“The Radical Nature of God’s Love”: Words from Rev. Rosemary Mitchell | Stephen Basdeo

Those who have followed this website over the past few months will know that I lost someone very special to me recently: My PhD supervisor, the Reverend Rosemary Mitchell.

I’ve already written a brief overview of her life and work in another post, but I was unable to attend her funeral as circumstances prevented me. I have only just bucked up the courage to say my final, ‘virtual’ goodbye to Rosemary via the recorded service that the good people at St Peter’s Church have provided. The funeral was held at the aforementioned St Peter’s Church, Rawdon, on 22 October. Heartfelt readings were delivered by Rosemary’s Leeds Trinity colleague Rev. Dr. Jane de Gay, and of course a reading by one of my best friends Dr Josh Poklad (another of Rosemary’s students).

One of my favourite pictures of my PhD supervisor and, later, friend, Rosemary Mitchell.

Rosemary planned much of the funeral herself, choosing the hymns and the poetry readings. Among the poetry readings was John Donne’s Death, Be Not Proud:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

However, the organisers of Rosemary’s funeral also wanted some of her own ‘voice’ to come through in the readings, and among the readings were also some of Rosemary’s own theological reflections, designed to give comfort to all who knew her (a large, worldwide community, indicated by her obituary in the Guardian).

My own thoughts, while listening to the service, were drawn to these words of Rosemary’s, which not only symbolised her own faith and her own view of God, but are indicative of how she lived her own Christian life as well—full of warmth, non-judgmental, yet willing to give you a kick up the backside or a reprimand if needed.

But let me allow Rosemary to speak for herself:

The radical nature of God’s love is that he brings joy, not happiness; love, not kindness; peace, not the absence of war; justice, not laws; truth, not facts; mercy, not toleration; this is not about keeping rules but transforming lives. And this is a challenge not just to us but the structures of the world in which we live, and which we’re called upon to change, little by little, by the reality of our Christian lives—windows, through which we let the light of God shine, more and more…what a joy it is to be a window!

——Rosemary Mitchell

Rosemary is sorely missed by all nineteenth century historians, literary critics, and her church community. But more than this, she is missed, and will continue to be so, by all people whose world she changed.