‘Be Like Sawyer, Serve Your People Well’ -Funeral Orator Admonishes Public, Private Officials, Clerics

Funeral discourses and tributes are traditionally intended to lavish eulogies on the dead who are ready to be processed for burial. Speakers usually dig up the most flowery words and emotional moments that describe their knowledge of interaction with the fallen individuals. But much of what is said is actually meant for the hearing of the living—the audience, the congregants—and not for the dead who hear not. Thus, the funeral discourse preached on April 2, 2022 by an Episcopal Bishop drew cue from the life and character the fallen Liberian politician and educator, Dr. Amos Claudius Saywer, who lived his life only for the benefit for others. And bulk of the congregants were present and past leaders of the public and private sectors, religious leaders, and foreign dignitaries. It therefore appeared ideal and strategic for Rev. Dr. James Bombo Sellee to tweet his message on good leadership that brings pride, dignity and prosperity to followers—sterling virtues that Dr. Sawyer fought and lived for. The Analyst reports.

Liberians have been told to cultivate the virtue of selfless and dedicated leadership in whatever endeavors they find themselves.

Whether they are in government, in the church or private sector, Liberians are urged strong to promote and encourage good leadership for the common good of the people they serve just as the late Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer did.

Dr. Sawyer was former President of the Interim Government for National Unity, former Chairman of the Governance Commission and former Dean of Liberia College, University of Liberia.

In those capacities, Dr. Sawyer according Rev. Dr. James Bombo Sellee, Bishop Coadjutor Elect, Episcopal Church of Liberia, exemplified the traits of good leadership where he found himself during his earthly life and was rewarded with honors and respect on his demise and will be rewarded by his Creator in Heavens.

Delivering the funeral discourse at the state funeral for the late Dr. Sawyer, held at one of the National Heritage Sites of Liberia, the Centennial Pavilion, on Ashmun Street, Dr. Selle said the late Dr. Sawyer was an epitome of good leadership and a man of peace that all Liberians must emulate.

Bishop Sellee, who based his discourse on living an exemplary life and good leadership trait, two virtues according to him that were the embodiment of the late Sawyer, told the audience that there is always two side of an opinion about how the outside world preserves any individual.

He said it is either one is hated by those around them or liked.

He gave a few examples of how Christ was hailed by many but yet got despised by few others; how the late Martin Luther King was loved by many whites, but yet hated by other whites.

On the national scene, the Episcopal Cleric noted that there is an opinion that President William R. Tolbert was a model president of Liberia but yet there are just few people who choose him over President Tubman.

“So, many people tend to divide public opinion and so that is why people have different views of them,” he continued. “Our brother [Dr. Sawyer] was a great man because he lived according to Jesus Christ’s example to be a servant of the people. We can all be great but to be great is not how much money you have or how much power you exercise; it is rather about how to serve and we all can serve from one point to another. Therefore, we can be great because we have the capacity to serve one another and our brother served the country well.”

He said his personal encounter with Sawyer was in 1997 when he was just appointed to head the church where Sawyer worshipped and each time he preached,  Sawyer will meet him at the end of the sermon to thank him or get a better view of what was said during the sermon but on a particular day when he preached on the topic The Evidence of His Resurrection, Dr. Sawyer sought to know the main thrust of the topic when Jesus Christ surrendered to his enemies and said “here I am and not staying away from them”.

He told Sawyer the implication of it was no matter what you do, people will have an opinion about you; when it is good, they will either attribute it to another person or they will deny that you ever did it but the bottom line is to do the right thing according to your conscience to serve your people.

Dr. Sellee recalled: “Brother Sawyer and myself had a mutual admiration for each other. Before he travelled to the United States, I visited him at his Caldwell residence and he told me, ‘Father, you know I fully supported you to become Bishop of Liberia; I will ask you to have your plans well laid out so that when you become Bishop; you will hit the ground running.  And I told Dr. Sawyer: ‘I came down here to share with you my vision and strategy to running the Diocese and I will like you to have a look. But he said, ‘Father I am not a theologian and I said yes I know you are not a theologian, but you understand the Episcopal church, you know the issues of the world , you know about Liberia, you are a great analyst and I know you can tell the good one from the bad one. Unfortunately, he travelled and I was not able to share with him again”.

