"But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ..." (Ephesians 4:15)
Jane was a hearty, independent New Englander through and through. She was the kind of saint that every healthy congregation needs and hopefully has. As my successor put it so well in his homily, Jane was "a truth-teller with a sincere and faithful heart." A lot of that truth was directed to the clergy - but always in love.
When I was a young new priest who thought I knew everything, Jane Howell helped me to grow up. She had a way of coming directly to me. You'd never hear it second hand from a parking lot conversation. She could be wrong, but more often she was right - or at least mostly right. She loved the Lord, her church, and the clergy - in that order. And she had lots of opinions about how I might do better to build up the Church and to serve the Lord. But as the preacher noted today, she loved God enough to speak the truth to him in love. (In fact I was very happy to hear she had not played favorites with me, but that in just a couple of years she had helped form him too! And I know of at least one other friend, now in the House of Bishops, who would say the same thing.)
When I was first ordained, I wasn't so sure that I liked the term "baby priest." In my case I was quite literally kind of a baby - heading to seminary right out of college. But even for later vocations, even for people who have had fancy careers and are then ordained in their forties or fifties, the truth is that priests are not fully formed after the bishop puts her or his hands on our head. It takes time and practice to truly form a priest: a good theological education, faithful mentors and colleagues and lots more. Someone said to me once that it takes at least ten years of prayer, and listening, and loving the people with whom we share ministry, and that seems about right.