October, as everyone on the face of the earth knows, is Pastor Appreciation Month. It is usually during this last week of October that many people make one of two realizations:
1. (If a member of a congregation): Oh NO! Pastor Appreciation Month is almost over, and we didn’t do anything for our pastor! At least I don’t think we did? Did we? No, that was last year.
2. (If a pastor): Well, another Pastor Appreciation Month is almost gone. Guess I’ll put away this big basket I had set out for all the cards and gifts that didn’t show up…sigh.
(Your mileage may vary–you might have a pastor who is so awesome that you never forget to appreciate her/him, or you might have a congregation that is so awesome that they never forget to appreciate you.)
Well, I haven’t forgotten. Since this weekend also marks All Saints Day (a much more well-known holiday), I’d like to dedicate this post to all the pastors who have had, and currently have, an influence on me.
Take Paul Whipple, for instance, who was the first pastor I remember having as a child who was “my pastor.” Rev. Whipple was a fiery preacher, with a passion for social justice. Though I was young when he left my home church, I credit him with being the person to place in my head the notion that the church is truly for all people.
Or, there’s George Lee, who was the first pastor to encourage me to consider that I might have a call to ministry. He also encouraged me to stretch beyond my comfort zone, when he helped me sign up for Ministerial Recruitment Institute, which was a camp primarily for African-American students, but which ended up confirming in me the conviction that God had truly called me to be a pastor. When I was ordained, George was the Elder who held my stole, and helped the bishop place it on my shoulders as a sign of the continuation of the ministry from one generation to another.
And then I remember Bill Ross, who helped me through a tough patch in my life, and who taught me that I wasn’t crazy after all.
And, Bruce Batchelor-Glader, who showed me how to step away from the pulpit and make preaching fun, and who fostered the connection between faith and social justice in my theology.
I think of Valerie Stultz, my first district superintendent when I was a young student pastor, who encouraged me to find my own voice, and of Jim Humphrey, who was our family “pastor” when I served my first congregation back in the U.S.A. Jim’s encouragement of my family really made the difference during a time when we weren’t sure that local church ministry was where I really ought to be.
I’m grateful for Pat Christ, who has become my parents’ pastor, and whom I call my pastor, too, who has graciously allowed me to be a part of the Firestone Park UMC congregation as my charge of record while I am in extension ministry, and I’m grateful for Bryan Bucher, whom I have the privilege of hearing preach most Sundays, and whose theological depth and caring for humanity astounds me.
These are but a few of the people who have been pastor to my family and me, and I thank God for each and every one of them. They are the saints whom I celebrate, during Pastor Appreciation Month, All Saints Sunday, and throughout the year. Without them, I surely wouldn’t be where I am today, and their ministries are extended on to the campus of Ohio Northern University every day, because they helped form me into who I am.
If you are reading this, and there is a person who has been that kind of pastor to you, please stop reading now and go thank them.
Happy Pastor Appreciation Month, Saints!