Models in Ministry
I got news at the end of last week about the death of a friend of mine. He had been ill for quite some time and, the last time I bumped into him, he spoke with me about his serious illness.
I wasn’t able to go to his funeral service, because I had a commitment to take someone to an appointment but, when I spoke with someone who had been there, his memories of our mutual friend were very similar.
My friend had been the rector of a large market town for many years. He was a faithful pastor and priest, visiting his flock regularly, preparing diligently for preaching and leading services and he knew everyone in the town.
I used to love walking through the town with him where everyone wanted to stop and talk to him and he had a word for everyone. He was a chaplain in two hospitals and the staff knew if one of them, or one of the patients, needed to talk to someone at any time of the day or night, he would come if he were called.
When I was made rector of my first two parishes, he was a neighbour geographically, and he would often call me up to see how things were going. He would meet me for lunch or coffee and see if there was anything he could do to help me. I knew, if I encountered a problem, he would be there with a listening ear and words of wise advice, if that was what I sought. He would never impose it but, if asked what he would do in a similar situation, he would answer carefully and honestly.
He was very aware over many years of experience that ministry could be a lonely occupation. He knew what it was like to see both the very best and the very worst of human experience and behaviour and, into the mix, he brought his presence and his prayers.
He had a marvellous sense of humour and twinkling eyes full of fun, and he encouraged me not to take myself too seriously at times. He was generous with his time and his care. He and his wife welcomed me and my wife into their home with generous and warm hospitality when we first moved into the area.
He had an eye for people who might be finding the going tough and was quietly there to make supportive phone calls, or check in to see if they wanted to meet up. When he retired, he offered me his funeral cloak. It’s a big cloak that clergy wear on very cold days when they might be standing outside services or at graveyards or cemeteries.
I guess the word that encapsulates my late friend Mervyn is faithfulness.
He kept showing up in people’s homes, at people’s bedsides, on occasions of joy as well as sadness. He was interested enough to spend time getting to know people. He loved the worship and liturgy of the church, and took the time to spend time with his Heavenly Father to enable him to do all that he did.
On the last occasion we met, it was in a shopping centre. He was taking a rest on a bench while his wife was doing some shopping. It was after the pandemic and he told me he was glad he had retired before the pandemic came. He listened to my stories of recording services and installing technology, of trying to stay in touch via blogs and starting podcasts and said he wouldn’t have fancied any of that.
He remembered my children’s names and my wife’s name, though he hadn’t seen us in perhaps seven or eight years. In one of the tributes paid to him on the diocesan website, another colleague who remembered his kindness, spoke of his ministry in the hospitals and throughout the area. It wasn’t glamorous, he said, and no one was queuing up to do it. Perhaps that’s what makes me remember him with such affection and admiration.
He never looked for admiration or promotion. He just kept showing up, loving people, serving people and pointing them to the way of Jesus.
Are there people in your family or your workplace that you admire greatly? What are the characteristics that you see in them that you would like to see more of in your own life? Why not ask God, the generous giver, to give you more of these qualities in your life as you seek to follow Him?
Can I ask you to hold in your prayers the family of Mrs. Daphne Keers. Daphne’s funeral will take place on Monday next, 5th February at 11.30 am in Kirkwoods Funeral Home on Kings Road.
Look forward to speaking again soon.
Much love to everyone,
Listen to the latest episode of ‘Bitesize Chunks of Faith’