Fr. Scott Irwin: In Memoriam

Photo by Lancia Smith

It is with deep sadness that I pass along news of the passing of the Rev. Scott Irvin.  Those of you who have joined us at Camp Allen anytime in the last eight years will remember this warm, gregarious, and gentle man with his ready smile and his twinkling eyes. While we rejoice that he now lives in the light of the Son of God, we mourn, though with hope, for his wife Janice, his family, and for all of us who knew him over the years, including so many participants in the Southwest Regional Retreats.

The following is adapted from his obituary (which you may read in full here):

The Rev. Harland M. “Scott” Irvin, Jr. died peacefully in the company of his family Friday June 10, 2011 in Austin, TX. Scott was born February 23, 1927 in El Paso, the son of Harland M. Irvin, Sr. and Virginia Moore Irvin. He was middle sibling to older sister Eleanor and younger brother Donald, all deceased.

Scott attended Martin High School in Laredo, where he earned his Eagle Scout rank and started his life-long involvement with the game of tennis. He remained connected to the school through several reunions, which he enjoyed attending with his brother. Upon graduation in 1944, he enlisted in the US Army. Following military service, he gained his Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of the South in Sewanee, TN, where he competed on the tennis team and kindled an intense love of learning.

Scott graduated from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of Virginia as a Bachelor of Divinity, and later earned a Masters of Sacred Theology. He was ordained to the ministry in 1956, and would serve as a minister, rector and headmaster for the following 50 years. He tended to his flock, in the church and the classroom throughout Texas.

He was a chaplain and coach at the Episcopal High School in Alexandria, at the Texas Military Institute in San Antonio, and a member of the original faculty at St. Stephen’s School in Austin. In retirement after 1992, he continued his ministry in supply work, conducting services in Spanish as well as English to parishes in the Austin region and serving twice a year as Chaplain in residence at the Camp Allen Diocesan Center, where many of us were blessed to know him.

Scott kept his mind even as his body failed, and retained to the last his optimism and faith in God’s will. Early in his career, he began guiding those in need to the recovery movement and the 12-step program, which he considered “God’s healing grace made operational in people’s lives.”

C. S. Lewis was an enormous influence on Scott, and the Lewis book club a favorite activity. He retained lifelong friends, particularly those he met through tennis, and became an avid user of email to remain in contact with those he loved.

At the Camp Allen retreats, Fr. Scottie faithfully ministered to us each morning, leading early risers in Morning Prayer.  He also participated gleefully in table fellowship as he joined us at meals; most of us will remember his firm grip on our arm, his excitement to talk about Lewis and any manner of related subjects, and, ever-present, his warm smile and pervasive gentleness.  A sort of cloud of kindness and peace came with him to those who spoke with him. After spending time with him, many spoke of a quality of grace and love that accompanied him and remained with those with whom he joyfully spoke.

Our friend the Rev. Dr. Malcolm Guite recently shared these remembrances of Fr. Scottie:

Fr. Scottie was a great man. When I arrived in Camp Allen he took me aside, asked if there was anything he could do to help me in anyway, soon discerned the cowboy dreams of the child in me, whisked me out to a western wear store to help me get my boots and hat, and then sent a fabulous western clerical shirt, like one he had, over to me in England in the post! He was the soul of generosity and kindliness, seasoned with more than a little of the spirit of fun and adventure. A real diamond!

 

Malcolm speaks well, for Fr. Scottie was indeed a jewel of a man, even now as he has received his crown and laid it at the feet of our Lord, as we shall all do someday.  Perhaps no one else has better exemplified Malcolm’s teaching of how we must “grow up with C. S. Lewis and stay young with Jack.” For indeed, as with so many great saints, the older he got, the younger and more joyful he seemed.  Here was a man who heeded for a lifetime our Lord’s warning that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” C. S. Lewis once asserted, “[w]hen I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” Fr. Scottie Irvin embodied that joyful surrender of self, that childlikeness to which Christ constantly calls us. His memory and model of how we should then live will continue on in us until we all someday shine like the stars of Heaven.

God rest you, dear Father Scottie.  You’ve gone on before us and made it safely into Aslan’s country, to read at last “Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read.” Save a place for us among that great cloud of witnesses; we’ll do all we can here to follow your blessed example that leads us all home.

 

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