– by Jean Barbara

I was sitting in my daughter’s living room with three of my grandchildren aged six, nine and eleven when I started writing this eulogy. They asked me who it was about, and when I told them, they said they had never heard of Steve Clark. One day, if one or all of them end up joining the Sword of the Spirit as adult members, they will be told his story – the story of a man who was baptized as a Christian at university and who, a few years later, received a vision and a call from the Lord to build Christian charismatic covenant community and to establish a lay ecumenical brotherhood of celibate men. Today, there are thousands of charismatic communities and thousands of men and women around the world who would say that their personal and communal inspiration came from Steve. 

His teachings, articles and books have become a reference to the charismatic world. One of them, a course he wrote more than 50 years ago under the title “The Life in the Spirit Seminars,” has been attended by more than a hundred fifty million Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants coming from almost every country of the world. In November of last year I was at a meeting in the Vatican where Pope Francis exhorted us to spread the Life in the Spirit Seminars to the whole church, not only within the charismatic movement. Steve’s book Man and Woman in Christ, written in 1980, was hailed by L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, as one of the most important books ever written on the topic. This is some of what my grandchildren and many others will hear or read about Steve.

Over the past few years, I have addressed a large number of community leaders in many countries in Africa and Europe – and also networks of communities. The leaders have consistently wanted to know how to build Christian community and to receive wisdom and teaching about forming their members and training their leaders. And it looks like this trend of interest is on the increase. What I have been able to share with them is the treasure trove of material Steve had developed for the Sword of the Spirit, the international community of communities that he founded. Many of these leaders have even adopted for their own communities Steve’s description of covenant community as “a community of disciples on mission.” 

What my children have already heard from me (and hopefully my grandchildren soon will) is that Steve was a father and a brother to me. I have known him for forty years, for eighteen of which I served alongside him on the leadership council of the Sword of the Spirit. He mentored me, he had patience with me, he encouraged me, but above all he was a dear friend, always gentle, and with a twist of good American humor. I cherished the moments I spent with him and always looked forward to them. Once he surprised me when he spoke to me in my own language, Arabic, a language he learned for the sake of entertaining his many Lebanese friends – a language alongside the several he already spoke. 

Over the years, a few men and women have had a great impact on my life. Steve is certainly at top of that list. With the little time I have left, I will continue to spread his legacy worldwide to the glory of God and to the good of all those called to be in lay covenant communities, in celibate brotherhoods, and in the charismatic movement at large. 

In the past number of years, Steve lived in a care home, most of the time sitting in his room. I visited him there and have also talked to him there through the internet, and I often wondered whether the life of such a travelled man for the sake of the Gospel was now idle. Until I came across this story and commentary by Bishop Kallistos Ware in his book, The Orthodox Way, and I quote: “One of the best known of the Desert Fathers of fourth-century Egypt, St. Serapion the Sindonite, travelled once on pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of life – for he was himself a great wanderer– Serapion called on her and asked: ‘Why are you sitting here?’ To this she replied: ‘I am not sitting, I am on a journey.’

“I am not sitting, I am on a journey,” continues Bishop Kalilistos. “Every Christian may apply these words to himself or herself. To be a Christian is to be a traveler. Our situation, say the Greek Fathers, is like that of the Israelite people in the desert of Sinai: we live in tents, not houses, for spiritually we are always on the move. We are on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar, for it is a journey out of time into eternity.”

I hope to see you soon, Steve, my brother and my mentor!

Jean Barbara
The Sword of the Spirit