Gary Redcliffe

redcliffe photoDear friends,

The Emmanuel College community is greatly saddened by the sudden death of Gary Redcliffe on November 12, from a brain aneurysm. Gary was Emmanuel's professor of Pastoral Theology from 1986 until his retirement in 2007, and during that time also served for many years as Director of Basic Degree Studies. He was a dedicated and devoted friend, colleague, teacher, and pastor.

From the memorial service in remembrance and celebration for the life of The Rev. Dr. Gary L. Redcliffe, November 17, 2010, Eastminster United Church, Toronto:

Opening Prayer

Gracious God of life and death,
and life beyond death:
you give us life,
and you walk with us this path,
even into the valley of death.
We praise you for your abiding faithfulness,
for your partnership in our pilgrimage.
Even as we gather with hearts made heavy by Gary’s dying,
we give you thanks for his living.
And so we praise you and bring before you
our lamentation and our celebration,
our grief and our laughter,
our songs and our sighing.
We bring all this, and more,
confident that you who ordered the heavens and the earth
can make of all this a new heaven and new earth;
that, you who have shown us new life in Jesus,
will make of this life a new creation;
and that, you, who comforts and heals and frees,
will, by the power of your Holy Spirit,
bear us up and lead us on.
This we pray in the name of Risen One
who lived and died and lives again.

William S. Kervin
Associate Professor of Public Worship

Remembering Gary Redcliffe

Ever since the news of Gary’s death began circulating Friday afternoon, people who studied and worked with him have been sharing not only their shock and sense of loss, but also their stories about how important Gary was to them. Some of these stories have come from people in Toronto or nearby in southern Ontario, but others have come from Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Fort McMurray, and Vancouver. It is no exaggeration to say that Gary was admired, respected, and loved by people all over Canada.

Gary was professor of pastoral theology at Emmanuel College from 1986 until his retirement in 2007; during that time he also served the college and the Toronto School of Theology on too many committees to count, but perhaps most importantly as Emmanuel’s Director of Basic Degree Studies and as coordinator of a major curriculum review. After his retirement, he continued to teach some courses and was the link between the college and a congregationally-based pastoral education program in the United Church’s Bay of Quinte Conference.

To his former students, Gary was a kind and caring teacher, committed to them and their learning. He had a big heart, a great smile, and, quite possibly, an even greater laugh. He was firmly grounded in his faith in God, and had a gift for pastoral wisdom. One former student recalls especially how, when she was about to graduate and be ordained and told Gary about her lack of confidence, he reassured her in her vocation. Over his twenty-one years at Emmanuel, Gary taught, encouraged, supported, and inspired a generation of ministers and teachers.

I first met Gary about fifteen years ago, at a meeting in Saskatoon, but I got to work with him at Emmanuel for only six years. He was a good friend and wise mentor to all newer faculty members at Emmanuel, and he certainly was to me. Among the things he and I shared was an abiding appreciation for the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival. To all of his colleagues he was a loyal friend who loved a good conversation and, sometimes, a good argument. A former ministry colleague describes Gary in a way that his Emmanuel colleagues can echo: he had a wonderful way of commiserating and sharing hope at the same time. He was passionately committed to the United Church and to education in service of the church’s work. He never backed away from the hard work of transforming institutions, and more often than not he was the one leading the charge. Through his own teaching he shaped a generation of ministers and teachers, and he continues to shape even more through his enduring but less-visible work in revitalizing Emmanuel’s educational programs.

Above all, though, we loved the guy. On behalf of Principal Mark Toulouse, who can’t be here today because he is in China, and on behalf of the whole Emmanuel College community – students and colleagues, past and present – we are saddened by Gary’s death, but are deeply grateful for having been able to learn, work, and laugh with him.

Michael Bourgeois
Vice-Principal and Associate Professor of Theology

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