"Devotion, community, faith": Funeral video and sermon in memoriam: Bishop Bud Cederholm


Following is the text of the sermon given by Bishop Alan M. Gates at the funeral service for Bishop Bud Cederholm on Sept. 8, 2023, at Christ Church in Needham.

The recording of the service livestream, courtesy of Christ Church in Needham, is linked above.

We are so grateful to you, Matt and Dan, for sharing your memories with us. We extend to you both, and to you Ruth Ann, and to your whole extended family the deepest condolences of this gathered congregation, of this diocese, and of the wider church. We are here on a blistering hot day because we want to sing and pray with you, and to let you know of our love and gratitude.

Cederholm Cottage stained glass image Courtesy photo Cederholm Cottage stained glass, crafted by the Rev. W. Michael Hamilton

In a quiet corner of the Barbara C. Harris Camp in New Hampshire sits the Cederholm Cabin, dedicated in 2014 as a spot of rest and renewal for clergy and lay leaders of the diocese. In the cabin’s one bedroom, high near the ceiling’s peak, hangs a small stained-glass window, crafted by one of our deacons. The window is adorned with five symbols – one in each corner, and one in the center. Stained glass windows, of course, are apt to tell a story, and this one tells a story of Bud Cederholm.

Not one, but two of the corners evoke Bud’s beloved Red Sox – the capital-B in Red Sox font, and a pair of red socks. Bud’s devotion to his lifelong home team was legendary. The man wore a mitre for two decades; he wore a Red Sox cap his whole life.

Until 2004 being a Red Sox fan was an expression of hope against all evidence; you had to have faith to believe in the Sox. But Bud’s love of the game was not just about what was happening on the field. Perhaps even more, it was about what was happening around him: the creation and experience of community; the enjoyment of the game with friends and family. That’s what sport was in Bud’s world; a thing to share. A few years ago he was injured in a fall while shooting hoops with his grandson. Who shoots hoops at age 75? Someone devoted to shared experience.

Bud the Red Sox fan: Devotion. Community. Faith.

Back to the stained-glass window. In another corner is a mitre. In 2001 this diocese elected a second bishop suffragan to serve alongside Bishop Tom Shaw and Bishop Barbara Harris. Both were extraordinary bishops. Neither had extensive experience as a parish priest. The diocese elected Bud. Now it had three bishops: a monk, a prophet, and a priest. Bud Cederholm’s calling as a bishop was grounded in his decades as a parish priest. His focus largely remained there: caring for clergy, advancing congregational development, accompanying parishes in transition.

The role was sometimes hard for a gentle soul like Bud. I’m told that one day he walked out of his office and said, “Now I know what’s different about being a bishop. In the parish there were lots of nice surprises. As a bishop, all the surprises are bad.” But his devotion to building community never faltered.  

Bud the bishop: Devotion. Community. Faith.

Back to the stained-glass window. In its center is a dove with a green sprig in its beak. The image, of course, is from Genesis [8:11] and the end of the Flood – a green sprig signifying new beginnings for God’s green earth. Perhaps the single deepest legacy Bud has left us was his devotion to creation care and environmental stewardship. He was, after all, The Green Bishop! We all have that photo in our mind’s eye: Bishop Bud, adorned in his green chasuble and mitre, lifted high above the church roof in a cherry picker, blessing solar panels with an aspergus and an enormous grin.

Bud’s dedication to the environment was not just a progressive talking point. It was a deep theological affirmation of the goodness of creation, of the urgent duty of the Christian to advance environmental justice. And it was an expression of profound hope that the tide could yet be turned: the green sprig in the beak of the dove.

Bud the Green Bishop: Devotion. Community. Faith.

Back to the stained-glass window. The final symbol is a guitar. Of course. When did Bud not sing? He sang at camp. He sang in church. He sang at diocesan convention. He sang at clergy conference. No doubt he sang at home. I’m told that even in recent months in the activities room of the memory care unit, Bud would pipe up and tell the other residents: “I have a song I want to teach you!”  

In the last few years he seemed to have one particular favorite. Maybe it was because as his memory failed him, the words and sentiment of this chant were simply to deep to lose:

Listen, listen, listen to my heart song;
Listen, listen, listen to my heart song;
I will never forget you, I will always love you; 
I will never forget you, I will always love you.  

Each time he introduced the song it was as though he had just discovered it and wanted to teach you something new.  At Barbara’s consecration anniversary, again at a staff retirement, when I asked Bud if he’d like to say a few words, he’d say, “Oh, I have a song I’d like to teach!” We knew what it would be! “Listen, listen, listen to my heart song….”

Now, here’s a thing I discovered. When I Googled the song recently, every recording I found suggested that Bud had altered the words. Everyone else seems to sing: “Listen to my heart song, … I will never forget thee, I will never forsake thee.” The chant might be addressed from the believer to God; or maybe it’s understood as God’s reassurance to God’s people. But either way that concluding line is “I will never forget you, I will never forsake you.”  But in the Gospel according to Bud, it was altered: “I will never forget you, I will always love you.”

I for one am glad to know I am not forsaken. But it’s a qualitatively different message to know that I am loved. When Bud sang the song, he wanted you to know that you are loved. Remember how he would even point around the room when he sang? I will never forget you; I will always love you. I will never forget you; I will always love you.

From Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians [13:4-5, 7-8, 13]

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful, or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; … It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. … And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

This reading, most often heard at weddings, is not actually about marital love per se. It is Paul’s description of Christian love. And in so many ways, Bud showed us such love: a love that was kind; not boastful or arrogant; not insisting on its own way. A love that endured so much. A love that hoped so much. A love that abides.

We are not here to canonize Bud Cederholm today. He doubtless had his own ways of being a frail and faulty human being as every one of us does. But here is what we can say: That the stained glass in the cabin points us to Bud. And Bud points us to love. And love points us to the promises of God. The promise that we heard from God every time we heard that song: “I will never forget you, I will always love you.” Bud wanted you and me to claim that Gospel promise for ourselves. We claim it today for Bud.

If Bud the Red Sox fan displayed devotion, how much more will God be devoted to one who served so faithfully.

If Bud the priest and bishop strove to nurture community, how much more fully will God draw Bud into that mystic sweet communion.

If Bud the creation care warrior yearned to refresh and renew the world, how much more will God effect the reversal of all the diminishment Bud latterly suffered, and grant him refreshment and eternal life.

If Bud the camp song leader wanted us all to know that we are never forgotten, always loved, how much more will God receive him as the apple of God’s eye.

Let the opening words of our liturgy now be the final word, to Bud and to me and to you:

I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord.
Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though they die.
And everyone who has life, and has committed to me in faith,
Shall not die for ever.

Christ is risen; Bud is risen with him. Alleluia. Amen.