My relationship with Senior Minister Matt Waterstone is one where I definitely pick up on the first ring. Much of our conversation is tied to something that’s work related that needs immediate discussion and this proved to be true when I picked up his call a week before Easter.

“Kate, we have a problem,” he said.

This has been my first time working for a church during Holy Week and guess what? Being behind the scenes at Easter is nuts. Our staff is swamped with additional services and offerings and my content load is no exception. Usually, I produce an average of 8 pieces of content per week and in this period, there were 18. Some were prepared in advance and other announcements more spontaneous. On the morning of Matt’s call, there had been a tragic and unexpected death that needed to be announced which added to the chaos.

Erin Fraser was a Bronxville resident with three children, all who had been confirmed at Reformed. She was 52 years old when, on March 3rd of this year, she died of a brain aneurysm. Ironically, our paths had crossed in 1997 when I was working for a startup TV network called Burly Bear. A bigger company called Broadway Video acquired it (run by Lorne Michaels, Executive Producer of Saturday Night Live) and Erin was brought in to monitor the transition of our operations, right as I was leaving for a bigger on-camera reporter job. She was funny, watchful and had Lorne’s best interests in mind.

Our announcements follow a template, and I often use the most recent version of one announcement to create another. From the screenshot above, I bet you can guess who had previously passed… William Agee.

“Kate, we have a problem,” said Matt. And he was right. I had a horrific typo in the most sensitive and important piece of correspondence we distribute. To thousands of people to boot. To say my heart dropped to my toes is an understatement.

I took a screenshot and got the email address of Jay Fraser, the husband of Erin. I have never met Jay and below is the correspondence that followed.

Jay. 

Attached is the announcement that went out, and I owe you the biggest apology. In the bottom line, you will see that there is an incorrect name, William, instead of Erin. This is my mistake. We take these announcements from previous statements and I did not catch this mistake.

Jay, I hope you can forgive more for this error. I also hope some of our amazing congregation show up to honor Erin on the 1st. 

Humbly. Kate 

Minutes later, I saw a return email and I broke into a flop sweat. I opened it up and saw this:

Kate-

It’s OK. I am sure no one will really notice and Erin probably would have thought it was funny.

Thank you for sending this for us.

Jay

I immediately burst into tears.

Then I sent this:

Jay.

That might be one of the nicest replies I’ve ever received for an error like this and your kindness reduced me to tears. How lucky she was to have such an understanding wingman. 

We are sending strength and prayers. 

Within five minutes, this arrived:

Thank you for saying so and that reduced me to tears. I suggest neither of us operate heavy machinery.

If nothing else (and honestly, I always knew this)- Erin’s passing reinforced to me what is important in this world.

Jay

——————-

How is it possible that when this first happened, I yearned to disappear in shame, but moments later, had the urge to tell anyone who would listen about the extraordinary Jay Fraser and what had just taken place? This is a stranger who now has a diehard fan. ME.

Our exchange touched me deeply and reminded me of the importance of human interaction and compassion, especially in times of loss and grief. Jay not only emphasized the power of empathy and how it can bring comfort and healing to others (even in the midst of challenging circumstances), but he showed me grace. That took our connection to a whole other level.

You know who else does that? I vote you come to church to find out.