I love Thomas McKenzie. He died on Monday.
I met Thomas years ago at The Rabbit Room’s conference. We hit it off immediately—for lots of reasons. We laughed so much, and connected easily over playful jibes and witty banter. He was funny. But there was much more to him than a great sense of humor.
Thomas was perhaps the best storyteller I have ever heard in person. Hilarious, poignant, with incredible energy and recall, his stories are seared into my memory. Whether during a sermon, or around Andrew Peterson’s campfire, huddled in the halls during a conference, or over fried chicken at McDougals, his stories were unforgettable. They varied from gut-bustingly hysterical to (literally) supernatural and sacred, and he delivered them with so much candor and ease, that you never wanted them to end. Many times I’ve asked him to tell a story “one more time” for a person who hadn’t yet heard it. Soon a group would gather as he bent to his tale, face illuminated by the bright fire.
Thomas was also a wonderful writer and wise guide when Gina and I were exploring the Anglican way of Christianity. Before his book on the subject was published, he acted as sounding board and source of information for me, delivered always with generosity and tenderness. We needed that, because we were tender in many ways and he engaged our hurt with the kind heart of a pastor.
At his church, where he celebrated and preached Christ, we felt more “home” than we ever had before in our spiritual life. We decided, with tears in our eyes and no idea how it would ever work out, that we were undeniably called by God to this faithful way of following Christ. It wasn’t only emotional, of course, and Thomas was available to answer hard questions. We didn’t always agree, and sometimes he frustrated me, and I him, intensely. That never stopped happening in this life. But he has been a quietly crucial character in the story of how our family’s faith has rooted and grown in astonishing and life-giving ways.
I loved him. I love him. I miss him. I will miss him. Until we see him once again, we will remember him with gratitude and praise to the God he loved and served.
Rest In Peace, Father Thomas.