The Rev. Robyn Arnold Funeral Homily – July 11, 2022

Mother Robyn was a sister, daughter, friend, professor, scientist, writer, ecologist, and priest but most importantly a beloved child of God. Robyn began early in life asking questions and usually wasn’t satisfied with the answers she was given. Her desire to learn and find answers quickly led her into becoming an avid reader and deeply committed to education, both as a student and a teacher.  Her quest to seek answers and improve the world led her into the sciences. Her first career choice focused on educational programs which were sustainable and had practical environmental benefits from natural resources for the impoverished and marginalized families in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Her pursuit to do and learn more resulted in a master’s degree in Physiology from Mississippi State and her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her degrees allowed her to focus on factors diseases had on healthy cells and their effects on tissues and organs. It was while earning her Ph.D. she followed the nudging of the Holy Spirit and to her surprise ended up a baptized Episcopalian at St. Andrew’s church in Birmingham. When she questioned how to reconcile her scientific knowledge to her spiritual awakening, a newfound love of High Church liturgy, and the weekly celebration of the Eucharist, she began a discernment process that led to her earning her Masters of Divinity. As our priest, her inquisitive nature continued as she tried hard to focus on the Father’s will and not her own for her people of Grace and the marginalized of Woodlawn. Working with many other community leaders she questioned how to make real systemic changes for those who came to Grace’s doors. She was often frustrated with the lack of answers on how to reveal Christ and his all-embracing love to the neighborhood and how to lead her parishioners into a deeper daily relationship with the Trinity. 

Although not always hitting the mark she tried to seek out God’s will for Grace Church and through Grace Church. She helped cook for the hungry at Community Kitchens and for years spiritually fed our neighbors who came to Grace’s food pantry. When presented with the need to shelter our freezing neighbors she assisted in starting Grace’s Warming Station. When she was physically able she helped provide shelter during the winter nights to the homeless and under-employed. She spent many hours researching and discussing ways to not only share Christ with the community children but provide opportunities for GraceWorks children to be the feet and hands of Christ in Woodlawn. She often shared GraceWorks struggles and successes with her family. She envisioned GraceWorks providing the children of Woodlawn a safe place to play together outside just as she did with her sister LeAnn, brother Mike, and cousins when she was a child. 

Although she regularly met the immediate needs of those who came to Grace’s doors, her true love was celebrating the Eucharist at Grace Church. She believed with all her heart Grace Church should and could provide a beautiful place for anyone and everyone to worship with high church liturgy in the celebration of all the Sacraments in the Anglo-Catholic traditions.

During Robyn’s ten years at Grace, she led us through many chapters of Grace’s history. Some were of growth, some were of pain, and many were full of joy.  Towards the end of Mother Robyn’s tenure, her health declined and her separation from Grace was a painful one for us and for her. But as she stated in many of her homilies over the years, through all our pains, changes, fears, and joys; God in Christ Jesus loves, forgives, and redeems all of us every second. We are made new with each breath we take. As Christians we belong to God and “by our very nature live in the space between this world and the one to come….the Kingdom as it is revealed in the community of believers and the Kingdom as it is present in heaven.”  

I think Robyn understood John’s words: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’” Rev. 21:3-4

John’s vision reminds us that God is with us always and God’s plan does not end with our physical death. As Easter people, our Risen Lord is our proof death is not the end but the beginning of our gathering with the Communion of Saints. As Christians, we believe as stated in the B
ook of Common Prayer (862),” By everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully knowing and loving God and each other.”

 I would like to end the sermon with some of Robyn’s own words from a homily she preached in 2018. “Whether or not eternity is the nearer presence of God will be like the heavenly experience John saw in his vision, I don’t know but I am confident that this life is not all there is. It is my hope to be reunited with those I love who have gone before and it is my belief that in a very real way they are present with us now,… I am confident that we are not abandoned. Our God revealed to us in Jesus Christ will be our constant companion in this life and the next.”  Amen.

The Rev. Kay Williams, Deacon