Lynda Patterson always felt “unworthy and unprepared” – yet she was a towering Christian leader who changed the lives of others for the better.
That was the message from the bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand, as an estimated 750-plus mourners gathered to pay their final respects to the Co Down woman.
Bishop Victoria Matthews was speaking at the first of two funeral services to be held for Lynda, who had been Dean of the city’s Anglican cathedral until her death earlier this month at the age of 40.
Following yesterday’s service, which took place at 1pm New Zealand time, Lynda’s parents are understood to be making preparations to bring her back to Dromore, Co Down, where a second funeral service will be held.
The administrator of Christchurch Cathedral told the News Letter that around 650 mourners had been present at yesterday’s service in the Cathedral, as well as another 100-or-so of her fellow clergy.
Bishop Matthews – who led proceedings alongside New Zealand Archbishop Philip Richardson – said Lynda had been a trusted and “delightfully intelligent” member of the Anglican church, but also possessed a strong sense of humour.
Printed on the order of service were a series of photographs showing her dressed as an alien, as a bird (more than once), and standing next to a goat in church.
The bishop asked the mourners: “When did you last see Lynda?
“Was she dressed as a dog for the mid-winter dinner, or a shepherd for the children and animal service, or as an octopus or a parrot or a chick?
“Lynda did not stand on ceremony and she did not take herself seriously.
“When did you last see Lynda? Was she praying? Presiding most beautifully at the Eucharist? Being installed as Dean?
“Whether it was preaching or teaching at clergy conference or presiding at Evensong, Lynda had a battle with her nerves. She never felt worthy or properly prepared. Yet she changed lives to the glory of God.”
The mourners heard that whilst Lynda never believed she was any good at ministering to the sick, elderly, or to children, her clerical colleagues could see that she was brilliant at all three.
As previously reported, Lynda’s official cause of death is not yet known, although it may have been a heart attack.
Yesterday’s service heard that she had suffered from ill-health in recent times, including bouts of pneumonia.
Drawing the eulogy to a close, Bishop Matthews said: “We often suggest that when human life is fragile and waning, it becomes more precious, but that suggests it should be locked away behind glass.
“In fact, many of us wanted and tried to protect Lynda. But Lynda would have none of it.
“Lynda’s life, as she realised she would not likely reach old age, became ever more delicious. She would not do less.
“With extraordinary courage she lived deeply, generously and extravagantly. She gave everything she could to serve others.
“She did that as a beloved child of God, as a faithful priest of the Church and as an outstanding teacher of the faith.
“And those privileged to spend even a brief time with her went away blessed.
“When did you last see Lynda? Remember and give thanks to God.
Tragic dean chose the details of her own service
The order of service for yesterday’s proceedings reveals that Lynda had chosen the arrangements herself.
Ahead of the main gathering, Psalm 27 was recited as her coffin – laden with flowers – was brought into the cathedral at 10am.
As well as hymns and readings during the funeral service itself, the Lord’s Prayer was also intoned in Maori, the native language which Lynda had learned as part of her ministry.
At the end of proceedings, the assembled diocesan clergy formed a guard of honour for the hearse while the choir sang the Nunc Dimittus, beginning with the words: “Lord let your servant now depart in peace.”