Wednesday evening brought the news that a friend and dear soul Michael Tedrick had left this life, that soul headed on whatever mission it’s been called to next. Michael had been terminally ill for some time, and the news of his death came shortly after the cancellation of a dinner set in early February to honor Michael’s missionary work for the diocese. Maybe those of us who knew Michael through that work can still gather to honor his memory.
My wife Nancy Pennekamp and I met Michael on a pilgrimage trip to our companion Diocese of Curitiba, Brazil in 2009. The other pilgrims on that trip were Deborah Nagle-Burks, Melissa Ridlon, the Rev. Kate Salinaro, and the Rev. Amber Sturgess, and we often talked about calls to ordained or lay ministries. Michael understood quite clearly that his call was to be a missioner. I recall that he used that term, missioner, and not the other more familiar term “missionary,” with its connotations of someone going to a foreign land to trawl for converts and teach the natives about our way of life. Michael’s work also might be described as a ministry of presence, an active presence of the Diocese of California, participating in the life of our companion diocese in Brazil.
During our twelve day pilgrimage, Michael served as a social and cultural interpreter, helping us get more of a three-dimensional understanding of the communities and congregations we were visiting, not to mention the personalities and local church politics. He followed the blog I was writing during the trip and offered editing suggestions on things I had misunderstood or that might be misinterpreted by others.
Michael had done previous stints as a missioner in Liberia and Jerusalem. He had first intended to live in Curitiba for one year, and then two, but said that his time there would be for however long it should be. It was a nagging illness that eventually called him back to San Francisco.
The Brazilians we met adored Michael. We opened our homes to them for visits to San Francisco, but they wanted to be with Michael at his North Beach apartment. He was also their cultural interpreter and the face of the Diocese of California and The Episcopal Church.
Speaking of that face, the diocesan announcement of Michael’s death included a picture, obviously a recent one, of Michael grinning broadly for the camera. That’s exactly how he looked and how I remember him – even when you could see the pain in his eyes or the subject was difficult, he would break into that smile. He could communicate everything through that smile.
A Funeral Service is planned for Wednesday, January 23, 2 p.m., at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.