above all others, and that is the gift of faithfulness.

 

Father Dave was faithful to his calling, right to the end. Shortly after he died, his wife, Linda, told me that, just before he died, he reached for his Bible. There was nothing unusual about that fact, but he often didn't read his Bible at that particular time of day. David and Linda had been married for a long time, long enough to know each others' routines very well. Shortly afterwards, Linda left the room briefly. Just a few minutes later, when she returned, Father Dave had gone to his Father in heaven.

 

Father David Ambuske was a priest in the Diocese of the Northeast for many years. He was one of the first priests to serve this diocese, as well as the Anglican Church in America. I knew him for just a few years. But I came to like and respect him. He took his responsibilities very seriously. He was, after all, a Jesuit, a soldier of Christ. A Jesuit must train for many years; he must become a very learned man, as well as a man of prayer. The formation of a Jesuit is arduous in the extreme.

 

There were things we knew about Father Dave. Then, there were things we did not know. He was not the kind of man who advertised his gifts or achievements. But one of the profound and deeply moving things I have learned about Father Dave was his association with a camp called "Camp Good Days and Special Times." Father Dave served that camp for many years, offering counselling and pastoral support for the very special campers who attend this camp. The campers, in case you do not know, are children with cancer, many of whom are terminally ill.

 

I first learned of Father Dave's association with this camp when I received a phone call. It was a Saturday evening. I was in Maine on a church visit. A priest was driving me back to the rectory after we had shared dinner. When I answered my cell phone that evening, a voice on the other end of the line said to me: "Bishop, I want to read you something. This is the most moving memorial I have ever read."

 

I listened as the voice of a good and dear friend read this memorial to Father David Ambuske. It had been written by a father whose young daughter had attended Camp Good Days and Special Times. The letter spoke of the strong ministry that Father Dave had provided to those children and their families. The letter was so powerful in its witness and expression, that my friend became moved to tears when he read it to me. And tears began rolling down my own cheeks. The priest who was driving me back to the rectory...well, he had not heard the letter being read, and he became alarmed. Fearing that I must have received devastating news, he looked at me in alarm and asked, "Bishop, are you all right?" I assured him that I was and listened to the rest of the letter.

 

Many of you have probably seen that letter. Some of you may even be tempted to quote from it. And I hope you do. Or, if not, that the letter be shared with everyone.

 

But I cannot think of a better way to close this short memorial with a quote from that letter. The final paragraph says so much about a good and faithful priest and the lives he touched. Here it is: "The loss of Father Dave will be a huge void, one that will be very difficult, if not impossible to fill. I am so deeply saddened and my heart is broken, but I take comfort in knowing that the memories I have of David and the example he always set of kindness and compassion will remain with me forever. Father Dave walked the walk and he did God's work here on earth. All of us whose lives he touched will be forever grateful for having had the blessing of knowing him."

 

Let us pray: Remember thy servant O Lord, according to the favour which thou bearest unto thy people, and grant that, increasing in knowledge and love of thee, he may go from strength to strength, in the life of perfect service, in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.