Retirees from the Class of 2019 were invited to share memories and reflections on their time in ministry.
“Growing up in a pastor’s home, I was not wearing rose-colored glasses when I entered the ministry. I had experienced both the blessings and the wounds of church life. Yet, the authenticity and integrity of many mentors and my wonderful husband, Steve Braudt, inspired me to keep at it.
I was the first woman pastor in several of my appointments. Even before I arrived, some people left. Others quoted scripture to me, and some did worse. However, so many opened their minds and hearts and challenged me to be better. I am forever grateful.
Thank you to the people at First UMC in Clinton for being willing to be my training ground; to Winfield, Spring Run, and Eldora for encouraging my creativity in worship; to the Northeast District pastors and lay leaders for such great support; and to St. John’s in Davenport for inspiring me to step away from the pulpit and preach from the heart. The journey of life is a journey of faith. Through the heights and the depths of the journey, I continue to trust that God cares for me and calls me. Always, I am eager to discover and to walk the path before me.”
Carol Myers and Jeff Blackman
“It has been a great joy to serve in ordained ministry with my husband, the Rev. Dr. Jeff Blackman. Both of us are passionate about facilitating healing, wholeness and life through Jesus Christ. That approach to ministry has been lived out in leading worship, preaching and celebration of the sacraments. It has also been lived out in laughter and growing humility learned through failure. We have been richly blessed by the people of the churches we have served. We carry these saints in our hearts as we engage the next chapter of our lives together.”
“On my first Confirmation Sunday as a pastor, the class of eight young people knelt in front of their proud parents and before the altar of Christ. I had prepared them that I would be laying hands upon their heads with some force (as the bishop would in ordination). One young woman casually remarked that she would have to use even more hair product to protect her hairstyle. She did use more – so much that my right hand stuck to her hair.
Frantically, I wiggled my attached fingers till my hand was released with a slight, sucking sound. I wiped my gelled-covered hand on the back of my ‘dry clean only’ robe and stood before the next confirmand – one of the identical twins in the class.
Flustered, I forgot whether Matthew or Mark was next. The only difference in the twins was a small, a tiny dot above Matthew’s left eye. I bent down further and further until he recognized my plight and said, ‘Matthew!’ I popped back up, ‘Matthew, the Holy Spirit work within you, that being born of water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.’ In subsequent years, it got better.”
“There is much to be thankful for and much to remember. There was the church whose finances were in a not so good place but managed to gather up enough money to help build a health clinic in Nigeria. There was the small country church that had an average of sixteen kids at children’s time during worship and 20 to 30 kids at youth group. The outrageous hospitality of another country church as they pot lucked every first Sunday of the month.
But the trips with the church folk to downtown Kansas City to become immersed into the life of the homeless was my greatest memory. This is where we became one of the homeless by walking their trail of tears, by listening to their stories, by serving them lunch and breakfast, and hearing their witness during worship. There was a cross hanging in the downstairs fellowship room of the church we were at. When an urban sojourner took Jesus as their Savior, they got to write their name on that cross. I remember reading what Tommie, a homeless man wrote, ‘Lord, you must love me very much you gave me this day.’ I was on my knees!”
Diane Wasson Eberhart
“It has been a joy and privilege to be a part of the ministry of Christian Education and Spiritual Formation for thirty-eight years, first as a Diaconal Minister and then as an Ordained Deacon. My favorite part of ministry has been working with the Confirmation classes through the years. Watching young persons grow in faith and make a difference in their worlds has been an inspiration.
I served churches in Nevada, Grinnell, Des Moines, Dubuque and Urbandale through the years and each congregation taught me and helped me grow in faith, love and justice. Serving in partnership with my spouse was a real highlight for me, and we look forward to continuing to be in service in retirement. I also am planning to take my Dad’s advice, ‘Remember to stop and smell the roses’. Thanks to my family and colleagues in ministry through the years who have supported me and to the many lay persons who have inspired me to keep growing in love toward God and neighbor.”
“Jesus said we should not store up for ourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust can destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up treasures in heaven.
In the process of moving after 15 years of ministry in Newton, Iowa, I have managed to store up a lot of stuff. Some of the stuff I treasure, but what is most important to me are the memories I have of people I shared in ministry with. I treasure the memories that have been made over all 42 years of ministry. I cannot put a price on what people have meant to me and the impact individuals have had on my life. Unless one suffers from some form of memory loss, these memories can not be taken from us. Thank you for the wonderful memories I have of ministry with all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I will continue to make new memories in ministry during my years of retirement and hopefully, many of you will be a part of it.”
“Mystery and Discernment, Covenant and Community: All of these are the kinds of things that played a large role in my life as a pastor. It has been a vocation of meaning and purpose; it also has offered challenging and creative aspects of a profoundly rewarding work. This multi-dimensional role of being a pastor has often brought deep personal fulfillment and abundant opportunities for growth in my life.
Hearing God’s call through the noise of my life wasn’t always easy or clear. Yet I discovered that this important discernment usually revealed itself from the inside out. By that I mean, if I as a follower of Christ, would develop a passion for the gospel, then I would be equipped with the tools to listen for God’s beckoning call on my life and the lives of those around me. This was one of my first steps on my journey of faith. It was my primary responsibility to inspire and nurture faith, yet I had found that the constant cultural shifts and broad responsibilities made this vocation highly innovative. First and foremost for me was to offer spiritual leadership and guidance to God’s people, providing a landscape of spiritual discovery for all who were seeking to follow Christ.
In looking back, I realized that I really needed to be open to the mystery of my faith. I learned to have a heart for people. I will never forget the words of one of my first District Superintendents, Rev. Carroll Usher. I asked him if he had any advice to share with me. He answered, ‘Yes I do, your work is to love the people, not just some, but all the people.’ I found it easier to do that when I would cherish my time in communion with God. Bishop Reuben Job wrote inside the cover of His Book, ‘Jan, always stay close to the One who called you.’ The more time I was able to spend with God, I realized the more God would gift me with leadership skills and more importantly team-building skills. Working together as a mission team ever mindful of the Covenant of God working with and through us to build rather than tear apart was so meaningful. Through receiving God’s grace I became better at being a comforter, nurturer and responder in the community of faith.
But also in the midst of receiving God’s grace, I yearned so deeply for a more just and merciful world. Not just for some, but for all people. Nothing was more difficult than speaking the truth while expressing compassion. It was at these times that my calling became more passionate about sharing God’s message of grace. Sensing the whispers of the Spirit, God continued to invite me to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those around me. This will always be a part of my life. Mystery and Discernment, Covenant and Community. All of these are the kinds of things that will continue to play a large role in my life as a retiree in the years to come. I am deeply grateful for the honor and privilege of serving in the United Methodist Church.”