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RIP: R. Thomas Green

| Posted: November 27, 2023

R. Thomas Green, a longtime supporter of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation, died October 18 at the age of 86. Mr. Green served for several years as a member of the Board of Directors and later as Honorary Chairman of that Legacy Fund. You can read his obituary here.

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Tom. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

A. Gary Shilling, Ph.D., founder of the Preaching Foundation, delivered the following eulogy at Christ Church Episcopal in Hudson, Ohio, on November 17, 2023.

On November 19, 1863, Edward Everett was the principal speaker at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, Penn. for those killed in the climactic three-day Civil War battle the previous July.

Almost no one today recalls what Everett said as he droned on for literally two hours about his view of the battle, Pericles funeral oration in ancient Athens, the English War of the Roses, the French Revolution, the Protestant Reformation, Dante, and the 30-Year War, to name a few of his topics.

But we all remember what Abraham Lincoln said in the following two minutes. Tom Green knew that I don’t have Lincoln’s intellect or rhetorical skills, so he allotted me 50% more time—three minutes—for this eulogy.

“Legacy,” what Tom handed down to all of us, sums up his immense contribution to the world. That was evident when we first met as freshmen at Amherst College in 1955. He was a friend of everyone and enemy of none. His enthusiasm was infectious as he looked at the positive side of almost any situation, even the dreaded but required freshman physics and calculus courses, and he encouraged others to do the same.

But Tom was no Pollyanna. He called a spade a spade when that was appropriate, even necessary. He was vocal, at least in our private conversations, about people who weren’t doing their jobs or living up to their potentials.

I reconnected with Tom and his wife, Gretchen, in the late 1990s when we discovered our mutual commitment to the Episcopal Church. I invited him to join the Board of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation, which I founded 37 years ago to improve preaching in the Church with preacher training for seminarians, deacons—of which Gretchen is one—ordained priests, military chaplains and even lay preachers.

Tom made huge contributions to the Board, financially with his own money while soliciting others to donate. He continually provided sound and enthusiastic advice and recruited people for the Foundation’s leadership. In 2016, Tom decided to retire as a formal member of the Board but continued active participation as our Director Emeritus.

Tom left a many-faceted legacy for all of us, including a very specific one. He encouraged me to start a Legacy Fund for the Episcopal Preaching Foundation, and he and Gretchen pledged a very generous donation. Tom also agreed to be the Honorary Chairman of that Legacy Fund.

Tom left me a final legacy. On October 18, I woke up at 4 am. That’s not unusual for someone my age, but what happened next was unique for me. I began humming to myself “Lord Jeffrey Amherst,” the former fight song of Amherst College. Later, Gretchen told me that Tom had died an hour-and-a-half later at 5:30 that morning. Was he saying a final “Goodbye” to me?

I once told Tom that if he got to the Other Side before I did, he should keep in mind two things. First, he’s leaving a legacy of many great friends behind. And second, to use his enthusiasm and skills to put in a good word for the rest of us with the Man Upstairs. I’m sure he’s fulfilled my requests.