OXFORD – Faith and forgiveness.

Rev. William Berry told people overflowing the church Tuesday morning that those were Megan Ripley’s two most important words, the essence of who she was.

“In 15 or 20 minutes, I thought how could I do justice to this beautiful young woman?” Berry said, reflecting on his own sermon. He knew her for almost nine years, and that she was the same age, 18, as his daughter, who had given Ripley piano lessons, Berry said.

“I narrowed it down to two words important to her and to all of us, and they stood out in Megan, and they were faith, and forgiveness,” he said. “God says to forgive because he first forgave us, and forgiveness is what Megan Ripley would want.”Ripley was killed Thursday afternoon after a hunter mistakenly shot her in the woods behind her Christian Ridge Road home in Paris.

An estimated 300 people packed the Oxford Advent Christian Church on Route 26 including the hunter, Timothy P. Bean, 51, of Paris.

Before the funeral began, photographs of Ripley played across a screen hanging above the pulpit at various ages, with her family, her pets, in a kayak.

Her thick, curly dark-brown hair typically fell loose below her shoulders, framing a lovely, oval face with a soothing smile and peaceful but humor-filled, bright brown eyes.

One showed her with her blind springer spaniel, Moka, another with her mare, Diva – her first horse, given to her by her father, Troy, last spring. In another picture, Ripley and her mother, Jeri, snuggled together in a fuzzy poncho, beaming at the camera.

Despite describing, and showing, the wrenching pain of their loss, Ripley’s family, her friends, her fianc, and her church community spoke again and again about Ripley’s love for the Lord, how her death was meant to be, and how she, because of her own vast love and the way she lived her life, was prepared to go to heaven.

Mourners also remembered the 18-year-old as a loyal friend and devoted pet lover, as well as an ardent Patriots fan with an impressive football throw herself. She lived abroad with her family during Troy’s military service, learning German and adopting a love of skiing in the Alps.

According to Ripley’s obituary, printed last Sunday, “Most of Megan’s short life was spent with her brothers. They loved to play football in the yard, go four-wheeling, go skiing, fly kites, anything outside.”

Berry also described the faith of the Ripleys on the night of her death in the emergency room of Stephens Memorial Hospital.

“I saw this faith not crumble and fail,” he said. “But I saw it grow… Thinking about their understanding of events, they were still solidly focused on God.”

He told two stories, one from before Ripley’s death and one from the day of her death.

He described driving not long ago with the Ripley family with hunters visible on either side of the road. “Jeri asked Megan if she ever worried about being killed and getting shot by mistake, and Megan’s answer was emphatically, ‘No.’ She said if that ever happened, it was to take her home.”

The other story was directed at the Ripleys, and especially to Megan’s father, Troy.

“He shared with me the frustration he felt in the field that day as his daughter lay dying,” Berry said. “There was a reason that the last words in her mouth were to go get you, because she loved you … You had already done your work. You had prepared her all her life and you had shown her Christ… In that day, when God called her home, I can only say how fitting it was she went from your arms to the Father.”

Many were weeping throughout the story.

Friends sang songs, remembering Ripley. Music filled the ceremony, which began, after a prayer, with seven musicians playing six guitars and one electric banjo. They performed four songs, and during the songs, the Ripley family stood, their hands raised, Jeri’s arms especially held high as if she sought to be filled.

Sean Lebida of Bowdoin, who was going to marry Ripley, also gave a short eulogy. “She would want me to share why she had such a joy about her,” he said. “A joy and a light that shone through her, the light of Jesus Christ.”

And Troy Ripley briefly spoke, thanking so many for coming to his daughter’s funeral service.

“You’re doing what she did, which was pour out the love. To speak about her would take 18 years, and I’m sure you would get hungry before then.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.