My father died thirty-five years ago today. He was seventy-three, which to me at the time seemed a ripe old age, but today seems sadly young for death to arrive.

When my father was a young seminarian at Wells Theological College in Somerset, England in the early 1930’s he had a nickname. My father was affectionately known as “Depression.” This was in the days before so many human characteristics had become pathologized. My father’s nickname derived more from its original meaning in the Latin deprimere, literally “to press down,” than to anything that was perceived as illness.

Despite my father’s lack of girth, he carried with him a heaviness that, could at times make him seem to be a person who was “pressed down”. He was an introverted, shy man with a melancholy nature. He was given more to finding comfort in the solitude of his own company than in the energetic whirl of social engagement.

His life was shaped by the quiet gentle disciplines of prayer and worship that he believed were his primary calling as a priest. The Daily Office was the structure around which his life took shape. He read, he studied, he pondered. He thought deeply about life. His wingback chair, a cup of tea and a book were all the paradise my father ever needed. He died in that wingback chair, his BCP and his Bible open on his lap in the small apartment he shared with my mother on Linden Avenue after his retirement.

I do not know how it felt on the inside for my father, but I know that, for many people on the outside, the solemn melancholy nature that characterized my father’s life was not perceived as a problem to be solved, certainly not a “sickness” to be cured. Rather, my father’s “depression” gave him an air of seriousness that was viewed more as a virtue than a liability. He had gravitas. He was seen as a “holy” man.

Today we find it difficult to value solemnity.  We prefer the busy activist whose iPhone is packed with contacts and whose calendar is crammed with engagements. We want workaholic leaders who take charge, make things happen and go from morning to night without stopping for a moment of quiet.

Even among leaders in the church, we seldom honour the more contemplative habits of the heart. We are happy for our church leaders to pause and pray, but only as long as long as it does not interfere with their frenetic work day. We are suspicious when spirituality threatens to interrupt the busy pattern of productivity that is now viewed as an essential part of leadership even in religious institutions.

I am not sure we really want holy people in the church anymore.

Holiness comes slowly. It takes time. It grows in silence. It prospers in the spaces between the busy activities that so often keep us trapped in the surface circumstances of life struggling to find our way in the face of the endless demand to get the job done.

For my father, life and ministry were not a job to get done. They were an inner journey to be lived. Out of the richness of his inner life he manifested a sense of presence. This presence touched people with a sweet scent of the sacred that may at times in our busy activist days be sadly missing even in the spiritual community of church.