at some point (thinking ahead, thinking back)…

William John Abernathy

On this first day of August, I think six days ahead to August 7, which, if my father, William John Abernathy, were alive, would be his 106th birthday. In thinking ahead, I think of him, which, at some point, I do every day.

His was a circuitous story of the quest for identity. (Thus, is mine. Truly, I am the fruit of his existentialist seed…need.) His life’s chronicle is laden with half-written chapters and missing, irreplaceable and irreclaimable, pages, which he, to the extent that he knew, for much of his life, sought to conceal. (Why? I don’t know. Disappointment? Anger? Despair? All this and more?)

Whilst I live, my days are darkened by shadows, within and without; my gossamer, ghostly imaginings of all I wish I knew, but do not, cannot know. (This lack, perhaps, explains why I alway have loved history.) What little I have are the sketchiest details, discovered, after my father’s death on April 27, 1996, among a cache of unlabeled papers and undated photographs.

This is a part of what I (think I) know…

Pedro Silva, paternal grandfather

My grandfather, my father’s father was Pedro Silva, born at some point in the late 19th century in Santiago de Cuba. At some point, Pedro migrated to the United States. At some point, he changed his surname to DeLacey (perhaps, and this is only my surmise, “Silva”, whether spoken or written, was a barrier to American assimilation, at least, as much as possible as that might have been)…

Edith Blondell Abernathy, paternal grandmother

At some point and somewhere, Pedro met and married Edith Abernathy. Their union bore two children, my father and his younger sister, my aunt, Benita… Dad and Aunt Benita (Becky)


At some point and from somewhere, the family moved to Portland, Oregon…

At some point, Pedro and Edith died…

William Henry Abernathy, paternal great-grandfatherAt some point, Edith’s father, my paternal great-grandfather, William Henry, adopted my father and my aunt, declaring, in so many words, “Those who dwell under my roof will bear my name”, and changing their surnames to Abernathy.[1] 

There is much that I do know about my father from the time of my birth to his death. Today, one thought dominates. My father was plagued by an abiding, angering melancholia that nothing – not his faithful love of his wife, my mother, Lolita, not his dutiful devotion to the care and provision for his family, not his ardent patriotism, not his loyalty to the church, not his daily prayer and Bible study, not his artful mastery of avocations as diverse as model railroading and photography, not, in his darkest moments, his alcoholic binges and the pseudo-cathartic raging that always followed, nothing – could ease, much less exorcise. His quest for his identity – his longing to know and, in that knowing, to be comforted with who he was and where he belonged – ne’er came to a restful place in this world.

So, it is that I, at some point during every day for the past 21+ years since my father’s death, have prayed his peace:

Dad, in the loving presence of God, your story is complete.

You are complete.

Love, Paul



[1] This occurred at some point in my father’s 11th or 12th year, for the inscription on the inside cover of his Book of Common Prayer (1892) reads: To William DeLacey – Because you have been so loyal and faithful as “cross bearer” I am exceedingly proud of you and I know all the members of the congregation of St. Phillip’s (the Deacon Episcopal Church) feel the same. Clarence Porter, Lay Reader, Christmas 1922

coming together

Advent, the opening season of the Western church year, from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming”, focuses on spiritual preparation for the Christmas celebration of Jesus’ nativity and, as he already has come in his birth in Bethlehem some two millennia ago, for his second coming at the end of time and, until that time, for his daily coming to human minds and hearts and souls through the leading and guiding inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

On the past four Wednesdays, the people and clergy of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Clinton, SC, and Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC,

alternating from place all-saints-episcopal-church-clinton-sc

to place epiphany-laurens-sc-facade

gathered to share supper, scripture study, and prayer.


The Bible study model we employed, known as “African” or “Lambeth”, [1] called us to read the selected passage three times,[2] in turn, asking:


What words or phrases catch your attention?



Where does the passage touch your life today?  advent-program-all-saints-clinton-12-14-16


Through this passage, how may God be inviting you to change – to do something different or to be someone different?



(Additionally, to assure the creation and maintenance of a secure space for individuals to share their thoughts and feelings openly, we encouraged no ensuing comments or discussion of anything said, save for questions of clarification.)

I was told that All Saints’ and Epiphany folk, from time to time years ago, had engaged in joint seasonal programming. As that had not been true for a while, our “Adventing” together was a grand experiment that proved to be a great experience. The hospitality was enriching, our study inspiring, and our prayers ennobling.

Speaking always and only for myself, I had a ball!



[1] In 1998, this Bible Study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference; the decennial gathering of bishops of the global Anglican Communion. This approach is rooted in the ancient practice of praying the scriptures, Lectio Divina or “Divine (or Holy) Reading.”

[2] We used the gospel passages appointed for the four Sundays of Advent: Matthew 26.36-44, Matthew 3.1-12, Matthew 11.2-11, and Matthew 1.18-25.

Photographs: All Saints’ Parish Hall, November 30; Epiphany Parish Hall, December 7; All Saints’ Parish Hall, December 14; Epiphany Parish Hall, December 21.