Thursday, May 23, 2013


A few days ago my wife Ruth was chatting with a friend from the days when our children were growing up together. Amidst the conversation of a long-time friendship Leslie has kept Ruth informed about the "hatch, match and dispatch" of the congregation I served for eleven years in Sudbury. After the call she shared with me that an active member from those days had died last year at the "young" age of sixty seven. During my time he had been involved and vocal and on more than one occasion a thorn in my side -- or some other part of my anatomy. He was the chief lawyer for one of the mining giants in town and was accustomed to being heard and obeyed. His pronouncements in congregational meetings were well worded and totally misguided, I often felt.

In his late forties he suffered a serious heart attack and I went to visit him in the Critical Care Unit before major surgery. We talked, he admitted his fear about what was unfolding given he had a large and still young family, and then I reached out for his hand as we entered into prayer.

I discovered much later that this had meant the world to him. We talked about this before my departure, then on a return trip to be a guest speaker at St. Andrew's he was effusive in his thanks.I was aware that in early retirement he had taken on new responsibilities in congregational life with a very different outlook. It was odd, because that day in the hospital I had almost chosen not to offer to pray because of his usual blustery demeanour.  He seemed too independent to need God or have another guy hold his hand. I was so grateful that I acted as a pastor despite my reservations.

I was quite saddened to hear of his death, even though it happened more than a year earlier. He truly loved his family and his death would have been a tremendous loss. What a reminder for me that in my role I come in Christ's name, and that I am called to minister to those I don't always understand or like. My perceptions aren't always accurate, and all of us can and do change with time. We are called into Christian community with all our differences.

Have you experienced something similar in your congregation, either as a pastor or layperson? In life in general?


IanD said...

First of all, it's really interesting to read that a minister may not actually like part of his flock. As always, your candour is appreciated and (more often than not) surprising, in a good way.

Secondly, I have had similar experiences while at school. In twelve years of teaching, there have been numerous kids that have driven me up the wall that I have nevertheless had to set my irritation aside for in order to do the job in an effort to try and affect positive change.

Interestingly, too, those are the kids in their twenties who approach me on the street, or at the movies to thank me and tell me I was a favourite teacher. I am always grateful for those moments, and I use them in the present to fuel my own tolerance in tough situations.

willowjakmom said...

I love both of your stories and believe that it's a not a sign of "phoniness" when you have to hide your irritation for the person, but a sign that your goodness (for lack of a better word) has won over in spite of it.

Even if your prayer and taking of his hand had done nothing at that moment, you just never know if it could become a moment that he would draw on in another difficult time years down the road.