The following post is from a post made in March, 2014. As New Community of Faith is collecting donations now for the Christmas fund, I wanted to post here. My gratitude to all who contribute, and who serve. Please note this fund is not just for clergy, but for all church employees who are facing financial difficulties. Thank you for your contributions.
Rev. Sue Ann
“Pastor Benjamin, you are looking well today!” I said this with some relief, as last month he was looking quite the opposite. The physical and mental illness that I had witnessed that day had taken an unusual toll on me, so seeing him in such good spirits was encouraging.
“Yes, m’am. This is my brother!” The reason for Pastor Benjamin’s upswing was sitting right next to him. His brother has now moved into the community and both seemed very happy with the arrangement. Pastor Benjamin then told me his wife had died about a year ago, and that he has no interest in living alone. I was reminded yet again that even in a beautifully appointed assisted living community that offers a full slate of daily activities, loneliness can be assuaged only by relationships – the give and take of knowing and being known, and of being accepted just as we are. This is one of the core values of SpiritCare, and one that is embraced for all who serve the ministry. What continues to touch me is that most of the ministry, like all faith communities, is made up by volunteers, some who have served for almost as long as the ministry has been in existence – close to three decades now.
Over the course of my time with SpiritCare, I have served two other pastors and I thought of them yesterday. There was Pastor Carl, whose Alzheimer’s advanced fairly quickly. However, I was able to enjoy his presence in worship for a few months before his passing. He had a fine singing voice and one day I was especially grateful for his presence. “Pastor Carl, I am so glad you are here today. Our pianist is sick and I need your help!” He replied that he would be happy to serve. He sang with much spirit that day. The last time I saw him he was quite unwell, but he extended his hand and said, “Thank you for calling me pastor.” Pastor Ralph was very ill when I met him, but he was blessed to live in a community where one of the activity assistants attended his church. She always tenderly spoke of him as “our pastor,” and I believe she seldom saw his illness, but rather the man that she deeply respected. What a blessing for them both.
Yesterday, as I was leaving the home, I heard Pastor Benjamin say, “There goes a soldier for the Lord!” I had to smile. I do not think of my ministry in such terms, but I deeply appreciated his acknowledgement. The United Church of Christ has a what is now called, “The Christmas Fund,”* but it used to be referred to as the fund for “Veterans of the Cross.” While I think I understand the name change, I miss the former name. Maybe we should think of all of those who are in their retirement or post-retirement years as veterans. Whether people have dedicated their lives to serving the church, the nation, the hospital, the school, or the family, most have probably given much, and sacrificed more than we know.
Thank you, Pastor Benjamin. It is a blessing to serve.
As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
1 Peter 4:10
*The Christmas Fund works to bring some financial assistance to ministers and other church employees who do not have adequate pension funds or who may be facing a serious financial calamity. Today, many pastors and ministers are serving in part-time positions, so I believe this fund will be needed even more in the next few decades. Most denominations probably have something similar. Please give. New Community of Faith, along with UCC churches across the nation, are collecting donations now.