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St. Thomas priest says farewell to John Glenn

Tim Holder, contributed • Updated Dec 20, 2016 at 7:00 PM

ELIZABETHTON — This year has brought sadness for Tim Holder, priest and pastor of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Elizabethton. Although he has been a clergyman for 25 years, he is proud of the life he led prior to entering the ministry.

That was when he was involved in Democratic politics and worked in the Nashville office of Jane Eskind, the first woman to be elected to statewide office in Tennessee. He then worked in Washington on the staff of Sen. John Glenn. Both Glenn and Eskind died this year.

The following is a memorial Holder wrote after traveling to Columbus, Ohio, for Glenn’s funeral.

Politics Is a Beautiful Word

In Praise of John H. Glenn, Jr., American Hero

We had a wonderful Democrat and beautiful human being in Tennessee back in-the-day. Her name was Anna Belle Clement O’Brien, longtime state senator from Crossville, sister of beloved Governor (1953-59, 1963-67) Frank G. Clement, hers a smile and heart as pure as the mountain air of my Appalachian-Tennessee home. Anna Belle would remark, “You know, some say that politics is a dirty word, just awful. But, I am here to tell you that politics is a beautiful word to me!”

She continued, “Politics and the Democratic Party have blessed me with a beautiful family, friends and neighbors all over the Volunteer State (she had run unsuccessfully for governor herself). I have seen politics feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give hope in times of despair … build homes and roads to homes, cure sickness and give a man a job.. Politics is a very good word, a beautiful word. I thank God for politics.” Amen, Anna Belle.

I, too, thank God for politics. I stood in the midst of the Spirit of John Glenn, American hero, only days ago in the Statehouse Rotunda in Columbus, Ohio, where President Lincoln had laid. I joined with children, fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers from across America and the world. Together we gave homage to a a great man. As Annie, his high school sweetheart and wife of 73 years, from her wheelchair at casket bier, reached to lay gentle hand upon most beautiful flag touching close to her husband of years now into the ages, my heart filled with great love and passion, the assurance and confidence that Love always makes a way.

Politics is the pathway to that Love, the “Politics of Love’’ as Holy Torah, Holy Gospel and Holy Koran interpret it. And we who follow proclaim it: Annie and John Glenn, Glenn’s close friend, Robert F. Kennedy, and earlier in Tennessee this year, on her death on August 4 in Nashville, Jane Eskind, who taught us that a woman, a daughter of Abraham, could be elected to statewide office. We need remember all the greats as well as those known only to God who gave, sacrificed, and led in their day, all Saints in Light. It is, after all, each of us, who give politics its worth or debasement.

Politics is a beautiful word, bringing people together, caring for one another, loving one another. So I thank God today for all in leadership, yes, for my own beloved Democratic Party, but also for those wonderful Republicans, especially those great “Lincoln Republicans” of East Tennessee glory (my own kin). Politics can change the world.

A family note to all of my Democrats: get to church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or just in the presence of an old friend, or as Jesus from Christian Tradition, an enemy, and learn a little bit and then get to work.

Timothy Holder is priest and pastor of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee. He is an author, writer and speaker. A former president of the Carter County Young Democrats and a page in Congress from Elizabethton, Holder went on to serve on the staffs of Jane Eskind in Nashville, Sen. John Glenn and the Democratic National Committee in Washington. His service in the church spans 25 years from Birmingham, Alabama, to the South Bronx, Jersey shore and back home to Elizabethton and Carter County.

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