John Roper Memorial sermon by Richard Samuel Roper

Do you hear them? Do you hear their voices echoing off these walls? The voices of persons long departed who worshipped here. Do you hear their prayers of gratitude and joy – their prayers of pain and pleading? Do you hear their laughter and their weeping?

Do you hear their hymns of joy and exaltation? Do you hear them?

Do you see them? Do you see them lurking in the dim shadows just out of range of our candlelight? Do you see them? The long parade of women and men, children and youth who have marched here to nurture their faith, exchange their vows of marriage, baptize their children, and bury their dead? Do you see them?

Do you feel their presence? Real persons, not simply date of birth and marriage and death in a long list. I covet for each of you tonight the ability to hear and see and feel their presence.

What a wonderful place in which to find ourselves. How indebted we are to this Parish and its congregants. I’ve visited here at St. Peter’s Church many times over the years. The first time I came here I got lost in the roads and lanes of New Kent, just as on occasion we have all gotten lost in our attempts to fathom the lives of those who bear the name Roper. St. Peter’s Parish is for us a major beacon on our journey.

I can recite eleven generations Molly, Ruth, Richard, Charles, James, Joseph, Joseph, Samuel, Shadrack, Thomas, and John, Jr. Most of you can recall a similar company. We’d start with a son or daughter of John Roper, Jr. from whom sprang most of the Roper families represented here. Not only this, but each of us can name, among the thousands of women and men who bear our surname, persons who have made a difference for us and for their communities. It is these we seek to remember and honor tonight as we look back to John Roper.

Who was this John Roper? Was he small or large, short or tall? Did he have a “Roper nose”? Where did he live? The short answer is we haven’t the faintest idea. For us he resides in a dim and lost past. We are indebted to this Parish for all that we know of his life. Fire and wars have conspired to destroy all but a few reconstructed civil records of the county. It is only in the carefully kept and preserved parish records of Blisland and St. Peter’s that we find a record of him. In those records, particularly the Vestry Book and the Register of St. Peter’s, we find evidence of his family, his wife and children, and the story of a churchman.

Those records suggest that he was a man of faith. He was a man who took seriously his relationship with this Church and its mission. He not only sought her ministries but also faithfully entered into her life and served her faithfully.

Not only was he a man of faith he was highly regarded and respected by his friends and neighbors. He was regularly chosen to serve on the vestry of this parish and on some of its most important committees. John Roper was busily involved in the life of his community.

He must have been a man of conviction, great perseverance and patience. He was selected over several years to represent St. Peter’s Parish in the boundary dispute with Blisland Parish. From 1686-90 there are at least ten references to the dispute with the vestry of Blisland Parish over the boundary between the two parishes. Again and again meetings were set, only to have no one from Blisland Parish attend. John Roper worked, with others and sometimes alone, on this matter until the time of his death.

So we remember John Roper, a patient, persistent man of faith. That his name may not be forgotten by future generations L. David Roper will now present to the parish a bronze plaque to honor his memory.

Presentation of Plaque by L. David Roper to Stephen Miles, Senior Warden of St. Peter's Parish Church.

Notes for Service:

John Roper is a great name!:

Thanks to:

This is the sermon delivered by Richard Samuel (Dick) Roper at the candlelight memorial service for John Roper (c1645-1697) at St. Peter’s Church, New Kent County, Virginia on the evening of Friday 3 October 2003.