Leila S. Case: The antics and fate of Archie, the church cat

Published 8:30 pm Monday, August 29, 2016

He was discovered hiding among the azalea bushes at Calvary Episcopal Church, a frightened, scared and very hungry kitten.
As many of you already know, no living creature walks away from Calvary Episcopal or most other places of worship unfed, physically and spiritual. And so it was on that day, four years ago Donna Becton, parish secretary, and The Rev. Kedron Jarvis Nicholson, former interim priest now of Jacksonville, discovered the pitiful kitten in the garden.
A bowl of milk to coax him out of hiding was offered but refused as long as the two women stood nearby. However, as soon as they were out of sight, the kitten darted forth, quickly consumed the food then sprinted to his safe hideout.
The cat and mouse game continued until one day Donna succeeded in grabbing the nape of the kitten’s neck to lift him on to her shoulder and gently rub his back. “I could feel him relax as I stroked,” recalls Donna.
Lydia Rogers, a dedicated member of Calvary Episcopal and cat lover, helped in the friending process and took him to the veterinarian. After a treatment or two the kitten was declared healthy and cared for at church by Lydia and Donna.
However, besides being homeless, he remained nameless, reminded Donna in an e-mail to many, and I responded, suggesting, “Archbishop of Cat-A-Bury” also known as Archie. The name stuck.
Archie joined in life at Calvary Episcopal with gusto, fascinated by the ecclesiastical surroundings and dropping into a wedding ceremony, strolling down the aisle in the middle of a service only to be quickly ushered out or sitting in the middle of Christmas greenery watching flower guild members decorate.
He would sometimes get into deep trouble. One very cold winter night, Ross Chambliss, senior warden, received a call from the police — the burglar alarm had been triggered.
Ross and his wife Charlotte hurried to the church. The investigation thankfully didn’t turn up a burglar. Archie was found in the kitchen, having apparently slipped out of Donna’s office, through the parish hall,  to his destination. And he’s been known to terrorize a dog or two on occasion.
Archie spent weekdays in Donna’s office, whiling away the hours on her desk, nosing into the computer or printer or lying spread eagle across a comfy chair. He lived outside most of the time, alert to his surroundings and stood sentry at the door to welcome all. He adored children’s tight hugs and gentle back rubs.
However, Archie had a very bad habit of lying in the middle of the church parking lot. And he had no respect for busy South Lee Street that runs in the front of the church, walking across the road like he was king of the hill as if to say, “Stop. Pedestrians have the right of way.”
Archie finally ran out the nine lives God allots felines. He was accidentally hit by a passing motorist Sunday afternoon and died at the scene of the accident. A kind person saw him lying still in the road and carefully moved his body to the church walkway and notified Fr. Jeff Wallace. The rest is history. Following this Sunday’s worship services, Archie will be remembered in the garden where he was initially discovered, a frightened and hungry kitten.
The good thing is Archie left us knowing that he was well-loved, well-fed and that he had a good home.
We would be remiss however if we didn’t mention another church cat – Calvin – that, like Archie, took to the clerical surroundings of Calvary Episcopal. Calvin came to Calvary courtesy of Deacon Jim Purks, now of Albany. Betty Hewitt was church secretary then, who, like Donna, allowed Calvin the reign of her office while she was at work. Calvin called Calvary Episcopal home for about three years when he, too, ran out of his allotted nine years and met the same fate as Archie late one afternoon.
Calvary Episcopal is a “cat-friendly” parish in the Diocese of Georgia, so I’m sure another worthy feline will drop by, hoping to help greet all arrivals.

Leila S. Case lives in Americus.