The Rev. Everett W. Francis, a long time resident at Buckingham’s Choice, Adamstown
Md., and onetime rector of St. Luke's Scranton (1977-92) died Saturday, March 19. After retirement from St. Luke's, he served also as interim at St. Paul's Montrose and the Episcopal Ministry of Unity, Palmerton/Lehighton.
He was born in 1927 in Taylor, Pa., graduated from high school in Wilmington, De. and then joined the Naval ROTC program and graduated from Duke Univ. in 1946.
After service in the Navy, Fr. Francis married Gale Gibson and they had five children:
Deborah (deceased) Jesse of Chico, Ca., David (deceased), Elizabeth of Glen Burnie
Md., and Abigail of Mt. Laurel, Nj. He is further survived by three grandchildren; Andrew
and Nicholas Baumgartner and Jillian Floyd and two great-grandchildren; Isabel and
Fr. Francis was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1955 after study at The General
Theological Seminary. He served as a parish priest in Dearborn Heights, Mi. for nine
years and then worked on the staff of the Bishop of Michigan. In 1967, he joined the
staff of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in NYC. As Pubic Affairs Officer,
represented the Episcopal Church in Washington DC.
In 1977, Fr. Francis returned to parish ministry in Scranton Pa.. There he participated in
a renewal of the downtown community, renovating the church building and revitalizing
the church community.
Upon retirement to New Milford, Pa. in 1992, he developed his longtime interest in fly
fishing. Since coming to BC, he has learned and enjoyed the streams of the region.
While at Buckingham’s Choice, Fr. Francis served on the BC Residents Association
Board and chaired the Social Services Committee. During this time, he assisted at the
All Saints Episcopal Church and did supply work at various churches in the Diocese of
A memorial service will be celebrated on April 2nd at 11am at Buckingham Choice. In
lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Episcopal Relief and Development or
Residents Assistance Fund at Buckingham’s Choice.
[After his retirement from St. Luke's Scranton, Father Everett Francis served as interim at St. Paul's Montrose and the Episcopal Ministry of Unity, Palmerton/Lehighton. What follows is an edited version of a sermon he preached in January 1998 while serving at the Episcopal Ministry of Unity.]
Working for Civil Rights and Human Dignity
IT'S A STORY ABOUT ORDINARY PEOPLE
By Everett Francis [Diocesan Life, Feb.1999]
In January we observed Martin Luther King's birthday. I hold him, and our church presents him, as one of the great heroes of the Christian faith. He was a great leader in our country and the world.
Martin had faults, he was all too human. Even so, he had a vision of the kingdom, the tongue of a prophet, and the organizing ability and charisma to mobilize people for justice.
I first heard Martin speak in person in Brown's Chapel in Selma, Alabama. It was on the Monday of the first week of Lent. The day before, I had preached on the Epistle which included the statement of Paul, "in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in distress, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults" (2 Cor. 6).
I mentioned that Paul witnessed to the oneness of all people even though beaten and imprisoned for his faithful action, and that we Christians were to witness to the unity of all people in our own day.
That night on TV, my wife Gale and I saw fire hoses, dogs and night sticks unleashed on black young people in Selma who were conducting a voting registration drive. It was a sorry sight.
The next day, at the Diocesan Office (Diocese of Michigan) where I was then working, a call came in from our Presiding Bishop's office. It requested people to go to Selma because they expected more violence from the police.
The hope was that if white Christians were to stand with the black people it might avert more violence, or at least be a sign of support and care from white Christians and citizens as a witness to our faith in the unity of all people.
As we discussed it, it seemed as if the bishop and my colleagues - and God - were looking at me. I remembered what I had preached the day before. I thought of Gale and the children. The oldest was in her first year in high school. Abby was a baby and there were three precious ones in between.
I talked with Gale on the phone. We had had many conversations about the general subject of human rights and justice. She said she would support me in whatever decision I made.
So by early afternoon I was off, trusting I would get a toothbrush and find a way to wash my shirt and underwear. Many others came, and that night I found myself standing in the packed Brown's Chapel for a three-hour meeting. Never have I heard the Gospel preached so straight-forwardly, powerfully and practically. Never have I heard such understanding, commitment and love for the principles of our country than that night.
The next day, we assembled and marched from the Chapel across the bridge to the highway leading to Montgomery where we turned around and returned. The actual March to Montgomery took place several weeks later after the logistics for such an undertaking were worked out. We were the ones who told the state and federal government there was no holding down the movement for justice among the downtrodden black people, and the support of many other citizens for their hope.
I tell this story as a witness to Martin Luther King and the black people of this nation for their patience and perseverance. I wouldn't have done anything but sit and watch it on TV if it hadn't been for him and them.
Their nonviolent witness invited others into the movement of God for "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The battle isn't over. There is still racism. The heritage of slavery and past injustices is still with us. Unemployment and underemployment of blacks. Anger and resentment or apathy and indolence are increasing among minority communities. There is still poverty and oppression; there are still those who trust in violence and bully others. There are still those who deny women their rights.
We would be unfair to Martin if we were to say he didn't make much difference. Considering where we were, we have come a long way. We would miss his witness if we were to celebrate what he did and continue on tomorrow as today. Considering where we have to go, we have barely begun.
Martin tells those of us who have the power of status, money, force or position that it is not enough for us to say, "Be patient, it takes time."
He inspires us to respond to the basic human needs all around us.
We are either part of the solution, or we become part of the problem. To the extent that we do not work to bring justice and fairness to the weak, the outcasts, the marginal people of the world, we sow the seeds of future violence. Behind the events of the day, there is a righteous God working to bring freedom, justice and a good life.
Praise God for the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. May his dream be our dream. May his way be our way.
"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land. And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. I still believe that we shall overcome."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.