Memoir by Michael S. Usey
March 29, 2015
What I like about Christianity is that it is primarily a faith about right practice rather right belief. The two are intertwined, naturally. What one believes leads to how one acts. But over and over again Jesus emphasized that it’s not primarily what we say we believe, but rather how our actions show what we believe.
In the so-called sermon on the mount in Matthew’s story of Jesus, he ends his teaching to his friends by saying, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
Later in Matthew, Jesus will tell the story of two sons: A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” Again, an emphasis on doing the words of Jesus.
Then, in the famous parable of the sheep and the goats, which is Jesus’ last public teaching before his death, the Big Judge says Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
All of which reminds me of the Latin phrase Esse Quam Videri, “to be rather than to seem,” the North Carolina state motto, which was chosen by jurist and historian, Walter Clark.
These words of Jesus are both terrible and comforting, especially for those of us who study his life and teachings. It will not be enough to know them and to hear them; we must do them.
I bring up these powerful passages because I think they are an appropriate summation of the life of Archie Carter, whose life we remember, celebrate, grieve, and give thanks for this afternoon. I am blessed to be Archie’s pastor. If I had a church full of men and women the likes of Archie, Greensboro would not be the same. He did “small things with great love,” to use Mother Teresa’s phrase.
Born in Eden in 1944 to a mother who worked in Fieldcrest Mills and a father who was a master carpenter, Archie was the oldest of two brothers. He grew up happy and active, playing in the band in Morehead High. He went to Roanoke National Business College, majoring in what we’d now call accounting. He loved numbers and the precision they demanded, and he loved helping people manage their money better.
He went to work doing the books for a trucking firm, then with Pilot Life for 11 years, but the corporate life was not really a good fit for him. So he left it for Arbor House; he loved the business end of it. He had the ability to see how money could be wisely used to help people. He branched out to other businesses too, and eventually he was keeping the books for his own clientele.
Earlier he wore a hairpiece to cover up his baldness. But one day while washing it, he decided enough was enough, and bald was beautiful anyway, and never wore it again. That took some courage, and his lovely pate was chic ahead of its time.
He helped Mike with his antique business, of course. Archie met the love of his life in Mike 44 years ago when they were both with friends at a bar—which was unusual for both of them at the time. They had lunch soon after they met, became good friends, then the friendship grew into a deep and abiding love that lasted through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, as long as they both lived.
Archie loved to walk, and took long walks around their neighborhood. He and Mike had a small cabin right outside Hanging Rock State Park, and they spent many happy days there, and hiking around the woods there. It was their get away place. And even after he became ill with brain cancer, Mike would take him on “rollabouts” in a wheelchair. Like Jesus, Archie loved to walk.
Tom Hardin was Archie’s faithful friend for 40 years. They had countless Sunday lunches at Fran’s Front Porch in Julian and the enormous amount of their chicken pie. Tom is especially thankful to him for the generosity of adopting him into his and Mike’s family at Christmas for the past 20 years after Tom’s parents died. Tom was always struck by Archie’s honesty and trust. He would give to those in need; he was generous always, sometimes to a fault.
I asked Tom about their lifelong friendship, and Tom wrote back: These words by George Eliot (whose real name was Mary Ann Evans) perfectly summarize my relationship with Archie:
Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away. What the rest of here today wouldn’t give for such a friend as Archie was.
When Archie retired, he started working with the Greensboro Urban Ministry, also know as GUM, which is one of the most incredible ministries in our city. He started with one day a week, from 9 to 1. Soon it spread to two, then three, and finally four days a week, every weekend except Thursday. Mike Aiken, the executive director of GUM and a UCC minister, will tell you more about Archie’s important work there, but I want to share with you my favorite story about Archie. On Sundays, after he and Mike were done with the News and Record, Archie would carefully comb through the want ads, reading them with his practiced eye, then select and cut out the ones he consider the best opportunities. Then the would take the ones he had cut out of the paper, arrange them on a page, then Xerox enough copies to hand out to clients and people at GUM the next week. This is a brilliant form of ministry. As I said he had the canny ability to make connections like this, to see how money could help change a person’s life positively.
Archie had taped to his bathroom mirror in all caps: I am a child of God. Therefore I have the greatest power in the Universe inside me. He lived like that was true. He was, in Mike’s words, a good and decent human, something we all realize is increasing rare these days. Francis of Assisi said, Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary use words. Archie did this very thing, living out his faith. Like a tree lovingly planted, his love grows in us still, this child of God who life blessed all those around him.
GREENSBORO ARCHIE D. CARTER III, OF GREENSBORO, died March 27, 2015. He was a gentle and giving person in his own shy and generous way. He will be remembered by those who knew him as one who possessed a rare dignity and concern for all of humankind. His life was a testament of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”After retirement from the world of bookkeeping and accounting, he entered the realm of volunteerism with his beloved Urban Ministry of Greensboro. He continued those efforts for as long as he was able, even after entering assisted and rehabilitative services. He was more concerned for others than himself.He was predeceased by his parents, Archie D Carter, Jr., and Elizabeth Lewis Carter of Eden.He is survived by Mike Joyce of the home, his brother Wade (Skippy) of Raleigh, aunts, cousins, nieces, grand-nieces and nephews and his special Aunt Novella Sullivan of Walnut Cove. His extended family of friends and neighbors were diverse, caring, and generous in their time and support for his comfort.Special acknowledgement goes to Drs. Magrinat and Manning and staff of Cone Cancer Center, and to Blumenthal Nursing and Rehabilitative Center for their collective devotion and service to him, and to Katie Fitch and Thomas Dumas for their participation in his care. Hospice of Greensboro provided additional and skilled care for his comfort.A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 29, 2015 at College Park Church, with the family receiving friends immediately afterward. Interment will be private.Those wishing to honor Archie may do so by prayer, displaying kindness to a stranger, or by donating to the Greensboro Urban Ministry at 305 W. Lee St., Greensboro, NC 27406, or to the Stokes County Arts Council, 500 N. Main St., P. O. Box 66, Danbury, NC 27016.