The best portion of a good man’s life – his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love. ~William Wordsworth
Yesterday I received the sad news of the sudden death of a colleague – the Rev’d Stephen Demitroff. Stephen died suddenly and without warning. His wife Ruth and his family remain in the prayers of the people of the Diocese of Huron and indeed in the many people who came to know Stephen throughout his twenty-seven years of ordained ministry. I was shocked and very saddened to hear this news.
I met Stephen just over 13 years ago when I moved to the Diocese of Huron from the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. The move to Essex Deanery was a big one. It was to me, a new community, a new city, a new group of clergy to work with. I was a little apprehensive and nervous. I have no problem admitting that as a young cleric, my first year of ministry was not the highlight of vocational career. As a result, my confidence was not real high. The first meeting of clericus (monthly meeting of the clergy of a the local area) came and I set out for St. Paul’s in Essex. Where is Essex? I found it – eventually! I shall never forget how I felt walking into St. Paul’s that morning. The knot in my stomach felt to me like a hot charcoal swallowed on the drive from Tecumseh. A deep breath, and I opened the door to the church. Inside I found the gentle, warm and genuine smile of Stephen Demitroff. “You must be Kevin – WELCOME to Essex!” In those first months of my time in this deanery, Stephen took many opportunities to ask me how I was doing. It was not uncommon for Stephen to call me out of the blue. “Hey Kev!” Few people call me Kev. Even fewer can get away with it. But from Stephen, I loved to hear it. It was real! I am saddened that I am not sure I ever made Stephen aware of how very much his loving kindness meant to me in my early days of ministry.
Stephen Demitroff and I were not close friends. He was a fellow priest on the journey of faith. He took seriously the call in the priestly ordination covenant: “to undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, labouring together with them and with your fellow ministers to build up the family of God.” Stephen Demitroff was so kind and generous with others and he did so without making a lot of noise. He was a faithful pastor to his congregants and to his fellow presbyters. Many of us are guilty of doing things to be noticed by others. Stephen acted faithfully and kindly with love and compassion to others because the love of Christ compelled him to do so. I will always remember that kind smile that welcomed me here. I will always remember the considerate way Stephen approached me, always to hear how I was doing. Ironically, I think Stephen would not have remembered what he did for me in my first days and months in Windsor-Essex. To me, his ‘nameless, unremembered acts of kindness’ are a reflection of the best portion of this man’s life.
Stephen – you well be missed greatly.
“Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your Lord.”