From Parishioner To Friend

My friend, Meredith, once said to me, "You have the best job."

At that particular moment, I disagreed with her. I was frustrated and discouraged because my job, like most jobs, required me to work with people. People are complex, and people can be difficult. I was in the middle of circumstances that drove these truths home, and my job seemed far from "best."

With time, maturity, and perspective, I can look back and see that Meredith was right. Not only did I have the best job, but I still have the best job. To the degree we people can be difficult, we can also be wonderful.

Terry Everett was one of those people who made my wonderfully complex job the best--because he was wonderful in his complexity. He was a poet and retired English professor, among many hats he wore, but I knew him for four years as a parishioner. He was devoted to the local church, easing my workload. He chose lay readers each Sunday, offered original offertory prayers, served on any committee asked of him. When I first arrived and extended an invitation for folks to come to my office for tea and conversation, he was first in line. He was especially passionate about coordinating healing services, and along with Henry Outlaw became unofficial co-chair of the Blue Christmas Planning Team. He was incredibly sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit. 

For four years, our friendship was as pastor and parishioner. Then the day arrived that I realized the Lord was calling me away from one parish to another, along with a call to pursue my Doctor of Ministry in end-of-life care. The decision to move was difficult but right, and Terry did what he always had: he supported and encouraged me. 

On my last Sunday as his pastor, I sat down after the sermon and breathed a sigh of relief. Emotionally, I had held it together so far, and all that remained in the service, other than the closing hymn and benediction, was special music from Tricia Walker

Tricia's opening notes on the piano were familiar, and then came the lyrics to one of my favorite songs.

Sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all.
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small
— Rich Mullins, "Hold Me Jesus"

All of my composure melted away, and the tears began to flow. I covered my face in hands and tried not to shake from the sudden wave of grief. I was so grateful for the large pulpit, which hid me from the congregation's sight.

But Terry could see me from the choir loft. When I opened my eyes, he was looking at me with his uncanny ability to cry and smile at the same time. I managed to smile through my tears, too. In that moment, as I released the congregation to the care of their new leader, Terry Everett became simply my friend.

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We stayed in touch over email and Facebook, especially about my school work, until cancer weakened him. I was able to visit my friend once over the past year when he was in the hospital. In his presence that day I remembered the truth that Meredith had spoken years earlier. What makes my work the best kind of job are the people. People like Terry. Subtle saints who work and worship and smile through tears and cry through smiles. Friends who hold one another from across the room with those smiles and tears.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,  and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:1-2

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian