Ardell Ray Day
Traced to its Latin roots, the name “Ardell” means industrious and eager. At the Cathedral, however, Ardell means much, much more. Dedication. Commitment. Constancy. Hands on. Loyalty. Or so say members of the staff and congregation.
To mark and celebrate senior sexton Ardell Ray’s four decades of taking care of the church buildings — and supporting programs within them — we are coming together in his honor for a party on Sunday, Jan. 7 in Reynolds Hall during the 10 o’clock hour. (And since Ray’s the guest of honor, his colleagues will handle the venue prep.)
No cake, though. Peach cobbler is his favorite dessert, organizers explain. “This is a party for Ardell, and we want it to be an opportunity for him to receive thanks from the entire community,” says Canon Vicar Arthur Callaham. “We have all benefited from Ardell’s work. This will be an ‘act of Thanksgiving, a way for the congregation to reflect on what his contribution has been — for 40 years.”
A Cathedral is more than the high profile people,” Callaham says. “It is also those who serve behind the scenes. “To recognize them is part of doing church.”
Long-term parishioner Dieter Ufer, who has served several times as the Cathedral’s junior warden and continues to care deeply about the
buildings’ integrity, remembers when Ray started here in April 1978 as assistant sexton. (Ray earned the full sexton title in 1981.)
“For many years, he was a ‘one man band,’” called upon to ring the bells for services and greet parishioners, make repairs to windows,
plumbing and furniture, paint and basic electrical work. No challenge deterred him, Ufer recalls of the early years. He’s still a bit in awe of Ray’s seasonal climb through a window to access the cooling tower to engage or disengage the drainage. (This was before the church had a central air conditioning system.)
Junior wardens have come and gone, Ufer says, but they learned from Ray how to manage their duties “smoothly and correctly.” For Ray, meanwhile, that longevity means he long ago reached an ability to anticipate what needs attending.
“He puts church first in every sense of the word,” Ufer says. “And he has more love and respect for the physical plant than anyone I know.”
Callaham agrees: “Ardell is as much a part of the fabric of the Cathedral as the building itself,” he says. “We count on Ardell the way we count on the building. He has been good for us and good to us.”
“Having heard innumerable stories about Ardell’s love and care for the Cathedral in my five-year tenure at Christ Church, I experienced it for myself during Hurricane Harvey, when Ardell traveled through the hurricane by bicycle to ensure the Cathedral's safety,” says Dean Barkley Thompson. “He called me from the midst of the storm to say, 'Don't worry Dean, I'll take care of everything.' And he did. Ardell is a saint among us."
As the Cathedral added programs and outreach, the sexton corps grew to include Ray, Brandon Johnson, and Shadrick Griffin, managed by Facilities Manager Frank Guevara. They share in the caretaking of the
buildings and what goes on in them.
“We've met here in the wee hours due to fire alarms and threat of flood,” says Guevara. Ray is the “master mind” of the group, Guevara continues. He knows every set-up in the book without even to consult the set up notes. “They’re in his head.”
As the Cathedral’s longest serving sexton, Ray “knows where the pipes are buried. He’s the institutional memory of the physical plant,” says David Simpson, chief operating officer.
It is rare for the Cathedral — and churches in general — to have a staff member with such a long history, he says. Most last three or four years.
When pressed for why he has remained so long, Ray says, with a small smile, “Because the people are nice, and I am treated nicely.”