By Joe Rector
Although folks might find it difficult to believe, several favorite people throughout my life have been ministers. That’s especially surprising based on how I too often fall so short in living the kind of life that Christ and the bible promote. Still, I love these people who have been important to me along the way.
Bill Menees came into my life when I went away to college. He pastored a small Methodist church in Cookeville, Tennessee. Bill saw his mission as one that brought Christians into conflict with sets of beliefs that were traditional and too comfortable. He told us that Christ was not the answer; he was the question. Our duty was to discover what answers would come from that question. It’s something that requires years of study and thought and prayer. Because Bill Menees dared me to question and search, I have a profoundly deeper relationship with God.
Of course, “Brother Menees” is also special in that he is the man who encouraged me to talk to a gorgeous 18-year-old girl who later became my wife. Bill’s constant goading led me to ask Amy out for that first date. A year and a half later, we stood before him as he married us.
Bob Landry was a different kind of minister. He, too, had different views, but what separated him was the ability to weave a sermon into a thing of beauty. His command of words often left us in the congregation in awe of the pictures that he painted in those 25-minute musings.
Bob also soothed problems. The Disciples of Christ believe in baptism through immersion, unlike the Methodist who sprinkle. I told Bob that if my Methodist baptism wasn’t good enough for the denomination that I would find another church to attend. Bob smiled at me and answered, “I tell you what. I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.” He recognized that the method of baptism was less important that what it symbolized.
Doug Meister served as an associate minister with Bob. He and I became friends as we played on the church softball team. That friendship blossomed into one that is still strong after more than 30 years, even though Doug has long since left the area to accept a position in a church in Louisville, KY. His gravelly voice presents philosophical and religious points on which his flock can think, debate, and ultimately accept as wonderful news. Doug is an easy-going man who is slow to anger. His compassion for others leads him to serve tirelessly in a variety of activities and ways. Even though we are separated by the miles, whenever we make contact, things fall into place as if we’d been together all along.
Catherine Nance ministered our church for five years. She was reassigned because, plain and simple, she had become a rising star. Her Sunday morning addresses are transformative. Not one Sunday during her tenure did I ever leave a service with dry eyes. Catherine’s ability to cut through the extraneous and to reach the heartbeat of a moment left most of us in the congregation breathless. I cherish every minute of my time with her and consider her a good friend. On occasion, I find one of her sermons online and listen to it to recall the power that she possesses. Yes, it was time for us to let her go because her destiny is toward greater things and teachings. I’m glad to have had her in my life for just a while.
At present, Larry Dial is our minister. He’s a larger-than-life character. Larry’s approach to relationship with God is a bit less formal. Larry loves people, food, and color. From the pulpit, he delivers a message that is sprinkled with personal accounts and interesting facts and a point at which we all can aim to mature in faith and service. What makes Larry such a wonderful preacher and person is his ability to laugh and make others laugh. Sermons include several asides that feature humorous comments covering all aspects of life. He ends each service by delivering a charge to parishioners to go into the world and spread the love of God for each person and the world. What better way is there to leave a Sunday worship service than with a smile? Larry is a new friend with whom I plan to spend many years, and I look forward to the conversations and laughter that we will share.
Ministers should make impressions on those under their care. I am thankful for them all. From those individuals I have developed a deeper understanding of relationship not only with God but also with all individuals.