Rev. Brenda Howard Tapia Honored – Foundation Announced
Last Friday it was hard to miss that something big was going on in Davidson. Signs at the entrances to town warned folks to expect delays between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Indeed, so many people were expected to pay tribute to the life and legacy of the Rev. Brenda Howard Tapia, that signs were posted, Davidson police officers were helping direct traffic, and hundreds of people were filing into Davidson College Presbyterian Church.
Brenda’s casket was placed at the front of the main sanctuary, and it was surrounded by flowers. The casket was also draped with a blanket of red roses and carnations. To the right was a poster size print of Rev. Brenda Tapia holding a communion chalice in her hand, and a cross over her shoulder. To the left was a beautiful tapestry featuring a picture of Brenda and the words from Psalm 23.
Services began at Davidson College at 10:30 a.m. with the sisters of the Charlotte Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority honoring Brenda with their Omega Omega ceremony. The service included comments about the sorority, the ties that bind sisters together, specific comments about Brenda, and several songs.
Next, members of Brenda’s family were escorted into the sanctuary and were seated on the front pews. Rev. Dr. Canada made remarks of welcome and offered an opening prayer.
As guests continued to arrive over the next hour, they waited patiently in line in the main aisle of the sanctuary to approach Brenda’s casket and pay their final respects. When members of Brenda’s family had paid their final respects, her casket was closed.
As noontime approached, more than 600 people had filled the DCPC sanctuary for the Homegoing Celebration service, while more than 80 people around the globe watched the live stream of the service on the DCPC Facebook page. The service has subsequently been viewed more than 3900 times as of Tuesday of this week.
Rev. Dr. Arthur W. Canada officiated the service, with the eulogy provided by Rev. Dr. Jerry L. Cannon. Scripture readings were provided by Rev. Dr. James C. Howell, and Rev. Thomas Lee. Rev. Dr. Larry Hill offered a prayer of comfort.
Brenda’s cousin, Ruby Houston, acknowledged all the individuals and organizations who had pulled together to make the service and associated events possible. She highlighted the attendance of more than two dozen of Brenda’s classmates in the Class of 1967. Ruby also noted the many valuable lessons that Brenda taught, including: “Who We Are, and Whose We Are.” She thanked everyone on behalf of the family. On a lighter note, she also told those gathered the that one of her favorite things to do was to get Brenda’s answering machine. The message was: “Hi, this is Brenda and God. We are busy right now. Please leave your name, the time you called, and a message.” She went on to wonder aloud, “I cannot imagine what Brenda and God are doing right now.” She closed by asking for prayers for Brenda’s immediate family: Cassandra, Pops, and Beverly.
Longtime friend and local TV/radio host Beatrice “Bea” Thompson read a poem. But first she said, “When I was a little girl, the old people would say – when a church is full when you leave here – you was LOVED! And Brenda was LOVED!” She also said that Ruby had taken her story about the answering machine. She then went on to read the words she discovered on social media – a poem written about Brenda.
Dr. James Thomas made remarks on behalf of the Presbytery of Charlotte – the local governing body of Presbyterian Churches, USA.
Hymns and special songs included: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “It Is Well With My Soul,” “Walk in The Light,” and “Total Praise.” “Beauty I Am” served as the recessional.
The choir included members from Davidson Presbyterian Church, C.N. Jenkins Presbyterian Church, and Davidson College Presbyterian Church. Solos were performed by Rev. Christopher Springs and Kevin Harris.
During the service, Brenda’s godson, Boris “Bo” Henderson, announced the plan to establish the Brenda H. Tapia Family Foundation to continue to “grow Brenda’s extraordinary legacy.” The foundation will be established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and the goals, objectives, purpose, and mission statement will be forthcoming.
Henderson emphasized, “The great reality is that Brenda H. Tapia’s legacy of hope, joy, beauty, compassion, commitment, unwavering faith, and the purest LOVE is deeply buried within each of us gathered here today. As evidenced by the great body of work she left behind for us to carefully sift through, Brenda truly, truly believed that faith without works is DEAD.”
He also said that they had already received more than $30,000 in commitments prior to the formal announcement – a comment that drew a round of applause. Henderson also asked those gathered to consider donating their time and talent, in addition to their treasures to the effort – to “continue Brenda’s beautiful legacy of education, equality, justice, faith, and infinite Love for all.”
As the service concluded, the drape of flowers was removed from Brenda’s casket, and replaced with the tapestry. As the recessional was sung, pall bearers gently rolled her casket to the back of the sanctuary.
Immediately following the service, a smaller group traveled to the Christian Aid Society Cemetery where Brenda was laid to rest. Her white casket bore the words “May the work I’ve done speak for me.” Representatives from the W. H. Bryant, A. E. Grier, and Sons Funeral Home folded the tapestry and told the story of the threads that were used to weave it together: threads of green, blue, red, gold, black, and white. Green represented youth, blue for the blue skies of life, red for growth, gold for the golden years, black for the darkness of death, which gives way to white light. Together those threads of six colors were woven together to form the tapestry honoring Brenda’s life. Once folded, the tapestry was presented to Brenda’s sister, Beverly.
Family and friends then stepped outside of the graveside funeral tent and four white doves were released. One dove was released for Brenda, and three to escort her to heaven. As the doves took flight, Kevin Harris led guests in singing “I’ll Fly Away.”
The final event on the schedule was the “Repast” or reception, which was held at DCPC’s Congregation House. It was a sit-down meal for more than 250 guests, and most importantly, an opportunity for family and friends to talk and reconnect. Davidson College’s “Much Ado” catering provided the food, which ranged from BBQ to chocolate cake.
As people began to gather in the Congregation House, some opted to use the opportunity to challenge others to donate to the newly announced foundation. A number of people went to the microphone and made by-name, individual challenges for donations of a $1,000 or more.
A portion of the Congregation House was set up as Brenda’s Soul Café, and offered Love of Learning alumni the chance to share their stories about Brenda. She was a counselor and mentor. She supported them in their times of joy and grief. She performed their weddings, and the funerals of their children and Love of Learning classmates. They talked about the lifelong connections and friendships they made in Love of Learning. And at times, they were speechless in their attempts to describe the impact of Rev. Brenda Howard Tapia.
As the repast came to a close, those gathered began to sing “Beauty Am I.” It kept going for four or five times, and when it finished, there were many tears and hugs.
Beauty Am I
Spirit Am I
I Am the Infinite Within My Soul
I Can Find No Beginning
I Can Find No End
All This I Am!
Closing note – News of Davidson will continue to provide a venue for the founders of the Brenda H. Tapia Family Foundation to share news and information – as we do for all of our Davidson nonprofits.