Ted Loder, eloquent preacher, fierce advocate for justice, long-time minister of the First United Methodist Church in Germantown, and my beloved stepfather, died on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Ted always encouraged us to watch for the “sneakiness of God,” to notice how the mysterious presence of holiness encounters us in our everyday life with one another.
Ted died at 10:15pm on Maundy Thursday, which this year fell on April Fool’s day. Seems something sneaky is going on here; and I imagine he would smile knowing I am trying to write my way through the tears that flow easily now, on Easter morning, to discern the mystery of it. The sun has risen, and he is no longer here to celebrate it with us.
“Maundy” is short for the Latin “mandatum,” which means commandment. So Maundy Thursday, or “Thursday of Mysteries,” which was the day Jesus washed the feet of his of his disciples after celebrating his final Passover meal, recalls this passage from the Gospel of John:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”John 13:34
In reading this passage this Easter morning, I was called back to a moment to which I have regularly returned. It was shortly after I had started college, and ideas were alive to me in new and urgent ways. Ted and I were talking, as we often did, about the deeper meaning of life as we headed out on some errand or another. In my memory, he was standing on the stairs in the house in which I grew up and I was getting our coats from the closet. He stopped me and said: “In the end, the ultimate truth of things is relational..”
When I read again the “new command” we are asked to consider on Maundy Thursday – “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” – I thought how fitting, and how sneaky, it is for Ted to have died on the day our attention is called to this commandment. It is as if he is reminding us: life is relational, love one another. This was his parting sermon – when he could no longer speak, in dying on this day, he showed us how to live.
In some mysterious and joyous way, Maundy Thursday fell this year on April Fool’s day. Ted loved to laugh … and he had a great and boisterous laugh.
And while he loved to tell and listen to jokes, his deepest, most heartfelt, and contagious laughter always emerged from the joy of encountering those he loved. So often, I am grateful to remember, that laughter came easily and regularly with our daughters. They delighted him, and he them.
For the longest time after he and my Mom were married, I was not sure what to call Ted. His own four kids often called him “Teddus,” which I liked, but it felt too presumptuous for me as his step-son to join in the charming name his kids had given him. So together we set about thinking of an appropriate name for me and my brother, Jon, to call him. At one point he suggested “Twill” for TWL – his initials – Theodore William Loder, but that never felt quite right either. After some time, we settled on “Teed,” elongating the “e” in his name as a way to express endearment. While we adopted it as a loving name, he often joked about its other meaning – to be “teed off.” Soon “Teed” became “Teedo,” and then, with our daughters, “Baba Teedo,” an affectionate name for a beautiful man.
As it became clear over the last few months that he was dying, I returned to his writing. When I read Teedo’s prayers and stories, I hear the best parts of him – his most searching, poetic, and vulnerable self. I knew those dimensions of him well, and they come through eloquently in his prayers. These excerpts, from his first book, Guerillas of Grace, have sustained me.
Thank You For Each Moment
… Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the shared moment,
for the listening, the unguarded word,
for the fragile openness,
the ready smile, the accepted difference,
for my passionate heart
and the trust rooting in me.
to grow with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.
— Guerillas of Grace, 44.
I Want So to Belong
O God, I want so to belong;
teach me to accept.
I want to be close;
teach me to reach out.
I want a place where I am welcome;
teach me to open my arms.
I want mercy;
teach me to forgive.
I want beauty;
teach me honesty.
I want peace;
show me the eye of the storm.
I want truth; show me the way to question
my unquestionable convictions.
I want joy;
show me the way of deeper commitment.
I want life;
show me how to die.
— Guerillas of Grace, 78.
Sustain Me in the Coming Then
O God, empty me of my angry judgments,
and aching disappointments,
and anxious trying,
and breathe into me
something like quietness
that the lion and the lamb in me
may lie down together
and be led by a trust
as straightforward as a little child.
Catch my pride and doubt off guard
that, at least for the moment,
I may sense your presence
and your caring,
and be surprised
by a sudden joy
rising in me now
to sustain me in the coming then.
— Guerillas of Grace, 79.
May the sudden joy that rose in him abide. Let it have sustained him in his passing from this life. That joy is encountered in the new command Maundy Thursday reminds us to follow: love one another, as I have loved you; the deepest truth of life is relation.
