Christopher Platt: Rest in Peace

Christopher Platt: Rest in Peace

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It is not in virtue of its liberty that the human will attains to grace, it is much rather by grace that it attains to liberty.

—St. Augustine

Christopher Platt, a former Episcopalian priest in Lexington, Kentucky, passed away at his home, shortly before Christmas. He was 63. A private, family memorial was scheduled  in accordance with his wishes.

One of the musicians stepped up to share a story about the time they had been late to play St. Augustine’s — a guitarist incurring a traffic stop along the way. The officer couldn’t let him drive with expired tags, but instead drove him to join the band — which then went on to play Dylan covers, and “All Along the Watchtower” — which no one recognized except Chris, because “they played it really baroque.” (At the end of the gig, Chris paid the musician’s fine.)

Among the crowd were friends, family, former parishioners at St. David and St. Augustine’s; a police captain from his time as chaplain to UK police; alongside people he had baptized, and couples he had married. New friends he had made in recent years in a new community also came to share stories, one young man choking up as he explained that Chris was his first introduction to the concept of “neighbor.” Speakers shared their fondness for his ability to punctuate a story perfectly with the precisely timed long draw on a Marlboro. A born raconteur and storyteller, his flair for a bawdy joke was recalled on more than one occasion.

Over his decades as a priest, and as the Reverend of what was then St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church at the University of Kentucky, he presided over the weddings, baptisms, and funerals of hundreds of parishioners. Until March 2003, he held two Sunday services and a Wednesday service at St. Augustine’s. He opened the doors of the chapel to students, to faculty, congregants, to the UK police department (where he served as chaplain), to AA meetings, and occasionally the homeless. He and St. Augustine’s provided the first basement kitchen space to Moveable Feast.

In 1998, he was on the cover of Ace as one of “This Year’s Models” for his hands-on charitable work. In his autobiography for the story, he said that he was a descendant of Henry Clay on his mother’s side, and “The Chief” on Get Smart on his father’s side, joking in the article,  “good breeding is always risky.” He was as beloved for his self-deprecating and acerbic wit as he was for his compassion.

At the time, he characterized the church of love as being focused on works of mercy: visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, sheltering the needy, clothing the cold, and so on. A Delaware bishop said in the 1998 article, “Too many ‘churchy’ types think that the church only happens inside the building. Chris works on getting out there where folks are. He is definitely not the ivory steeple type.” 

Many former parishioners and friends have written to Ace since the 1998 and 2004 pieces about him to share stories of his individual kindnesses to them, but one summed it up:

“Chris Platt has been a great blessing in my life and for that I give thanks.”

Although he did not designate a memorial charity, at the time of his passing, he was supporting the Policemen’s Memorial Fund; Shepherd’s Green Sanctuary in Cookville, Tennessee; and Heifer International an organization whose mission is to end hunger and poverty.
“Forever Young” and “I’ll Fly Away” were played by friends at the Service. Below are a few more songs dedicated to Chris’s memory. Feel free to assemble an iTunes playlist in his honor and toast to the blessing he represented in all our lives. 

An Ace iTunes Playlist for the right reverend Christopher B. Platt

Hurt, by Johnny Cash
“The Interfaith Dental Clinic,” from Together at the Bluebird Cafe: Guy Clark, Steve Earle, and Townes Van Zandt
Forever Young, by Dylan
The Devil’s Right Hand by Steve Earle on Copperhead Road
Shine a Light, by The Rolling Stones, from Exile on Main Street
Church, by Lyle Lovett, on Joshua Judges Ruth
If I Should Fall From Grace with God by The Pogues, on Look Them Straight in the Eye

Townes Van Zandt: To Live is to Fly

Living’s mostly wasting time
And I’ll waste my share of mine
But it never feels to good,
So let’s don’t take to long.

Days, up and down they come
Like rain on a conga drum
Forget most, remember some
But don’t turn none away.
Everything is not enough
And nothin’ is to much to bear.
Where you been is good and gone
All you keep is the getting there.

To live is to fly
Low and high,
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes.

Goodbye to all my friends
It’s time to go again
Think of all the poetry
And the pickin’ down the line
I’ll miss the system here
The bottom’s low
And the treble’s clear
But it don’t pay to think to much
On things you leave behind.
I will be gone
But it won’t be long
I will be a’bringin’ back the melodies
And rhythm that I find.

We all got holes to fill
Them holes are all that’s real.
Some fall on you like a storm,
Sometimes you dig your own.
The choice is yours to make,
Time is yours to take;
Some sail upon/dive into the sea,
Some toil upon the stone.

To live is to fly
Low and high,
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes;

Shake the dust off of your wings
And the tears out of your eyes.

To a Wake