This week I showed our staff meeting a video from 2009. We had made this video for Easter that year, asking several people from Friendsview to tell us how they had seen new life at Easter. In the seven short years since, three of those friends have gone to be with Jesus. Seeing the twinkle in Marjorie Crisman’s eye, hearing Wayne Roberts’ steady voice, listening to Roscoe Knight share about his time as a caretaker at the garden tomb in Jerusalem…it was a wonderful reminder of these faithful lives, ones we don’t have with us here any longer, but who still shape our church. They have shaped my life, and I’m grateful for the reminder that who I am today has been influenced in part by them.
Roscoe served for years as a missionary and was well respected for his experience and wisdom. I didn’t know that as a 25-year-old recent seminary grad, sitting with him on the yearly meeting’s mission board. I mean, I knew he had been a missionary but didn’t understand how much wisdom he carried. As I grew to learn all that he had done, I came to greatly appreciate when he would still sometimes set aside what he thought was best, trusting the young missionaries we had in place in the Bolivia he knew and loved.
So many of us knew Marjorie’s amazing smile and positive, caring outlook on life. One of the last times I saw her was downstairs in the health center at Friendsview, and I remember I came right from that year’s pastors conference to visit. She wouldn’t let me ask her anything until I had told her about my time, until she had asked me about some of the pastors and how God had been present. And then I remembered. At my very first pastors conference in 1994, she and Marilyn Antrim had pulled Elaine and me over to their table in the dining center at Twin Rocks, just because they wanted to get to know us “newbies.” They asked questions and showed their love, something she never stopped doing.
I have so many poignant memories with Wayne, but the one I’ll share is when I sat with him in a tender, holy moment as he shared some of his deepest regrets. His sorrow over his choices sat hand in hand with his trust and faith in our Lord Jesus, who had forgiven him, and he taught me that honesty and vulnerability were signs of godliness.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to the memorial service honoring Bill Cathers’ life. He lived 90 good years, teaching me a lot by his example. We sometimes had great conversations over coffee, especially in my first years of being the lead pastor at Newberg Friends. He was such a patient listener, often slowly saying “Yes…yes…” as I would speak.
I remember him once chuckling quietly after listening to me for a while. I remember exactly what he said, although I honestly can’t remember the exact context for why he said it. He chuckled, took a deep breath, looked through my eyes into my soul and said: “Why on earth would God ever do that?” He had seen my need for control, my expectation that God should do what I asked, my need to dictate how and when God’s goodness and justice would be evident in my life. And then he went on to tell me stories from his own life of how he learned to release (or was forced to release) control to God, how he slowly kept learning more and more ways his need to control and define were keeping God from doing the beautiful work God wanted to do.
I am grateful that we are part of a church community that spans the generations. I am grateful for what I have learned and for what I will continue to learn from those of you who are further along the journey of life than I am. May we all find ways to listen and learn, and may we also be willing to take our place in sharing from our experience what God has done in us.