Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ministry Memories – Reynolds


People go to see a doctor when they are sick, a lawyer when they have legal problems, a banker when they are broke. A minister doesn’t often see results from his work, but here is one instance where I did receive an indication that my ministry had a significant effect upon one life.

The summer before I started studying theology, I worked for awhile as assistant to a plasterer. We were stuccoing the Roman Catholic Church in Sydney River, Cape Breton. Years after, whenever I drove by that church I would look at it with a sense of pride, “I helped stucco that church!” It was something I had done and I could see what I had done.

In contrast, a minister doesn’t commonly see the results of his or her efforts. Other than counting how many people are in church Sunday mornings, there is little way to know the results of hard-worked-over sermons or draining counselling sessions. And one is more apt to hear criticisms, or be called to deal with marital problems, or accidents or disasters, than to hear results of solid comfort and help (note Matthew 17:11f.).

One affirmation in my ministry, which kept me going when things got tough, resulted from my ministry at St. Paul’s, Fredericton.

St. Paul’s was a large, affluent congregation, some 900 families. The minister was important. In the event of a death, I was expected to be at the home or hospital within ten minutes! It was a demanding congregation. One winter, I had the morning service, then a Sunday School class of teen-age boys. At three o’clock, there was a church membership group. About five o’clock, after a short nap, I would start preparing for the evening service. The seven o’clock evening service was followed by a university group.

The attendance at the evening service was, let us say, sparse – about 60 to 70 people in that large sanctuary. Even many of the choir had stopped coming. Often I was so tired and ill prepared that I felt I couldn’t stand up to give the sermon. Somehow I was always given the strength. There was a sense of Christ standing with me. I couldn’t give up on that evening service, but I felt it was largely wasted effort.

Several years later, while I was Chaplain at Mount Allison University, I had a letter from a friend of my mother. It told me that she had friends whose son had recently died of cancer while doing graduate study in England. Members of the medical staff at the hospital where he was treated were so impressed with his faith that they named the ward after him.

His parents found a diary from his days when he was a student in Fredericton at the University of New Brunswick. Again and again there was an entry, “Went to church at St. Paul’s this evening. AR said ….” His parents had no idea who “AR” might be until my mother’s friend made the connection.

I was deeply moved when I read that letter. It isn’t often that a minister gets that kind of indirect feedback. It kept me going for months afterwards, and even after all these years, I am grateful.

2 comments:

Peter Black said...

Alan,

That young man into whose life you imparted spiritual wealth will surely be one who will welcome you into "eternal dwellings" (cp. Luke 16:9).
A great story, despite the sorrow his family would have experienced through his early death.

violet said...

How encouraging! Thanks for telling this story.

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