I was saddened to hear the following news from my home church:

James “Jimmy” Heyman spent the last Sunday of his life doing what he loved best — serving God.

Mr. Heyman, a longtime acolyte at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, served as crucifer at the May 4 service. Clad in the red acolyte’s robe, he carried the cross.

“He always wore either red pants or green pants,” said the Rev. Ralph R. “Hap” Warren, rector of the Episcopal congregation. “On that day he wore green pants with the red cassock over them. We all teased him about wearing his Christmas tree outfit.”

Warren will officiate at a memorial service for Mr. Heyman, who died May 5 in a fire at his Brazilian Avenue home.

I remember James Heyman.  He was an acolyte at Bethesda when I was.  The difference was that he was in his twenties while I and most of my colleagues were in our teens.  Traditionally, graduating from high school was the end of an acolyte career.

Right: Bethesda acolytes, June 1968.  My brother is holding the cross.  Click here for the rules the acolytes followed.

But Heyman was developmentally disabled.  He served before the altar with the capabilities he had, and he did so faithfully (for forty years, not the thirty that Dr. Warren said.)  I violently disagree with many things that TEC in general and Bethesda in particular believe and do, but this time they got it right.

Church should be a place for people with all levels of capabilities, not just the superstars or those with a lot of money.   We need to remember that when we look at our congregations.  I’ve seen many James Heymans in my time in churches.  We should never forget them or their contributions.  God won’t.