Remembering Rev Gary Wilburn
Friend, leader, pastor, compassionate giver
3/8/1943 to 6/28/2010
I met Gary at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canann, in Connecticut, where he
had been the pastor for over 12 years. I was there at Gary's invitation as the keynote speaker for
a TCPC Regional event. We had become friends over the telephone months before
we ever met. I knew I was going to like this guy the first time I heard him
laugh on the phone. His laugh was natural, easy and free. When we finally met
in person, I noticed that his beautiful smile was just an extension of that
laugh and I realized quickly it came from a big heart. It was clear to me that
this man exuded love. We talked at some length about ways that Gary could become more active with The Center
for Progressive Christianity, after his upcoming retirement, and I was very
excited about having him on the team.
It was only
a few weeks after my visit that I received an email from Gary explaining that he had ALS and that was
the main reason for his early retirement. He was adamant that he was going to
find a way to at least slow the progression down because he had a couple more
books to write. And most of all he wanted to do whatever he could do to help TCPC
get our message out. "I don't want to let you down," he said. And he never did.
He called, wrote and once flew a long distance to attend a planning meeting. He would have come to every one but he became
too weak to travel. But he never stopped writing. I had no idea what a deep
thinker and scholar he was until I started reading his books. He left us three
amazing books- The God I No Longer Believe In, Lots of Love, and
Lots of Hope- and one on the way- Faith, Love, and Hope: the Pillars of Progressive Christianity.
I had the
opportunity to talk to Gary
several times before if became too difficult for him to breathe and talk as his
lungs slowly closed down. However, in one of the last conversations that I had
with him, he gave me a beautiful, poetic description of the setting sun, the
rolling waves, and the warm sand that he was enjoying at that moment as he
stood in front of his little house in Baja, Mexico where he and his lovely
wife, Bev lived after his retirement. Even though he was struggling to
breathe, he cheerily said "God Fred, I am in one of the most beautiful places
in the world right now. I am one lucky S.O.B."
Gary was truly a lover of people and of
life and he lived that way right up to the end. His books continue to be some
of our best sellers and we still receive wonderful emails from folks thanking
us for introducing them to his work. Bev told me that he never stopped talking
about TCPC and the important work we were doing, right up to his last days. He
promised that his spirit would continue to be with us. He did not need to make
that promise. His spirit will always be with us and his example will lead
friend. You will be missed.
Yours in the Spirit and in Hope,
|Tributes to Gary
Many people wrote and shared their tributes to Gary. Take the time to read these and know that no energy is ever lost in the universe. His work will continue to inspire and guide us and those that come after us.
"...he had such a sense of urgency to share the loving message of an
inclusion and open faith. I am so glad to have met him." Rebecca
" He will never be replaced, but he is breathing and talking again. I will continue to pray for the work you (TCPC) are
doing. Keep the faith and please remember how much Gary believed in what you are doing and so
wanted to be a vital part or the work." Bev
"I had the opportunity to meet Gary at the strategic planning meeting a few years
ago. I was immediately touched by his sharp mind and vast heart. Gary's was a
big tent and, as such, he seemed to me the embodiment of the very core of
progressive Christianity. In the tradition of great leaders, he used himself up
in an earth-bound project that will outlast us all, but I feel like Gary left us
with an unforgettable and inspiring legacy with which to carry on. I think he
became missed as soon as he became ill but his remarkable will to contribute
never ceased and it is my sense that his guidance to our community will remain
"Though I never had the opportunity to meet him in person, I feel his impact deeply." Ian
"Gary stole my heart in about 2 minutes with his spirit filled eyes, his smile, and his passion. In the few years that I knew him, even though his health declined, he was always positive, strong, and vibrant. It is an honor to have known such a man and he is someone that will always inspire me." Deshna
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
- Matthew 5:3-9
Articles and More Thoughts
The Rev. Dr. Gary A. Wilburn quietly and peacefully passed
from the arms of his wife Bev and son Sean into the arms of God on June 28,
2010, at their home in Playa La Mision, Baja
California, Mexico. Born March 8, 1943, in Seattle,
was raised in Southern California. Throughout his three-year battle with Lou
Gehrig's Disease (ALS) Gary
insisted on living fully and with hope.
My Friend Gary, By Ken Watts
Last weekend, I attended the
memorial service of a
life-long friend. Gary Wilburn was a Presbyterian pastor. In these days of acrimony between religion and atheism, and between
one religion and another, it's good to remember that not all religion
has to be toxic or divisive, and that in the end it's the character of
individual human beings-and their individual spiritual journeys-which
matter most. My friend Gary is an example of this. The first sound that comes to mind when I think of Gary-among
fleeting images of kilts and beaches and margaritas-is his bark of a
laugh. His sudden explosive "HA!" that could fill the room, and then be gone
almost before you heard it. And then I remember how he enjoyed the conversation of his
friends-often in his own home: that center of community which he and his
wife Bev created together everywhere they lived. How he would listen with sheer pleasure to the give and take, the
flow of ideas. He most loved it when someone came up with a completely new
perspective, a way of looking at or thinking about something that put it
in a whole new light. His grin would stretch beyond its usual boundaries then, and his eyes
would sparkle with delight.
Heaven's New Coaches,By Michael
"I am struggling to climb out of a deep canyon of mourning and mortality as I
lament the loss of my friend, spiritual coach, and former Presbyterian pastor
Gary's spiritual pursuits were sparked by his life experiences--a recognition that we were all flawed and fallen but that within us, a divine
spark flickers and cannot be extinguished. His mission was to free that light
from its prison of self pursuit and self interest."
Town Recalls Former Pastor, By
Warner Depuy still remembers the first time he heard the
Rev. Dr. Gary Wilburn preach at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan. "I remember Gary
standing at the front of the church and opening his arms and saying that this
wasn't a Presbyterian table, it wasn't a Jewish table, it wasn't a Catholic
table, it was God's table," he said. "I remember thinking to myself, you've got
"My experience over the years - not as a preacher, but as a person
who gets up each day and tries his best to make some sense of it, and
some difference in it-
No suffering is too great to comforted.
No sorrow is too great to be consoled.
No slight is too personal to be forgiven.
No structure of a selfish society is too great to be converted.
No scourge of war, nor violation of human rights, nor destruction of
the earth is too devastating to be reversed by good people and the
solidarity of civilized nations banding together to work for justice in
order to live in peace."
~Gary A. Wilburn
Call Me by My
By: Thich Nhat Hanh
Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
Thank you for celebrating the incredible life and work of our friend Gary with us.
and the team at The Center for Progressive Christianity
253 303-0022- email@example.com|