On Thursday my husband and I attended a funeral.
It was the funeral of Brian Edwin Sara, friend, much-loved brother in the Lord and member of St Andrew’s Anglican Church South Brisbane. The church was packed, as family members, parishioners, friends and representatives of the scouting movement and Brian’s tenpin bowling club gathered to honour Brian and thank God for his long and fruitful life. The service was conducted by Rev Alan Moore (Rector) and Rev Ian McGrath (Associate Minister).
In my Bible reading on Friday (the following day), I read about Jacob’s death, funeral and burial (Genesis 49:29 – 50:14). Knowing my God and how He works, I shouldn’t be surprised that this was the set reading for the day. In the commentary on the passage, I read that John Wesley said (of Christians): “Our people know how to die well”.
Brian Sara, like Jacob, “breathed his last and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33). Brian’s was a good death. He was ready to meet his maker, so he had nothing to fear. For Brian Sara, a Christian, saved by grace, death had lost its sting.
Nevertheless, those of us who remain have to come to terms with our loss.
As I reflect on Brian Sara’s life, his contribution to St Andrew’s, and the friendship we shared, I realise just how much I will miss him. I know that many others will miss Brian too. I am just one person.
For the past 3 years, my husband and I have coordinated the pastoral care of members of our 8.30 am Sunday congregation at St Andrew’s. During this time Brian and his wife Dorothy have been valued members of our pastoral care team. They faithfully followed up and provided a ministry of care to many of our people, and Brian will be sorely missed by those he cared for. Without fail, Brian would provide us with a detailed monthly report of his contacts. He was so dedicated, so diligent. It will be hard for us to find another “Brian”. Clearly, Brian had a pastor’s heart.
Brian Sara loved people. He remembered people’s faces and names. And he remembered things about the people he met. It was a God-given gift. I met Brian when he welcomed me to St Andrew’s in 2003. Ever since I’ve been at St Andrew’s, Brian has been a member of the 8.30 am Sunday service welcoming team.
More recently Brian assisted me as part of the Newcomer Welcoming Evenings ministry team. From 2012 to 2016 (for 5 years) he was committed to this activity and never missed an evening. Brian loved meeting new folk, helping them feel welcome and part of St Andrew’s. In Brian’s opinion, this was an important ministry.
Not only did Brian love people, but he also loved studying the Bible. In 2004, Brian took over as leader of the Tuesdays Together No.2 Bible Study group. It meets fortnightly in the homes of various members of the group. Brian was very proud of this group and his contribution to it. He used to tell me often about the studies, and what he had been learning. I’m sure members of this long-running group will miss him greatly.
For about 16 years Brian coordinated St Andrew’s Seekers. It comprises members of the 8.30 am and 10.30 am Sunday congregations who meet socially, to enjoy each other’s company, establish friendships, share fellowship and grow as members of God’s family.
I wonder how many folk at St Andrew’s are aware just how much Brian Sara contributed to St Andrew’s over the years.
I have mentioned a number of things already. Here are a few more.
Brian was a churchwarden (member of the Parish Council executive) for 11 years, from 2001 to 2011. The only reason he didn’t stand in 2012 was that he was well over 70 and he was not allowed to (under Diocesan rules)! During the last 3 years of Brian’s service as churchwarden (2009-2011), I was a churchwarden too and I worked with him. In this capacity, I got to know Brian well and we had a great working relationship.
One role we shared, even when Brian ceased to be a churchwarden, was managing the church rental property. In this I will miss Brian’s practical assistance and advice. Just a few months ago, together we met with the tenants and inspected the Beaconsfield Street property and grounds.
Another important and practical role Brian fulfilled, from 2003 to 2013 (11 years), was parish Maintenance Coordinator. Until the appointment of a Senior Verger (in 2014), Brian looked after the day-to-day maintenance and repair of the church properties in a voluntary capacity. In this role Brian helped our rector considerably, as he took responsibility for contacting and liaising with tradespersons and service providers. Brian gave many man-hours to this role. He was always so generous with his time and expertise.
Similarly, over many years Brian organized (or co-organized) St Andrew’s monthly working bees. He encouraged us by his words and example to care for and take pride in our church property and grounds. At 82 years of age his energy and enthusiasm for this had not waned, and he was still doing so in 2016.
Brian was a liturgical assistant. This means he was licenced by the Archbishop to assist in administering communion and helping the clergy lead prayer and worship services. Brian regularly assisted in 8.30 am Sunday services. In fact, he perform this duty, as rostered, on the Sunday before he died. As a liturgical assistant, Brian was also on a roster to lead memorial services each month in the Chapel of Remembrance. The church’s columbarium, which Brian looked after for many years on behalf of the parish, is located in the chapel.
Brian and Dorothy helped in the church office in a voluntary capacity a couple of times each week. Brian assisted Rev Alan Moore in maintaining the church rolls (a Monday morning job), and on Friday mornings Brian and Dorothy came into the office to fold the church pew bulletins in readiness for Sunday services.
Many may not know, but Brian Sara was a member of the team who developed the St Andrew’s Mission Action Plan in 2009. As a key church leader he also helped to implement the plan. Again, in 2014, he contributed significantly to the development of the current 2020 Church Plan. As well as being a man of action, Brian was a forward-looking person, someone open to change and renewal. In 2016, at 82, Brian was still an active member of Parish Council and strongly committed to the mission and vision of St Andrew’s. I will miss him dearly in this capacity.
On a personal note, Brian always showed genuine interest in me, my husband and family. I know that Brian loved to read the stories (like this one) I write and post on my website. He was one of my regular followers. He often spoke to me about my stories, and shared some of his own, which encouraged me greatly. This is the Brian I knew. He was a keen supporter and confidant, a dear friend.
Just last year, when Tony and I hosted “Songs of Praise at the Saleciches” for clients of the Henderson Day Respite Centre, Brian and Dorothy (who sings beautifully) joined us. By their presence and active participation, they helped make this event a special occasion for us and our elderly guests.
Clearly, Brian Sara lived a full and blessed life and served his Lord and Saviour faithfully and diligently to the very end. How wonderful is that!
What an example to those of us who remain. As we recall Brian Sara’s love for people and love for his Lord, we are comforted and our tears subside. Our hearts swell with pride and overflow with joy and thankfulness for one of our people who is now “with the Lord”.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.”
(Psalm 116:15, NIV)