He said the election was held and he won around the same time Sawyer died and he was shattered.

Dr. Sellee also said when he got through to Mrs. Comfort Thelma Duncan-Sawyer, widow of the deceased, to express his sympathy, he also used the time to inform her about his victory and Mrs. Sawyer thanked God for his victory even with the state of mind she was in and that showed how close he was to the Sawyer family

He added that Dr. Sawyer had the gift of intellect and he used it wisely to serve his country and humanity.

Quoting from Isaiah Chapter 35 from the Holy Bible, the Liberian cleric said  occasions like funerals, remind the living about deeds that follow  people when they  die; the need to trust God and obey His instructions because his promise to every mankind is to be rewarded at the end of the earthly journey and for Sawyer who served his country and people in everything he was involved in, whether in politics, in education, humanity, the church or the community, he will be rewarded for his good deeds.

The Bishop-elect also spoke on crucial national issues, stressing the need to have a united country to forge ahead because this is the only way the citizens will benefit from their labor to the country.

He said Liberians cannot continue to be living far apart from each other and expect things to go right in the country.

He added: “What is separating you from loving your friend? We are talking about national reconciliation in Liberia and I want to remind you that there is strength in unity. What is difficult to have mutual respect for one another?  We tend to defend people who are on our side such that the government will give favor to those who support it and go against those that do not support it while the other side will also defend their people whether they do wrong or not. You cannot grow the nation or unite the people when you are not serving your people or doing the right thing like our brother Sawyer who served this country and people with all his heart.”

He said the basis for unity is justice which is giving the people what they deserve and it should not be on the basis of who we agree with or who agrees with us.

“So we must practice justice. No matter what we do, what we say or pray or fast about, but once there is no justice nothing will change in the land,” Dr. Sellee said, adding, “If you pray and want to change anything, you must do or say what is right. That is the instruction from God.”

The tough-talking cleric also said that justice means inclusiveness which entails that the citizens need to work and benefit from the riches that God provides for all of the citizens, stressing that to be united the citizens must address their challenges together.

He identified the issues of waste and garbage collection in Monrovia and its environs that have been major talking points around since it posed environmental and health hazards to the people.

“For the garbage and the waste in the city, the government must take the lead and we will follow to help ourselves. Let every sector of our society, be our churches and congregation, must take care of our environment. We must rally around the government to have our city and environment clean.”

He took time to address the abuse of power and arrogance being exhibited by some people in government and urged them to desist from such acts because it has had very negative impact on the country.

“It divided us and continue to do so, it brings disaffection among the citizens because force is being used against the will of the people,” he asserted. “Be careful how you use power, you are not the source of power, your power derives from God All Mighty. Power is transient, today you can hold power and tomorrow you lose it. Be careful how you use authority and power. Use your power to serve the people and not to suppress the people.”

Rev. Dr. Sellee also sounded strong words against the alarming and increasing rise in the number of rape cases in the country especially after the President had declared state of emergency on rape and other gender based violence and called on the government to address the situation very quickly.

Continuing, he said: “We need to address the issue of the rising rate of rape cases in our society.       Our children are being destroyed by heartless men around the country. We thank our president who declared rape as a state of emergency recently and promised prosecution for violaters and we do not know whether it has been done or not but rape is still the issue in the land. Violence against women is all over the society, even in the city and we as a people must work together with the president to address this issue. We as a people must work with the president to address the issue of violence against women in the society.”

The outspoken cleric drew cheers from the people when he spoke against the unchecked secret killings and unresolved deaths in the country and called for the heinous crimes to stop.

“We need to address the issue of secret killing and unresolved deaths in our country,” he stressed.     “We need to investigate all these acts in our country and call on the churches to rise up and let us do something about these in our country. The level of insecurity in the land must be addressed.”

He expressed his family and Church’s deepest sympathy to the bereaved family and said personally he was touched about the departure Dr. Sawyer, someone he come to know as a family person and shared things with in common.

He encouraged the family and pray that God consoles them and give them the strength to bear the loss as surely Sawyer will be rewarded by God for his good deeds on earth.

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