May the joy and love that make themselves felt in our most meaningful relationships sustain us all “in the coming then.”
And since he loved Shakespeare so much, let me end by saying:
“Good night, sweet,” Ted, Teddus, Baba Teedo, “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”Hamlet, Act 5, Scene ii, 297-8.
- Ted Loder – Stay Watchful, God is Sneaky – Ted’s Blog.
- My remarks at Ted’s memorial service on September 12, 2021 – The Art of Procrastination.
Such a nice tribute to read on a post Easter Monday morning. Brings a smile and leaves me lifted.
What a beautiful ad moving tribute. I am so sorry for your and your family’s loss. Thank you for sharing these words, reflections, and continuing to weave the fabric of relationships.
So glad to see this sweet piece, Chris, and these pix of your family. Much sympathy and love to you from all of us Rardins!
Thank you, Chris for this tribute. The world seems smaller without Ted Loder. It would be misleading, somehow, to speak of Ted as being larger than life, although I can understand that, but I think it was more like he enlarged life – I know he certainly did enlarge mine. Some folks have said that Ted was a little hard to work with. I never found that to be the case with us. We worked together as colleagues, each respecting the gifts of the other. I’ve done hundreds of bulletin covers for FUMCOG and the way that worked with Ted was that he would give me a quote for the cover, sometimes one that he wrote but more often ones that he found. He recognized and loved good writing wherever he could find it. I was free to interpret the quote any way I chose. He never asked me to change anything. I miss him. He was and remains a very special part of my life. Thank you also, Chris, for the photos. They’re special too!
Oh, Chris! This was just what I needed! My memories of Ted are powerful encounters with his generous, opinionated, joyful, wry, vulnerable spirit. It was often said at FUMCOG that if a poignant movie premiered in theatres you’d better go see it before Ted turned it into a sermon (with a spoiler of course)! Ted gave me many pieces of life advice, a couple of which I had to set aside because they held me back, all the rest gave me wings! No, he was not infallible but he crashed on boldly. One of the phrases I quote or misquote often is “Sin Boldly!” Ted taught me how to allow belief and unbelief to sit side-by-side, to chat with each other, and to accompany me on my faith journey. Seeing those wonderful family photos makes me smile up at the sky and say “Have a blast, Ted!!”
So grateful for this. Thank you.
I don’t remember when I first got my hands on Guerillas of Grace, however, it has been a constant companion of mine for at least over 20 years. For the past two years I have been meditating daily, and Guerillas of Grace is the “warm up” to my practice. I read a poem (or two or three) from it every day, and when I reach the end I start again. I am not a religious person and was not raised in a church, however, the humanity, humility, and grace that his words exude speak to me greatly. His appreciation for the small moments, the desire to live life to the fullest- even in the dark places, and to understand that prayer need not be a “pretty cut flower bouquet of words” is so deeply meaningful. The poems are crafted with such passion and care. Many condolences to your entire family at this sad time. What an incredible man.
Chris, thank you for this way you told us. You shared his love through it. For me , it is impossible to imagine what my life would have been, my spirit, without him. He was my beloved, generous past limit, friend and presence through every one of the storms. When my infinitely precious, beyond beloved daughter was killed in a horrific accident, he came and sat with me, carrying my grief, week after long week. When I hated God at our loss of Emily, and cursed Him, Ted told me God understood, and I was communicating with God still, in relationship as truly as I could.
He braved the depths with us, challenged us to see. He cared about us, faithful in our lives. That great heart. He opened lives over all the years. Sorrow now. Gratitude.
Thank you, Chris. You don’t know me. My wife Christine Miller brought me to FUMCOG where I met Ted during Linger Lunch. We exchanged hellos. He shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “God bless you” in a way that no one ever had nor has since. I’m not very religious guy, but his words pierced my being like I imagine being baptised in a body of water may. In this brief exchange, he planted the mystery of God in me. And in a sermon on another day, coincidentally, an Easter sermon, he asked, “Why is it that things are always too good to be true but never too bad?” — another mystery that stays with me and humbles me. Ted will always have a place in my heart. He was extraordinarily blessed yet big enough to share that blessing with others. I’ll always be grateful for Him.