Sad Day – Passing of Reverend Forrest Church

Personally this is very sad for me. Although I never met Rev. Church, he had a profound influence on my life. When I was early in college I saw an interview with him on the Sunday Morning show. He struck me as a caring, intelligent and open individual. A few days later I found one of his many books, I believe it was Everyday Miracles, on the shelf at a discount bookstore. Of course I had to pick it up, and the compassion and understanding were immediately evident to me – as was the human-ness. This was no holier-than-thou preacher, this was a man who understood weakness, fear, and struggles.

That was over 20 years ago. Over the years my beliefs have grown and deepened, but I could always find comfort in the timely message of this Yankee preacher I had never met. From watching his children grow to figuring out how to deal with the doubt and fear that surrounded the 9-1-1 attacks, his sermons and writings were consistently what was needed at the time. Amazingly sometimes, he was as a much a part of his flock as he was shepherd of them. Reverend Church was one of the ministers at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City for many, many years, and I always promised myself that I was going to get to one of his services someday or at least send him a letter expressing my gratitude for his writings. I should have followed through earlier, because now I will never get the chance.

The past three years Reverend Church had been struggling with cancer of the esophagus and liver, but those struggles ended yesterday, September 24, 2009. When he was originally diagnosed with cancer, he was given an estimated six months to live. He outlived that estimate by two and a half years during which time he published two books, saw his daughter married, gave a humanitarian award to former president Bill Clinton, and lived longer than both his father and grandfather.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 3rd, at All Souls in NYC. The official notice and memoriam from the UUA can be found at the UUA website.

A Few People To Know

I am sometimes asked who I listen to, read, watch, and such. I guess this is because I am not a television addict like a lot of people these days and so who I am can’t be quickly summed up by what I watch. So, in answer to this question, and because I really like these people, I thought I would give you some of my “people you should know.”

Lauri Anderson – A multi-media performance artist, musician, singer, and all around interesting person. I first became aware of probably more than a decade ago when she performed at the Spoleto Festival here in Charleston. I am not sure now what the name of the performance was, but most of it is on her Strange Angels CD. A couple of years ago she came back to the festival and did her performance of Moby Dick. There were some people who did appreciate it or didn’t “get” it, but my wife and I loved it. And now, this Spring, she is returning to Charleston again to perform her new show Homeland. I cannot wait!

So Help Me GodForrest Church – A theologian, author, father, and minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York. Unfortunately I have never gotten to hear him speak, but I own most of his books. His most recent work, So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State is an especially important piece in this time when a lot of America is debating the role of religion within government. Many of his earlier works are more personal and aimed and inner comfort and guidance. A great author and a good role model.

Jimmy Buffett – Most people will already know this singer, songwriter, and author. If not – shame on you! I am not sure how much an “influence” I can say he has been, but if you look at the CDs in my collection, the shirts in my closet, and the stickers on my car, then that has to say something. I have met him a couple of times and he really does seem to be a good guy – but also a workaholic.

Mitch Carnell, Jr. – My dad. Yes, it may seem a bit hackneyed to list my dad, but he really has been important. He helped to give me my love of writing (and unfortunately fine pens) and my open minded social attitudes. He may not always agree with me, but he has alway – even as a kid – supported my right to think my own thoughts. Additionally he used to tell me a lot about things like customer service when I was too young to even understand what he was talking about. And, as director of the Charleston Speech and Hearing Center and deacon of the church and PTA president and …., he taught me a lot about giving back to the community. So, as sad as it may be to admit, a lot of what I am and do today is due to him.

So, there you have a least a few influences. All totaled they are an odd and motley group. I would love to hear your opinions on these people and who might have influenced you. Lets hear it! I doubt that anyone out there is 100% self-made.