Sunday, April 26, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #346
Nancy White Kelly

In the Baptist faith, we call our spiritual leaders pastors. In other denominations, an equivalent would be priest or rector. In the Jewish community, the chief leader is the rabbi, and in the Moslem world that would be the Imam.

I have great respect for those who choose or are chosen to give spiritual direction to a congregation of believers. Come June I will have had twelve pastors in my lifetime. An even dozen.

I worked on staff with some of my pastors. While none of them was perfect, all were sincere and each one has had a significant impact on my life. I have loved all my spiritual shepherds and believe that this devotion is mutual.

One pastor indulged my request to be baptized again. He did so with water from the Jordan River that was brought back in a small jar by a friend who had recently visited the Holy Land. Later, thanks to a reader who follows this column, Buddy and I had the opportunity to be fully immersed in the Jordan River near Jerusalem which is where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

A third of my former pastors have passed on to their deserved reward. I still hear from a few. Occasionally one will ask me to consider working with them again. But, unless God writes it on the wall, I am not leaving the mountains until I make my own trip to Glory.

As a teen-age girl, I purposed to follow Christ and his teachings for the rest of my natural life and have never regretted that decision. My pastors played an important role. Each man was memorable. They embraced myriad personalities and styles, ranging from high-strung, hell, fire, and brimstone types to low-key, brotherly or fatherly surrogates who quietly delivered compelling messages of unconditional love.

I often wonder where I would be today without the impact of these pastors. I think I could be a criminal. Without the moral compass of the Bible, I would have no reason to constrain my thoughts or actions. And who could be more responsible for indelibly imprinting biblical principles than my former pastors?

Saying “good-byes” are hard, but a routine part of life. My current pastor is retiring soon after a long ministry and I will miss him. A new senior pastor, whom I knew in what seems like a life-time ago, will join the long line of those who came before. I knew this pastor-to-be mostly through his wife and daughters. Sharon taught music and I was Shannon and Melody’s school principal. We felt a great loss when the Pickerills moved away.

So often we pass through life without giving proper thanks to those who have touched us so. To Brother Rudy Patton and to all my other pastors, I thank you from the depths of my soul for helping me to be a better person than I might have been.

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