Clergy try really hard to be impartial. We really do.
But every minister I know, has an “All Star Team”: that group of folks whose names and faces stick with you. These are the ones we remember regularly with fondness and who comfortably hover just inside the heart…these are the folks who make ministry worth it.
These “all stars” are the people that “said clergy,” would take with them from one church to another if they could; individuals who challenge them, advocate for them, pray for them, and speak for them…all in the name of their love for the church, their undeniable faith, their endless grace, and their adoration of God, made manifest through Jesus Christ.
I’ve got my own All Star Team and they span the breadth of my ministry up to this point…some of them are no longer part of a church, others of them have moved, some, probably don’t even remember my name, and still others of them, I get to see each Sunday.
But one of them died today. The first of “my” All Star Team died this morning, surrounded by those he loved…confident in the grace and peace of the God he had challenged, advocated for, prayed to, and spoken on behalf of…
And I grieve. I grieve for the loss of story and the loss of laughter. The hour long conversations that were had, as he stood in my doorway wondering aloud about God’s intention for God’s people. I grieve the challenge of articulating my faith, when he would press me on issues as serious as ‘death in the face of war’ and as unanswerable as to what the future might hold for our tiny, flailing denomination. I grieve the sureness of looking out from my vantage point in the pulpit, and seeing him sitting in the back corner, of the back row, next to the wife he loved for almost 63 years.
I grieve the loss of a friend.
He said to me, just a few hours before his death, that he always found it interesting that people forget. “Buildings, institutions, humans…they die, we grieve, then we move on and forget.” I told him I disagreed with him (as I often did)…and that I thought some memories last longer than others and for those gathered around that hospital bed…their memories will last for a lifetime. He nodded, affirming that indeed, his family would not forget him, and we moved on.
But what I really meant to say…what I wished I had said… was that this minister – this nobody – this one, in a long list of clergy he has known in his lifetime…would not forget him either.
So, I guess all I can say is…blessed be this All Star. May you rest in peace.