Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Passing of a Mentor

When I arrived in Youngstown, OH, young and fresh out of seminary I had no clue about what it meant to be a pastor. I was incredibly fortunate to find there a former pastor of the church who served as a mentor and who became a great friend. Dick Speicher had been pastor at Woodworth Church of the Brethren in Youngstown during the 1960's. He was one of "liberal" pastors of his day who introduced the Revised Standard Version of the Bible to the congregation. He lost families at the church because of that and some people were still talking about it when I was there.

He had gone on from serving as pastor there to serve as a campus pastor at Youngstown State University and then as Executive Director of the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches. Dick died a week ago today. His memorial service is tomorrow in Youngstown.

When I arrived at Woodworth Dick was very careful to stay out of my way as a former pastor who didn't want to step on my shoes or violate ethical guidelines in respect to being involved with former churches. But he took me out for coffee regularly and was a great listener. He hauled me around to every ecumenical event in the Youngstown area. And eventually with my encouragement and after more than 15 years of staying away, he began attending Woodworth again and became involved in doing nursing home and senior visitation. He was also - and I didn't learn this until near the end of my eight years there - a quiet advocate on my behalf in many ways.

Every pastor needs a Dick Speicher in their congregation. One day I hope to be able to return the favor when (if?) I retire. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

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