It’s a rare thing when a minister has a continual, personal relationship with someone for 33 years or more. Clergy often change churches and church members, at least some of them, change churches almost as often as they do their socks.
It was in 1988 that Paul and Judy Massey, having just moved to the area, visited the church I served at the time and chose to remain. Paul was a businessman who had been active in church leadership for many years. He would become a leader in that church, too, serving on the Official Board and in other capacities.
In September of 1996 when we planted a new church, the Masseys became charter members. In 1997, Paul was ordained a Deacon, which in the Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican tradition is a clergy office, by Bishop John W. Holloway. In 1999, he was ordained by Bishop Holloway to the priesthood.
Paul taught, preached, visited with people, and, upon retiring from the business world, became a non-stipendiary, full-time priest. He also served on the church’s Rector’s Council for many years and began a ministry for seniors called NTO (“Not Too Old”) which would later be re-named “Primetimers.” He would also be appointed by Bishop Holloway to a seat on the Diocesan Commission on Ordained Ministry.
He and Judy were the seed couple that birthed the Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Ga., where Paul would be the rector. Upon a second retirement over a decade later, Father Robert Roethel would assume the leadership and he and his wife, Patricia, would faithfully continue that ministry. In 2008, Father Paul would be appointed as the Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of the Mid-South, serve on the Bishop’s Council, and would serve several years on the Southeast Archdiocesan Council.
If my research is accurate, it was in 2009 that he began writing a regular advice column for the Fayette Citizen called “Ask Father Paul.” The column was about “Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible.” He continued writing the column until 2020 and they can all be viewed on The Citizen.https://thecitizen.com/author/father-paul-massey/
Canon Massey also served as a police chaplain for 20 years with the Peachtree City Police Department retiring from that volunteer position only a few months ago.
Paul was an accomplished man. Born in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1942, he attended Carson-Newman College where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in history cum laude in 1964. He earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Georgia State University in 1970. He was an avid golfer and an ardent Georgia Bulldogs fan.
Canon Massey served as a teacher and principal for 13 years in the Atlanta City, Columbia County, Georgia and Douglas County, Georgia school systems. He unsuccessfully ran for school superintendent and then entered the business/non-profit world in 1979 and served as executive director of the Georgia Builders & Contractors Association for three years and as president and CEO of the Printing Industry Association of Georgia for 24 years.
Paul earned numerous honors during his careers in education and business including being named a Kentucky Colonel, President of the Georgia Society of Association of Executives, the state-wide Society for professionals in the field of association management. He was named “Association Executive of the Year” in 1994.
Paul would also be one of those few people in the Diocese of the Mid-South that would receive the Commendation of Excellence Award for his contributions over the years to his home diocese.
Canon Massey was highly supportive of missions, having made a trip to Africa with a healthcare team and enthusiastically endorsed and supported his wife in her many domestic and global missions endeavors.
Working with Paul was both enjoyable and, at times, challenging. No one would ever call him a “yes man” and there were numerous occasions that we butted heads over differing ideas about what or how something should be done. He was quick to share his opinions but, in fairness, he would listen, too, even if he thought I was dead wrong.
In a sense, the Canon to the Ordinary is akin to the First Officer on the USS Enterprise. It’s his responsibility to point out to the captain alternatives, better ways of doing things, and issue warnings when he deems the captain to be wrong. As I occupied this office from 1997-2007, I understood that role, even though at times I didn’t always like it when Paul would speak out. I assume my bishop had the same experience with me. He served in that role from 2008 until a few days ago.
Judy died a year ago, after a long and valiant battle with congestive heart failure. A part of Paul died with her. He and I had lunch several times over the last few months and a sadness, and a loneliness, was always present under the surface, if one knew to look for it.
Before the pandemic, Paul said that he had a great sermon he wanted to preach at Christ the King called, “Wisdom: What it Is, Why You Need It, and How to Get It.” A few months ago, he pressed me again laughingly saying that “I want to preach one more good sermon before I croak.” And so it was that, on Sunday July 18, 2021, Paul preached that sermon to an appreciative crowd. It can be seen and heard by going to www.ctk.life and following the prompts (the message begins at 41:20). It was to be his last sermon.
Last week, Paul was visiting his daughter and family near Richmond, VA and was seriously considering moving close to them. He had put his house on the market sharing with me that, due to health issues, he could no longer adequately maintain the residence and was thinking about assisted living. On Tuesday, his son called me to tell me the shocking news that Paul had died unexpectedly at his daughter’s home.
When I shared the news with fellow priest Dan Hale, he was shocked too. “Paul is like an icon,” he said. Then he said, “It’s the end of an era.” The previous Sunday, Paul sent me a fairly long text in which he said, about his possible move, “I will always be a Georgia boy.” He later in the text said, “Don’t forget, you faithfully promised to do my funeral (grin).” His last words were these to me: “You are a dear, precious friend and brother. Much love. Paul.”
For me, it truly is the end of an era. An era that has lasted 33 years. In some ways, Paul and I really were like brothers — we shared common interests, participated together on important tasks, were both church planters, liked each other, fought and scrapped a bit, but never even thinking that one would not be around for the other when there was a need.
A couple of months ago, at lunch, Paul said, “I just wish that God would let me go home and be with Him and Judy.” So be it. A new era for Paul and Judy has begun. They will both be greatly missed and long remembered.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the pandemics, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]