Saturday, March 21, 2015

Women Pastors

Our grief work continues.  Yesterday I attended the funeral service for our colleague Karen Haak, who died Sunday, March 15 at the age of 71.   Karen was ordained in 1982.  During her 30 plus years of active ministry, she served as associate pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, then chaplain at Mary Free Bed Hospital.  She then found a call to interim ministry and served many congregations in this capacity including our congregations in Marshall, Coldwater, and Albion.  She taught interim ministry, and also polity, which she loved.  Elizabeth Candido was one of her polity students at Harvard Divinity School, when Karen was serving a church nearby.  She served the Presbytery of Lake Michigan as interim executive presbyter from 2005 through 2007.

Chandler Stokes eloquently and powerfully addressed in his homily the struggles and inequities women pastors face.  Karen was not shy about naming and challenging these double standards and advocating for a more just way.  As interim pastor, she told truths which were hard to hear.  To the end of her life, she loved the church which struggled to appreciate her gifts.

Today, nearly half or 27 of our 66 congregations are served by women pastors. We are blessed with the gifts these women bring in ministry. May we recognize and fully appreciate them.  They are blessed by the pioneering witness of the women leaders who went before them, and paved the way for them.  Karen Ann Haak was one champion among them.  A memorial fund has been established at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids to honor her.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Like a Mighty Oak Suddenly Fallen in the Forest.

So far, 2015 is requiring some significant grief work.  I want to thank you all for your many cards, prayers, and expressions of support for me and my family.  They are much appreciated.  Soon after my return from attending my father-in-law's funeral, Larry Nelson, our Presbytery treasurer since 2009, reported feeling ill at the Budget & Finance committee meeting on February 3rd.   He never got back to the office.  It was a whirlwind of events.  He thought he had the illness which was going around, then pneumonia when he did not get over it.  He was then diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, with hopes of a lung transplant.  But alas, his condition continued to deteriorate rapidly. Then, when we were still reeling from this rapid succession of news, he died Friday evening, March 6th.   A funeral service, a witness to the resurrection, and celebration of Larry's life, will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, March 14 at the Edwardsburg Presbyterian Church where he served as a treasurer for many years.  

It feels like a the crashing of a mighty oak leaving a gaping hole in the canopy of our forest, we grieve his lose in our lives.  We are blessed in this Presbytery with talent.  We will be ok.  Others have the needed skills.  Only let us grieve the lose of the character of this man who has touched so many of us, whom so many of us loved and trusted.  He was the most gentle, congenial, upbeat, humble, Presbyterian with whom I've had the privilege of working.  That string of adjectives does not normally get associated with Presbyterians.  We are protesters by name, trained to analytically critique everything! Presbyteries are filled with egos. We have a Scottish and Dutch heritage of being rather dour, and tight with money.  Larry understood faithfully the purpose of those gifts entrusted to the church are for the purpose of giving them away, spending them to make a difference in people's lives, not to keep them in an account in some bank so we can feel secure. We are not really all that, but Larry was a glowing exception.  I will miss his consistent greeting when I popped into his office uninvited, intruding, interrupting his train of thought. "Hello, John," he would say in a welcoming, uplifting voice with an accompanying smile expressing his joy for my presence.  Every time!  What a special gift that was. That's what I will miss.  We have much to grieve, much to celebrate.           

Yet, we will carry on.  The Nominating Committee is assembling a Search Team for a new Presbytery treasurer. As soon as they get organized, a notice will be made with position description, and how to apply, and all that.  The Edwardsburg Church will as well.  In the meantime, Leslie has forwarded to the CPA firm the files Larry had dutifully prepared for the scheduled annual review.  Bob Kleine will be coming in to the office to review the work of our bookkeeper, and help us close February and March. Tedd Oyler, a former B&F chairperson, now a Leadership Team member, and Marilyn Benson, our former treasurer, stand ready to help in any way they can.  We have good, good people who care.  We are blessed and will be ok!  God will provide, and will forgive us for being a little grumpy.  Pray that we recognize God's provision.  God is tapping someone on the shoulder.  Let me know if that's you or someone you know. And let us be as kind and gentile with him or her as Larry was with us.    

Larry's Obituary copied from the CaringBridge blog set up by his granddaughter, Jessica:

Larry R. Nelson
June 17, 1943 – March 6, 2015
Larry R. Nelson, 71, of Three Rivers, born in Akron, Ohio, and formerly of the Edwardsburg-Niles area, as well as Wichita and Hutchinson, Kansas, died peacefully Friday, March 6 at 6:38 pm in Spectrum-Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids after a short struggle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Larry was the son of Ralph M. and D. Jane (Lagerberg) Nelson. Larry lived a full and healthy life, loving his family, God, church, friends, lakes, boats, books, music, his mountain dulcimers, cats, dogs, travel, lighthouses, and nature. He earned his master’s degree in accounting from Wichita State University and excelled as a CPA and business man, co-founding two plastics extrusion companies--Liberty Industries in 1976 in Elkhart, Indiana, and Blue Chip Rubber and Plastics in the 1990's in Niles, Michigan. In his “retirement,” Larry worked part time as Treasurer of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan in Kalamazoo and realized a dream by opening the Stray Dog Bookshop in Three Rivers, selling used and collectable books. In addition to collecting books, he collected friends, who were enriched by knowing him. Larry is survived by his wife of 40 years, Nickola Wolf (Nicki) Nelson. He said personal goodbyes to each of his three children, David (Elizabeth) Nelson (son, Jamie), Nichole (Karen Bivins) Nelson (children, Jessica “Lynnie” [great grandson, Aiden], Justin, Jess Jr., Jonathon, Julie, Jaden, and Josie), and Clayton (Tracie) Nelson (children, Katelynn, Bradley, Clayton, and Cody). He is also survived by his two sisters, Linda (Ron) Kassner and Mary Beth “Charlie” Nagle, as well as beloved nieces and nephews of two generations. They shared the wonderful Nelson sense of humor, deep faith in God, and love of music. Visitation with the family will be 4-6 pm, Friday, March 13, at Edwardsburg Presbyterian Church, where he served as Treasurer and Elder for many years. Donations may be made to the church. A memorial service will be held, Saturday, March 14, at 11 am at the church, 68961 Lake Street, in Edwardsburg. Paul Mayhew is in care of arrangements. Online condolences may be left for the family at .