Publisher’s Note: On the one-year anniversary of the passing of Jamie Kelly, Pastor Brian Marsh remembers Jamie with this poem. See the Memorial Service Meditation (blog) below written and delivered by Brian Marsh on August 7, 2014.
(in memory of my dear, departed friend and Missoula treasure, Jamie Kelly)
poking our senses
prodding our spirits
remembering his rhythmic
missing his melodic
Brian Marsh, Memorial Service Meditation
First Presbyterian Church Missoula, 15 August, 2014
‘It says the Word was in the beginning, and that’s right. I used to think water was first, but if you listen carefully you will hear that the words are underneath the water.’
It all began as a date with a writer.
Norman Maclean, that is. The writer of the words I just wrote above.
It was October 11th, 2009. The centennial celebration of the arrival of the Maclean family to Missoula was happening here at the church. Jamie had been assigned by the Missoulian to cover the event. He told me later that even if he hadn’t been assigned the job, he would have requested it because of his love of Maclean’s writing.
After the dedication of the beautiful polished granite monument at the front of the sanctuary and a powerful series of readings (including one from Norman’s seminal work, A River Runs Through It, by his son, John), Jamie went about talking to people and getting quotes for his story.
One of those people he needed to talk to was me, one of the host pastors at the time.
After getting something he could use as a sound bite, I mentioned to him that I had read his column, ‘Fatuous Twaddle’, with a lot of interest and laughter (anyone who would retitle Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ as ‘Lethal Weapon V’ had my immediate adoration and intrigue). I also remembered him mentioning that he was a jazz pianist. His eyes lit up and his head tilted slightly to the right and he said, ‘Oh YEAH?’ And before I knew it, I was thrust into a whirlwind of a mile-per-minute conversation, with topics ranging from our common love of Pat Metheny (and particularly his song ‘The First Circle’, which contains a piano solo by Lyle Mays that Jamie informed me was ‘the most perfect piano solo ever recorded’) to the movie ‘Life of Brian’ and all things Monty Python to the genius of Spinal Tap. (When I told him that once, as a last-minute substitute pianist for a worship service, I needed something quiet to play during the offering, and all I could think of to play was the little riff that Nigel Tufnel of Tap wrote in D minor – which, as we all know is the saddest of all keys – that sounds delicate and lovely, but is actually called ‘Lick My Love Pump’, he exploded with a laughter that rattled the windows of the Fellowship Hall.) And in that moment, I realized that I had been given the gift of a kindred, irreverent spirit, a true friend.
i’m a wanderer and a wonderer. a percussive and paradoxical pastor who exists happily (and hope-full-y) at the intersection of doubt and faith. journeying with my unique and special family (my wife, Kirsten, and sons, Ian and Trevor) whilst temporarily splitting my time between two unique and beautiful places (Missoula, Montana and Ukiah, California). restless and lazy, usually amazed, always in process, i’m continually surprised and usually delighted at discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, the ‘sacred’ in the ‘secular’, the shafts of light that sneak into the shrouds of darkness. i drum decently, surf poorly, love multicultural food, music, and community, and living in the ‘Zoo.