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Church of the Saviour’s Gordon Cosby Dies At 95

gordon cosby“Agape love is the power to love the unlovable. It is the power to love people we do not like. Jesus commands us to love our enemies in order to be like God. We are not told to love in order to win our enemies or to get results, but that we may be children of God, who sends the rain on the just and the unjust, who looks after both the good and the evil. The predominant characteristic of this agape love is that, no matter what a person is like, God seeks nothing but his or her highest good.”–Gordon Cosby, Church of the Saviour

At a quarter of four this morning I awoke caught up in a stream of prayer for and with Gordon Cosby, the beloved elder, prophet, and pastor of Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. I could feel his soul shifting and I just stepped into the Spirit-stream with him and all the saints surrounding him.

We’ve known for several months that Gordon was in hospice care. In his mid-90s, he was still fighting St. Paul’s good fight and was coming to rest in a small apartment in the shelter for homeless men that he helped found. Earlier in the week the news had gone round that Gordon was ready to begin letting go. He decided to stop eating.

Then this morning the notice arrived:

It is with great joy, as well as sadness, that we convey to you the word that at 4:15 this morning, March 20–on the first day of spring–our beloved brother in Christ, Gordon Cosby, quietly slipped into the fullness of God’s Realm.

Our hearts are full. … Your presence, even across the miles, is deeply felt during these extraordinary days.

His beloved wife of 70 years, Mary, was asleep at his side.

Tonight I took hydrangeas over to Christ House with a little sign that said “N. Gordon Cosby – presente!” and then walked down to Potter’s House where the great and broad swath of humanity who called Gordon their “spiritual father” was beginning to gather and share memories.

“In 1971, my soul was spiritually bankrupt,” said one. “Then I found Gordon Cosby.”

“Gordon taught us how to live. And more recently, he’s taught us how to die,” said another.

“Gordon always taught that there is a god in every person and so every person has a call. It’s our job to figure out what that call is and to do the figurin’ out together.”

“Gordon told me once that he’d had a great vision as a young man, a dream. He said that Christ showed him the whole world and all the poor people were working together in a great ministry of service, and then with middle-class and some rich people too. But in the end you couldn’t tell one from the other. They were just all gathered together in service to God,” said someone else.

“Last week we had a board meeting up in Gordon and Mary’s apartment about a neighborhood credit union that we are working on starting. We thought Gordon was asleep. But as we started to wind things up, he raised his hand from the bed and we gathered around. ‘We’re not going to be like those big banks that abuse and steal from the poor, are we?!’ he demanded. He was fighting for justice until the end.”

“Gordon said not long ago, in his wry humor and gravelly voice: ‘I’m startin’ to enjoying this dyin’ bit!'”

There will be a memorial service sometime after Easter. In the meantime, it will become clear how souls across the world were saved and transformed by the gentlemanly, fierce, soulful spirit that was N. Gordon Cosby.

Read Michelle Boorstein’s 2009 Washington Post article Activist D.C. Church Embraces Transition In Name of Its Mission

Handbook for Mission Groups by N. Gordon Cosby

By Grace Transformed: Christianity for a New Millennium by N. Gordon Cosby

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Michael Parker March 27, 2013, 11:50 am

    Gordon was a true prophet. He challenged his flock with the call to ever greater, more costly (and joyous) discipleship. Gordon’s sermons challenged and changed my life. Like many others, I moved from the suburbs into the inner city to take part in the mission of the church. Being part of C of S was the best time of my life and yet, when I was called to go and do something else, I did and through a process of discernment my mission group supported me in doing so. Christ’s three-fold office: prophet, priest and king were present in Gordon’s life and in his ministry to the utmost degree. May he rest in Peace.

    Frankfurt, Germany

  • Michael Parker March 27, 2013, 11:49 am

    Gordon was a true prophet. He challenged his flock with the call to ever greater, more costly (and joyous) discipleship. Gordon’s sermons challenged and changed my life. Like many others, I moved from the suburbs into the inner city to take part in the mission of the church. Being part of C of S was the best time of my life and yet, when I was called to go and do something else, I did and through a process of discernment my mission group supported me in doing so. Christ’s three-fold office: prophet, priest and king were present in Gordon’s life and in his ministry to the utmost degree. May he rest in Peace.

  • Martha Jenkins March 22, 2013, 8:33 am

    Yesterday at a clergy workshop and frustrated by talk about church growing techniques, I quoted Gordon who told me that my job, rather than having a vision for my first parish, was to help them find their vision. He was right! His words have been signposts for me. Gordon, Mary and the COS community have blessed me continually. There must have been rejoicing in heaven.

  • Rose March 21, 2013, 2:18 pm

    Ruth wrote: “”For all the saints, who from their labors rest””

  • Rose March 21, 2013, 2:18 pm

    John wrote: “He was a mentor, directly and indirectly by several levels, to many people.”

  • Rose March 21, 2013, 2:18 pm

    Christa wrote: “Thanks for posting. True saint.”

  • Rose March 21, 2013, 2:17 pm

    Susan wrote: “I never met him but like so many was touched in many ways by his vision and the sharing of that vision with folks I did know.”

  • Rose March 21, 2013, 2:17 pm

    John wrote: “My wife just happened to ask out of the blue 30 minutes ago, is Gordon Cosby still alive? We have lost touch with the Church of the Savior over the last 10 years. It must have been his spirit stirring. He was someone who truly embodied the Gospel and lived it. He was all that Rose said he was in her post.”

    John wrote: “He was like the preacher in Grapes of Wrath, when Henry Fonda says “He might have been a preacher but he seen things clear. He was like a lantern. He helped me to see things clear. “”

  • Rami Koskinen March 21, 2013, 11:03 am

    He will be missed by a very large community!!!!!!!!!

  • David Wade March 21, 2013, 12:15 am

    Rose,
    Thank you for sharing this and for being there this evening. I, too, awoke this morning at 4 not knowing why but with my heart full of care for Gordon. Maybe George Lucas was on to something with the “great disturbance in the Force” thing. I can’t imagine the world without him in it.

  • Betty Giuliano March 20, 2013, 10:49 pm

    Treasuring memories of Gordon at Wellspring Orientation in 1970’s and Mary at Five Oaks Retreat Centre. Paris, Ontario.
    “Well done, good and faithful servants”

  • Betty Giuliano March 20, 2013, 10:44 pm

    Treasuring memories of Gordon at Wellspring Orientation in the 1970’s,and Mary at Five Oaks Retreat Centre, Paris, Ontario.
    “Well done,good and faithful servants”

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