Gen. George Patton first said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Years later Lee Iacocca cribbed that line to peddle Chryslers. But it’s also really good advice.
We clergy get used to always being front and center in all that the church does. Sometimes we fail to recognize the moment when we’d best step aside. I remind myself in ministry, those who speak must also listen; those who lead must also follow. I want to take my office of ministry seriously, but less so myself. Actually, after the crush of Holy Week, stepping aside comes as a respite and relief to me.
I don’t just mean Cecile’s and my brief vacation to visit family on the west coast, which was wonderful, thanks for asking. I’m also looking ahead to Sunday, when beloved Pastor Emeritus, the Rev. Ron (and Janet) Evans return as he preaches.
Also, Claire Marie Hodgson’s grandfather, the Rev. Don Hodgson, will baptize this flower of a child, as new member parents Teddy and Jasmine Hodgson sink deeper roots here at First Congregational. I will assist Ron as liturgist in worship. I will assist Don as liturgist in baptism. So lead, follow or get out of the way, right?
For our newer members, who are maybe unfamiliar with the Evans, Ron served as our Senior Minister from 1985 to 2007. Ron and Janet were both supremely involved in many caring networks around Darien, striving to make this community more Christian, doing far more along these lines—I am sure—than anyone knew. I serve on the Human Services Commission as clergy representative. Ron and Janet’s names continue to surface as originating leaders in all kinds of initiatives.
Ron was also a caring, committed pastor who was there when it counted for no few people. I couldn’t help but notice the warm glow upon faces as I introduced them last autumn and they got a standing ovation as our youth reported on their mission trip. The spiritual bonds that cement a pastor and parish are holy, right? This merits ongoing celebration and praise and it makes us a healthy community.
Last week I called on two veteran church members who deeply love our church. The wife of the couple remarked how often Ron wrote things that were totally caring, very true, and full of wisdom. She clipped them, kept a collection, and still refers back to them. We seldom get to see the difference we make to souls as pastors. A lot of it is invisible. But it’s also profound, lasting, and a delight to God.
A word about the Rev. Don Hodgson. He was a local church pastor in Nebraska and Maine. After those years of service, he opened a counseling service in Maine, housed in Woodfords Congregational, UCC in Portland, ME. He calls the counseling center that he founded in 1988, as “in a church and for the church.” Don didn’t baptize his own children, but has enjoyed baptizing his grandchildren. Can you imagine? What an honor. Don remembers the Sunday he baptized Lily, Teddy and Jasmine’s firstborn. It was a spring day when they walked outside afterward and yes, you guessed it. All of the lilies were in bloom on that very day.