Remembering Bishop Clennon

In the warm embrace of the Lord, The Rt. Rev. C. Hopeton Clennon, known affectionately to all as Hopeton, was called to his heavenly home on Sunday, January 7, 2024, surrounded by his loving family. Born under the Jamaican sun in the vibrant city of Kingston, Hopeton was a beacon of light and love to everyone he encountered. He departed from this earthly realm, leaving behind a legacy of kindness, friendship and unwavering faith.

Hopeton was born on March 25, 1960, in Kingston, Jamaica. He was the son of Enos Leopold Clennon and Iris May Jones Clennon. He was united in marriage to Shelia Monica Johnson, on July 23, 1988, at Trinity Moravian Church, Kingston, Jamaica.

He attended the University of West Indies and United Theological College of West Indies, graduating in 1982 with a diploma in Ministerial Studies and in 1991 received an M.A. in Theology. He was ordained on June 19, 1983, and served as pastor in Jamaica until moving to the United States in 1989.  In the United States, he served Faith Moravian Church, Washington, DC;  Schoeneck Moravian Church, Nazareth, PA; Moravian Church of Downey near Los Angeles, CA; as chaplain of Moravian University and Moravian Theological Seminary and served as the senior pastor of Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, PA.  Additionally, Br. Hopeton had been the driving force for the renovations in Camp Hope, Jamaica. On October 25, 1998, he was consecrated as the 320th bishop of the Worldwide Moravian Unity.

Hopeton is preceded in death by his parents Enos Leopold and Iris May and his sisters Andrea Mae Clennon and Denese Clennon. He is survived by his loving wife of 35 years, Shelia Clennon; children Andrew Clennon of Bethlehem, PA; Danielle Landis and husband Jared of Limerick, PA; Hope-Elizabeth Clennon-Hibbert and her husband Randy of New Jersey; grandchildren Nathaniel and Grace and sisters Evett Joy Barnett of Los Angeles, Calif. and Bethinia’ (Betty) Edwards of Jamaica.

A funeral service was held on Saturday, January 20, 2024, at Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, PA. During that service, the Rev. Dr. Livingstone Thompson from the British Province gave a moving tribute to Hopeton. Brother Thompson offered his memoir for us to reprint here.

It is difficult and maybe pointless to try to conceal the shock, the sadness and the solemnity of this hour. So, what can one say? This sense of agony brings to mind the words of Jesus in John 12:27: Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say?

In his closing moments, Br Hopeton also expressed that sense of agony: “Hon, what should I do? What should I do?” This is the question he asked Shelia on the day of his passing, and it is the question we must ponder. In a moment we will come back to the story of that question.

Br Hopeton, Br Clennon, Bishop Clennon, Pastor Clennon, or for those of us who were in college with him, Penroy, was a very unique person. Of course, everyone is unique but what I mean is that in him we saw qualities which are rare: preacher, leader, administrator, organizer, manager; son, brother, father, husband, pastor, friend; he was all of these. Others are these too; however, there is rare ability he possessed, which we see in relatively few people, an ability by which hundreds, maybe thousands of people, certainly we who are here have been affected and impacted; and that was his ability to connect people and be connected to people. It is that ability which caused every one of us to feel we were special to him, in a personal way. When this quality is superimposed upon the other rudimentary qualities, we get a person who has the ability to create a pandemic – in a positive way. We got a feel for that when, with a few hours’ notice, over 250 people joined a Zoom call for a time of prayer.

Hopeton the Connector

One writer, (Malcom Gladwell, in his book, The Tipping Point) speaks of persons who have such significant impact that they create something like to an epidemic. They turn ordinary moments into a tipping point. The writer refers to those persons as Connectors, people who are important not simply because of the number of people they know, or because of the kinds of people they know, but also because of the importance that they give to the people they know. Hopeton was a Connector. Like Hopeton, Connectors are curious and take personal interest in each person they meet; they are self-confident, sociable, likeable and full of energy and, in Hopeton’s case, full of smiles and laughter. In Hopeton’s case you add to those Connector qualities; a man of faith, kind and gentle, gracious and God fearing, and we get a Super Connector, who willingly supports us in our faith-journey and with our connection to God.

That is why we feel so connected to him in a personal and special way. Speaking of Hopeton, people are more inclined to say, “He’s my friend”; owning him in a specific way because we know he owned each of us in a personal and specific way. No one, after meeting him, comes away as just an acquaintance. They become treasured friend.

That is why we each have personal stories and photographic evidence of that personal connection.

I have been consumed with Facebook  (FB) stories since his passing, as if I can’t afford to miss each story; since we have FB, I will not need to repeat them here and look at the stories and you will see what I mean.

What shall I do?

And speaking of stories, my reflection today was influenced by a story Shelia shared. I wasn’t aware of his passing when I sent her a text inquiring of how he was, not realizing he had passed 40 minutes before. Let me read in full her response: “Your brother passed at noon today. He was at peace. He woke up and asked me, ‘Hon, what should I do?’ I asked him, ‘Hon, what do you want?’ He asked me the same question again, ‘Hon, what should I do? I said, ‘Hon, it’s okay to go home.’ He is at peace.”

I have spent the last few days turning over in my mind what he really meant by that question; What should I do? I was helped as I turned to the scripture and read John 12:27. Here Jesus speaking said, “Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?”

Through this text, I hear Hopeton, in the final moments, as man in anguish, evidently sensing the dawning of a moment of transition; seeking, as he always does, another perspective; not consumed with his wisdom, he was modest and not a Mr. Know-it-all; In humility seeking help; not bubbling with confidence about the implications of all this. What should I do?

That question to Shelia represents a questioning of faith and of God, not knowing what way to turn. What should I do, standing at the crossroad of life. What should I do?

Hopeton’s Question is our Question

We who are here today and hearing this now know of his anguish in the final hours, agonizing about what was best for this moment, seeking guidance in a moment of anguish.

This question will occupy our minds in the coming days; what should I do; now that my friend is gone, what should I do? My pastor has died, what should I do? Our Bishop is gone, what shall we do?

Who will pick up what he has relinquished? Who will become the Connector? Who will be the organizer? Who will provide the inspiration? Who will be the pastor? Who will be the friend to take more than just passing interest in others?

Hopeton’s question is our question, “What should I do? And so, I ask you, you who have been affected and impacted by his connection, now that our brother has made his transition, “What will you do? 

A message from our bishops:

At Hopeton’s memorial service, the Rev. Dr. Michael Johnson shared this message on behalf of our Moravian bishops…

“These are times when our hearts are so broken that at first, we may not be able to say thank you. That is the reason we have gathered here today – to give thanks for the life of Bishop Hopeton Clennon.

“For a time, there were eight of us – eight Northern Province Bishops. Now there are seven. We are no longer whole. We will be missing that smiling face in the 8th square on our zoom call next month. We are already missing his laughter and his zest for life.

“Hopeton was given the same number of hours in a day that we all are given, but he lived much more than 24 hours a day! His hours were filled with inquisitiveness, a passion for people (all people) and a keen mind that could clarify and focus a conversation, no matter the topic. In Hopeton, we could glimpse the joy of a life well lived, serving and loving his Savior.

“Love never dies. There is so much love that we gave to Hopeton and so much love that he gave to us, and the world. And love never dies.”