Terry Parsons, longtime stewardship leader, dies in Michigan

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Oct 4, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] A memorial service will be held Oct. 5 for the Rev. Terry Parsons, former program officer for stewardship for the Episcopal Church from 1996 to 2008, who died Oct. 3 in Bay City, Michigan.

Parsons, 65, was vicar of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bay City at the time of her death. The service will take place at St. Alban’s.

She had finished a Master of Divinity Degree while working at the Church Center, according to an obituary in the Bay City Times newspaper, and was called to St. Alban’s in August 2011.

“It was for her the completion of a long journey and the realization of her life’s ambition: to offer her leadership to a church,” the obituary said.

Diocese of Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel wrote on his blog Oct. 3 that Parsons was being treated in a hospital for complications from a series of falls she suffered over the past few weeks.

“Terry didn’t just talk about the Christian call to stewardship, she lived it and her legacy and example will live on,” Rickel wrote. “I have lost a dear friend and guide.”

Parsons always insisted that stewardship was about more than what she called the “October Beg-A-Thon” and what many Episcopal parishes call the annual stewardship drive. She said that the traditional fall season in which members are encouraged to pledge their financial support to their congregation ought to be just one part of a year-round effort that helps people discern how to respond with “joyous acts of thanksgiving” to all that God has given them.

Stewardship, she said here and elsewhere, is about changing lives, is guided by grace and not guilt, and grows out of one’s relationship with God.

“If you’re not talking about Jesus, it probably isn’t stewardship,” she was known to say.

VIDEO: Terry Parsons addressing the 2011 Wardens and Vestry Conference

Tributes to Parsons and her ministry began shortly after word of death spread. On Oct. 3, the Rev. Jeffrey John Purchal tweeted that her “ability to teach and to help make stewardship accessible was, and will continue to be a great gift to the church.”

Many people went to Parsons’ Facebook page to leave messages.

“Terry’s faith and energy and devotion to her church was more than admirable — it was inspiring and Christ centered,” wrote Jay Pierce, of Versailles, Kentucky.

Lisa Mayntz wrote that, while it is hard to pick the most important thing she learned from Parsons, “there was the lesson of generosity and learning how to not fear talking about money. But, I’d have to say I appreciate her grace and continuity and what she told me one day in her office about absolution. She also taught me to order room service in hotels sometimes. Her friendship was gold. I wish I had the chance to tell her one more time.”

Mark Le Von Vincent, of Kohler, Wisconsin, wrote that “more people are generous because of your tireless love for them.”

“We who administrated projects you dreamt of or volunteered for were sometimes aggravated with you, but it was only because we wanted more of you,” he added. “Now the courts of God get the benefit.”

Just before those tributes begin on Parsons’ Facebook Timeline, there are birthday wishes. Parsons turned 65 on Sept. 22.

She is survived her mother, Edna Parsons, her brother and sister-in-law Ray and Julie Parsons, her brother-in-law John Lackey, her son and daughter-in-law Chris and Melissa Fannin and her grandchild Erin Fannin, and her son and daughter-in-law Brian and Inessa Fannin and her grandchildren Leia and Miles Fannin.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (12)

  1. Terry was a four star presenter, always great humor delivering serious stewardship messages.

  2. The Rev. C. Barry Turner says:

    What a gift Terry was to our church, building community wherever she went, teaching and helping us all to see all our lives through the abundant perspective of Christian stewardship.

  3. The Rev. Deacon Charles Gearing says:

    Terry was a great mentor and colleague in the stewardship vineyard. Her extraordinary skill as a teacher in stewardship living and practice has transformed many lives.

  4. The Rev'd. Barbara C. Crafton says:

    What a delightful, funny, holy person she was. I’m shocked to hear of her death. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

  5. Revd Dr Susanna Mertz says:

    What a shock! Terry was not only a tremendously talented person and engaging workshop leader, she was a truly lovely person in every way. I’ll miss her wonderful sense of humour and beautiful way of reaching out to everyone she met.

  6. Spencer Pugh says:

    So sad to read this news. Terry was a wonderful leader and mentor.

  7. Sonja March says:

    I was struck with extreme sadness. Even thou I only met Terry one time (last year in Germany) she left a lasting impression on me!! I learned a lot from her. She had a very special way!!
    I was on my retreat when I heard about her death and that night we had a “lesson” on caring und opening your heard. In my mind I thought what a wonderful tribute to her. I told my fellow sisters and brothers (I am an oblate) about what happened. And all of us – including the nuns- prayed with me for her!

  8. The Rev. Harriet B. Linville says:

    May we all live Terry’s example of joy in living and giving, of sharing the Jesus stories of our lives. She has helped to transform lives.

  9. Terry Parsons taught me every thing I know about Faith Commitment and how to energize a parish to know that all we have, even our very breath, comes from our generous God. She was a joyous friend

  10. Lisa Fox says:

    It has taken me a few days to be able to respond to the sad news of her death.

    A few (four? five?) years ago, while she was still TEC’s Stewardship Officer, Terry was the keynote speaker for our Diocesan Convention and the preacher at our Eucharist. During the convention, an issue arose: We could no longer afford to support our own summer camp for youth, but a Delegate had found another camp where our young people could gather for $5,000. At the Mass that night, in an awesome sermon, Terry also took up the cause of that youth camp. She used the old saw: “We have all the money we need to support this project. The problem is …. It’s still in your pockets!” The next morning, during the Diocesan Convention, our Bishop had the joy of announcing that we had raised that $5,000 we needed.
    I don’t remember the words Terry used in her keynote address or in her sermon, but I know that she utterly changed my perspective about stewardship. It’s no longer the “annual beg-a-thon.” Thanks to her, it is my annual exercise in considering all that God has blessed me with, and how I can express my thanks to God.
    I deeply grieve her death. Our church is the poorer … but the Kingdom of God is all the richer.
    Rise in glory, Terry.

  11. The Rev. Mary B. Blessing says:

    May the legacy Terry offered the church to love as Jesus love, and to “talk about money as much as Jesus”, and AS he did, demanding the rich to not let $$ rule their lives, encouraging the poor to know their lives are rich without $$.

  12. Jane Blake Plunkett says:

    I knew Terri in the 80s when we worked together to establish a new, wobbly company. She was an invaluable friend and helped immeasurably. I lost track of her after that and was amazed at all God called her to accomplish. I hate it that I can’t call her and tell her Happy Birthday! and that I love her.

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