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Pat McBryde, R.I.P.

2009 July 31
by Gordon Reid

Pat McBryde, one of my oldest friends has just died in Scotland. She and I met while she was a student at Glasgow University and I was at Edinburgh University. We were both members of our respective Universities’ Anglican Societies and met on a Retreat conducted by Bishop Francis Moncrieff of Glasgow & Galloway (as I mentioned in my post of June 15).

From then on, Pat and I were firm friends, and all the more so when she came to live in Edinburgh and work for the English Speaking Union, while I had returned to Edinburgh to be Rector of St Michael and All Saints Church. Pat became a member of my congregation at that time. She was a cradle Episcopalian from St John’s, Dumfries, while I had converted myself (with the help of the Lord and some very admirable Anglo-Catholic maiden ladies in Galashiels!) only at the age of eleven. When she felt like annoying me, she would refer disparagingly to “converts”!

But we both loved the Scottish Episcopal Church and its romantic history of persecution by wicked Presbyterians and almost equally wicked English Anglicans. And as we grew as members of that Church, we came to love it more and more, warts and all. Pat indeed went to work full-time for the Church by becoming Assistant Secretary General of the General Synod Office, the equivalent of church House, Westminster, or the American Episcopal Church offices in New York.

It was in this office that she made her mark on the Scottish Church. There was little that went on in the Church during the last few decades in which she was not involved. She knew every priest and bishop in Scotland and had a great influence with the younger clergy in finding them just the right posts. She also brought her sharp intelligence and special brand of humour to bear on all that was going on in the Church.

In the wider Anglican Communion, she represented the Scottish Church several times in international conferences, and made a great success of the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council when it was held in Dundee, as well as organizing many visits from Anglicans of other provinces. She and I enjoyed welcoming people to Edinburgh, as I remember we did for visitors such as Archbishop Ndungane of Cape Town and  Fr (now Archbishop) Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh.

Her faith was strong and sure and she was a solid Anglo-Catholic. She (like me) was, however, none too satisfied with the Biblical descriptions of Heaven, clouds and harps and crowns – ¬†though she had no problem with the incense. So when I preached a sermon on this and said I thought young people in particular would prefer metaphors of Heaven that were more active and exciting, such as the vast universe opened up in the best science-fiction, she was delighted. And the bit she liked best was when I insisted that even galactic adventures might pall, but that the main thing to emphasize in picturing the Kingdom of God was that there would be no satiety, that we would never be bored or satiated, but would continue to develop and grow and deepen. Being Pat, she came back to the Rectory for a gin and tonic and went immediately to my library for a dictionary and pounced on “satiety”, which I had pronounced “sashiety”. “I thought you were wrong, dear” she said sweetly; “It’s sa-tie-ety”.

Now she will be waking up into that new life, though she will need a rest from all the suffering she has had in the last few months. And when I get to the pearly gates, I fully expect her to be there, bursting to tell me what’s going on and who’s doing what. I only hope the good Lord arranges for the Times Crossword to be delivered to the Scottish Episcopal Mansion: Pat wouldn’t be Pat without that.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Ron permalink
    July 31, 2009

    What a lovely and lively person, Pat. I’ll never forget Thanksgiving in the Rectory with Pat, the gin and the turkey! RIP

  2. Martin Hogg permalink
    August 2, 2009

    Thank you for this lovely tribute to Pat, Gordon. She had a great sense of humour, she very often had a naughty twinkle in her eye, and she was a joy to work with on the Canons Committee when she was its Secretary. I shall miss her wit, kindness, and deep knowledge of the old ways. Martin

  3. Robin permalink
    August 2, 2009

    She made life worth living and General Synod bearable! Long after I first knew Pat, on visits to Dumfries I came to know her mother too – a wonderful character. She died at Whitsuntide some years ago, and I remember writing to Pat that now the voices of Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene would be joined by the guid Scots tongue of a Doon-Hamer. There will be another there now, in that “Land of incense, lace and gin / Where boredom never enters in”. May she pray for us, as we pray for her.

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