Baron Fain: A faithful friend and a friend of faith
When Earl Fain IV, better known to most who knew him as “Baron,” died suddenly on July 31 it was a loss to many. His lovely wife Courtenay and fine son, Tradd, lost a devoted husband and loving father, many — myself included — lost a close and trusted friend; a host of fraternal, historical and social organizations lost an enthusiastic member and active participant; and the Ben Silver Corporation — and I don’t write this lightly — lost a great talent who was able to take his interest in heraldry, vexillology and history and combine it with a keen eye and creative imagination to design items representing a host of schools, societies and other organizations. On more than one occasion I complimented Baron on being able to take his interest in those fairly esoteric subjects and actually make a career out of working with them.
My aim here, however, is not to examine Baron Fain as a husband, father, son, friend, etc., but rather to consider the relationship out of which all of those other relationships sprang, namely, his relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
One thing that Baron and I had in common was the fact that we were raised Presbyterians and made mature decisions to become Anglicans in our 20s, similarly attracted by the Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican way as well as the soundness and beauty of the classical Book of Common Prayer. I knew Baron only as a friend and never as a parishioner — he was never a member of a parish that I served — but would’ve counted it a pleasure to have done so, because he took his Christian faith seriously and had bothered to not only figure out what he believed but to know why he believed what he believed.
I remember discussing the weekly Bible study that he led with considerable enthusiasm. Baron enjoyed the opportunity to open up God’s Word and discuss it with other men. When the ESV Study Bible came out I remember telling Baron about it and showing him my copy as well as the fact that purchase of it included electronic access and him being enthusiastic both at the quality of the tools provided but also with the possibilities to incorporate it into his teaching.
Baron also took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about his faith and to take a stand for Christian orthodoxy. When changes were introducing themselves into The Episcopal Church in the early 2000s, he drove out to Plano, Texas in early 2004 to attend the conference that would lay the groundwork for what would later become the Anglican Communion Network and finally the Anglican Church in North America. Baron was a frequent attendee at the conferences first known as SEAD, and later known as Mere Anglicanism and also enjoyed and participated in the conferences sponsored by the Prayer Book Society at St. John’s Church, Savannah.
And speaking of the Prayer Book Society, of which Baron was a longtime supporter and for which — not surprisingly — he designed a very handsome tie, my friend was an enthusiastic supporter of the classical Book of Common Prayer, most prominently represented in this country by the 1928 Edition of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Baron was a leader in the establishment of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer Morning Prayer service at St. Philip’s Church — sometimes called the “Miserable Offenders,” noting a theologically significant clause in the Prayer of General Confession that is sadly either omitted or watered down in later revisions — each Wednesday morning and would also regularly attend the 1928 Prayer Book Holy Communion service at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul at noon on Thursdays while that was still held; he sincerely wanted to support any offerings of 1928 Prayer Book worship that he could. When he and Courtenay were married, it was out of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer; when Tradd was baptized, it was out of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer; and when Baron was laid to rest in August, it was out of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.
Baron would be the first to tell you, though, that his preference for the 1928 Book of Common Prayer was not primarily aesthetic. Although he would freely admit that the attractiveness of that liturgy was a tremendous drawing card for him, the chief attraction remained its soundness and fidelity to earlier versions of the Book of Common Prayer. Baron counted it a joy to carry on that legacy.
In Deuteronomy we read:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” — Deuteronomy 6: 4-7 ESV
When Baron and Courtenay were blessed with a child of the covenant, they took their responsibilities to raise Tradd up in the fear and admonition of the Lord seriously. He was baptized by his grandfather, the Reverend Haden McCormick and regularly brought to church to hear and learn about God’s Word; he was also instructed in what the Reverend Dr. Jay Adams has called the milleu, taking advantage of everyday opportunities to train their son in the faith. In addition, every morning he was able Baron would read Morning Prayer with his son, kneeling at a prie-dieu borrowed from his grandfather, thus imparting a spiritual discipline and love of God and his Word from a very early age in that young man’s life.
Baron Fain is gone — it still seems hard to believe. Nearly every day since then something has happened that I wanted to share with my friend or some point has come up about which I wanted to seek his counsel because he'd usually have the correct answer. While my email in-box continues to fill up, there haven't been any of the regular reminders to fly this or that flag in commemoration of an oft little-known historical event (I used to regularly tell him that he should publish Fain’s Calendar of Obscure Observances), but his legacy will live on in a variety of ways: friendships formed, organizations participated in and in many cases founded, neckties designed, but most importantly in the faith implanted in his son which will bear fruit for many years to come. We must not grieve “... as others do, who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God, through Jesus, will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13b-14 ESV).
I give thanks for the life, faithful friendship and lasting testimony of my friend.
The Reverend Charles A. Collins, Jr. is an Anglican priest who currently serves as chaplain for an area hospice. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.