The mystery of the relic and the Rev. Dr. Tony Lewis

Date: December 2, 2022

Along with several other Faculty, Faculty Emeriti, and students, I made my journey across to St. Paul’s K Street to participate in the service celebrating the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Tony Lewis. Tony was marking fifty years in ordained ministry. The occasion was beautiful and moving. The Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached with passion about the imperative of the witness linking together St. Andrew with our very own Tony Lewis.

I spoke to Tony just before the reception. And I took the opportunity to confirm the narrative behind the VTS relic. It was back in 2014 that the Seminary had a bequest courtesy of an Anglo-Catholic priest. In among the various items sent by his estate to the Seminary, there was this remarkable small box, with a clear visible finger nail (or perhaps toe nail) with a note describing this as a “Relic from St. Thomas á Becket.”

In situations like this: what do you do? So I called Fr. Tony. He came to the sacristy which was then in the Lettie Pate Evans Auditorium (where Lifelong Learning now is). He said to me, “This needs to be buried. Let us do it now.” So attired in our cassocks, we made the journey to the then chapel building site. We inquired as to the approximate location of the altar. Tony then dropped the item into the then soil. He said a prayer; and we made the journey back.

As we remembered this moment on Wednesday night, Tony observed. “I was very deliberate: I made sure that the relic was buried in a place where no one can be sure where it was buried, thereby preventing Anglo-Catholic veneration; and simultaneously, I knew that this was a place where concrete would be poured, thereby preventing the Evangelicals from digging it up.”

There are many reasons why I love Tony Lewis. And this is just one of them.

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
Dean and President

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