Occupation: Rector of Grace Church, Seattle
As a book lover, I tend to give titles to significant events. For instance, the Sunday I forgot my sermon text and had to improvise on the theme of the Holy Trinity, is titled The Naked and the Dead. You’ll understand in a moment why after the fact I titled the incident that occurred in my office last year as The Beginning of the End.
“Father, a minute of your time?” Adele Evans stood in the doorway wearing a maroon version of the pants suit that is her usual uniform. She was helping in the office today, one of the many volunteer services she provided.
I’d been enjoying a sardine sandwich and listening to the noon news. My mouth was full, so I motioned her in. It wouldn’t do to turn her away. She walked to an armchair across the room. Swallowing the last morsel of sandwich, I removed my feet from the desk and joined her.
“Father, we have an important matter to discuss.” She peered at me over the top of her reading glasses, pinioning me with her eyes. “Now, I’m sure you haven’t meant to be selfish in your use of the rectory provided you by the parish, but you must realize that it was built to house a large clerical family, not a single man.”
Uh-oh. I wasn’t sure I could talk my way out of this one. When Grace Church called me as rector, part of the compensation package included rent-free housing next door. I’d tried to be generous with the space, accommodating visiting clergy and ministry students in the extra bedrooms, and now Lester Jones, our new night sexton. I still tear up remembering how Lester fell to his knees at the doorway, thanking God for ending years of living on the streets.
That still left most of the second floor unused, because I’d remodeled the attic (at my own expense) for my quarters. The old fir walls and the splendid view of the Seattle skyline proved irresistible. I held informal meetings and receptions on the first floor, and enjoyed puttering in the kitchen, but my personal time was spent in the attic hideaway.
“So Mrs. Evans,” I said, “I’m sure you have something in mind. Whatever it is, you must know that the vestry will need to give its blessing.”
“Certainly, Father,” she parried. “I’ve made some preliminary inquiries and feel certain that the blessing will be forthcoming.” Her lipstick-free lips twitched.
“And what exactly is your idea?”
She picked up two presentation folders from the side table, handing one to me. The title said it all: The Grace Church Charity Thrift Shop and Community Outreach Office. She proposed that I move out of the rectory and into a nearby condo left to the church in a bequest. In addition to the shop on the first floor, the second would be converted to offices for the staff of our food bank (as well as one for herself). She allowed as how Lester could move up to the attic to provide security.
I was so mad I couldn’t think straight. Not that the idea didn’t have some merit, but for her to go behind my back like that was inexcusable. Choking on my words, I told her I’d see her at the vestry meeting and ushered her toward to door.
But no, she just had to have the last word. “Just one more thought, if I may. I realize that the condo is somewhat bland. Don’t you think that Mrs. Ferguson would be the perfect person to help with decorating? She has such a flair, and could help you make the space your very own.”
Mrs. Ferguson was Molly, the love of my life, a widow who’d just accepted my proposal of marriage. Although the news hadn’t been made public, our relationship was no secret. I translated Mrs. Evans’ comment to mean that having my own space would offer the necessary privacy for us to engage in…whatever we wanted to engage in. How dare she!
Here I was, just recovering from the events of the past few months, beginning with the death in the church’s memorial garden. After the person responsible had been brought to justice, we’d begun restoration of our tottering bell tower. Couldn’t she allow me a few days of contentment before causing a new disruption?
As it turned out, being evicted from the rectory was nothing compared to what happened afterwards, which, to my great sorrow, I had to title Death in the Old Rectory. Now, months later, my health and spirits have recovered and God willing, Molly and I will be married next week, by the Bishop no less. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Adele Evans is in no position to disrupt things right now.
Dear God, please let me get through the next week, and maybe our honeymoon, before there’s another disruption needing a new title.
Death in the Old Rectory is the second book in the “Grace Church” mystery series, published by Camel Press, February 2016.
Meet the author
Kathie Deviny turned to writing after a career as a “government bureaucrat.” She has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work.
Death in the Old Rectory is her second Grace Church mystery, following Death in the Memorial Garden. Her personal essays have appeared in the Seattle Times, Episcopal Life, Cure magazine and Bernie Siegel’s Faith, Hope and Healing.
Kathie is married to Paul Collins, an Episcopal priest, who retired as the rector of a parish in Seattle. She enjoys reading, gardening, and volunteering. She especially enjoys bargain hunting at local thrift shops. Paul and Kathie live near Santa Barbara and spend summers near her hometown of Olympia, WA.