Thursday, September 22, 2005

My Rambling Boy

On August 12, 1990, I was installed as the pastor of Greenhills Community Church, Presbyterian. My family was here, many of Bonnie's family came, the church family attended and, of course, there were the clergy and laity representing the presbytery for the installation service. Like many such services, there was scripture, singing, prayers, 'charges' to the pastor and congregation. Like many such Presbyterian services, it was done so decently and in such good order, there were no surprises.

The surprise came after the service when a fellow came up to me and introduced himself, "Hello. I'm Robert Keefer, the new associate pastor of Wyoming Presbyterian Church." Now, the surprise was not that he came up and introduced himself; no, it was that he was there at all! In my experience with installation services, the only clergy who attended were those appointed by the presbytery to do so!

But as I have discovered in the last 15 years, that was just Bob being Bob.

Part of his calling as a Minister of Word and Sacrament was to be a faithful presbyter. And so he goes to the ordination and installation services of other pastors. He does it because he is faithful, he does it because he likes the services, he does it because he wants to welcome, to support, to encourage his colleagues.

And he has been a faithful presbyter, and model for me, with his attendance at presbytery meetings, his service on committees and commissions, his sharing his gifts with all of us as Stated Clerk. But especially with his singing. When worship takes place, when the opening hymn is sung, when the Doxology breaks out spontaneously, Bob's voice is loud and clear and beautiful.

He is a gifted pastor and, while most clergy's 'pastor' in a presbytery is one of the executives, I have always thought of Bob as mine, always willing to listen to my whining, my joys, my frustrations, my wild ideas. He is an excellent preacher, a craftsman who shapes words into doorways into God's heart. He is a true Presbyterian minister, committed to careful study, diligent prayer, and continual improvement of his skills.

He is also highly committed to fun, and to activities and interests outside the pastorate. For years, he was a cast member as well as unofficial chaplain for the local Renaissance Festival. He is a diehard Columbus Crew (soccer) fan. He enjoys good food, good beverage, good company, and especially great humor.

And for 15 years he has been God's biggest surprise to me, for I did not expect to find such a gifted, such a good, such a genuine friend. Bob has been there for me in the toughest times we have experienced with Teddy, especially in the months dealing with cancer; he has been there for me in the tough times of the pastorate; and he has been there for all the good times, the celebrations, the laughter, the joy of life and of serving the God we both love. And unless one of us was out of town or on an emergency, we have shared breakfast every week for nearly 15 years, talking shop, sharing gossip, telling about books we have read or movies we have seen, or just sitting in that silence with which God graces true friends.

But now, I will be eating alone, for Bob has been called to be pastor of a church out in Iowa. Joy for the church, sadness for me. I have no doubt that I will be visiting Iowa sometime soon, and that Bob will be through here at some point; there is always email, and phone calls. But nothing will replace 15 years of friendship, of closeness, of gentleness, of sharing, of a indescribable relationship.

Bob and I share a love for traveling by train and, as I was driving away from the restaurant this morning after we said goodbye, the words of the old folk song, 'Rambling Boy,' about two friends who rode the rails together, came to mind:
'He was a man and a friend always,
He stuck with me in the bad old days.
He never cared if I had no dough,
We rambled round in the rain and snow.
So here's to you my Rambling Boy,
May all your rambling bring you joy.
So here's to you my Rambling Boy,
May all your rambling bring you joy.'

As you have brought me.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

1 comment:

Russell Smith said...

Kudos on a great homage to Bob. For many of us in presbytery he has been a "boon companion and a right good friend." I too will miss him.