Articles

Deborah Danner: A Remembrance

OCTOBER 31, 2016

My brothers and sisters,

The shooting death of Deborah Danner in New York City two weeks ago has occasioned profound grief for all who knew her, and for all those across our city who have been touched by the courageous story of this remarkable person, and of her senseless death. We have been made to look again at the stigma and fear with which our culture views mental illness, and at the isolation with which too many who suffer from mental illness live. We have also been made to look again (and again and again) at the urgent, infuriating pattern of the use of excessive force by the police, predominantly against people of color and in communities of color. Deborah's death brings together our grief at the death of a beloved sister of the Diocese of New York, and our outrage and insistence on justice for the pointlessness and needlessness of her killing. Black Lives Matter! Deborah's life, the worth of which she was continually made to defend, mattered.

Deborah was at different times affiliated with three different churches of our diocese and city: The Church of the Heavenly Rest, Trinity Parish Wall Street, and most recently, the Congregation of Saint Savior at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. I had the privilege of receiving Deborah into the Episcopal Church at Trinity Parish on the Feast of the Pentecost in 2013, and now in these last days have heard the mystified, sorrowful remembrances of clergy and people of the churches where she participated in our common life, and where she was loved. She is wonderfully remembered in each of the churches she attended, and not least for the courage she unfailingly displayed in living with, suffering with, and often, powerfully transcending and rising above her schizophrenia. She wrote of her life in the church: "I have found a strong support system in my church home dealings. They know I suffer and still accept me... They trust and support me, offer assistance financially and emotionally and bring me ever closer to a God who I know loves me."

Tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m., on All Saints' Day, a funeral service for Deborah will take place in the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine where the faithful will commend to God the life and soul of one whom God knew only as his beloved, brilliant, creative child. The saints triumphant rise in bright array! As your own congregations gather to celebrate All Hallows Day, tomorrow or on this coming Sunday, I commend Deborah, our sister, to your prayers at the altar of our God, and call us to a renewed, tireless commitment to racial justice, and to our advocacy for the most vulnerable among us.

The following poem which Deborah wrote at Trinity Parish has been shared with me. I share it with you:

Sunrise, pink and pale, pale red. . .
Shine across my narrow bed;
Sunrise soon to full rise be
Wakes me with a melody,
Lovely song and strings divine,
Sweet, sweet taste of apple wine.

I await the sting of time;
This will wake me for the day;
Do I await the time when I
Will the afternoon betray?

What's the moon's pretense now?
When the sunrise smiles and smiles,
I will with the sun enjoy
All the day and all the joy
Of a winter's morning light
Which will fade, but which now is bright.

In the peace and love of Christ, I remain

Yours,

Andy
The Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, Bishop of New York