Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Eulogy and Obituary for Loretta Wynn Doll


Eulogy for Loretta Doll
April 18, 2018
by Rev. John Partridge

In 1915 the world was different than the one in which we now live.  In December of that year, Frank Sinatra was born, President Woodrow Wilson married Edith Galt in Washington D.C., WWI raged in Europe, heavier than air aircraft were still largely experimental, Ernest Shackleton’s team attempting to cross Antarctica overland was stranded as their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the ice and sank, and into that world, Loretta Wynn was born in Canton, Ohio on December 3rd, 1915.
Loretta lived with her parents, John and Loretta, and eventually attended, and graduated from McKinley High School in 1934, and then met and married Glen Doll on May 27th, 1939. Before too long, Glen and Loretta welcomed Sally and Ted to their family as well and, in 1950 they moved from Canton to what was then a very rural Perry Township.  By 1955 they had joined Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church which would, in 1968, become the Trinity United Methodist Church.
Although they did a little camping and traveling in the early years, Loretta and Glen both liked staying at home and working the land, planting a garden, growing things, and then canning their produce.  They liked to design the landscaping for the two homes that Glen had built, and then, periodically, or perhaps continually, redesigning and reworking it to suit their tastes and their sense of style.  Maybe it was this sense of style that led Loretta into other adventures...

The full text can be found here: Eulogy and Obituary for Loretta Doll

Monday, June 4, 2018

This is Goodbye




It hardly seems like it’s been six years.

When we first came to Trinity Church, our kids were in high school, now they are all in their twenties and either in college or working.  When we arrived I was applying for ordination, now I’m celebrating the fifth anniversary of my ordination.

When we came, Trinity was recovering from a serious wound, but is now healthier and moving forward.  Trinity is pushing itself to reach out, to be mission minded, to do more than just send checks but to be active participants in the mission and vision of Jesus Christ.  These things are necessary if a church is to grow and be healthy because without them, churches become insulated from the world which is the opposite of what Jesus taught us to do.  Our job is not only to invite the world in, but to go out from the four walls of the church and be in the world.  Our neighbors can never come to faith in Jesus if they never meet one of his followers, and they can’t meet us if we never find places to mingle, make friends, get to know them, and build trust.

There is, of course, much more to do, but the Staff Parish Relations Committee felt that maybe it was time for someone else to lead the charge.  I don’t disagree, and, apparently, neither does the bishop and her cabinet.  It may seem odd, but there is another way that I have, at least jokingly described my departure.  At the end of the children’s movie, Nanny McFee, the children beg their nanny not to leave, but she tells them that, “When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.”  And to some extent, my departure is like that, as well as the ending of Mary Poppins.  Trinity Church has come a long way from where it was six years ago, but now, the winds have changed, and there is another place where I am needed.

I did my best.  I have done what I could do.  My prayer is that you will continue to grow in grace, in mercy, in your likeness to Jesus Christ, and that Pastor Tina can take you where you need to go next.

Blessings,

Pastor John

Friday, April 27, 2018

Transitions

Change.

As much as we sometimes say otherwise, most of us struggle with change.

And we know that in just a few weeks, we all have to figure out how to deal with some big changes.  My family is already packing boxes and donating other things as we prepare to move into a new house and prepare to attend a new church, find a new mechanic, a new grocery store, a new favorite gas station, and on and on it goes.  Thankfully, at least this time we don’t need to worry quite so much about changing school districts.

Here at Trinity, your changes will be somewhat less, but I know that there are a few of you who really struggle with far smaller changes.  More than one person has confided in me that they are uncertain about having a female pastor.  I understand that Trinity Church has never had a female pastor and that many of you haven’t either.  But I was in your shoes once and as folks have shared their concerns with me, that is the story that I’ve been telling them.  Since I’ve heard about those kinds of concerns more than once, I thought that I should share that story with all of you.

Back in the mid to late 1990’s Patti and I were still attending the church in South Akron where we met and where we were married.  This was the church where my father had been the pastor in the early 1980’s and that’s how I had begun my membership there.  After several more male pastors had succeeded by father, the bishop and the cabinet announced that our next pastor would be female.  There were many concerns expressed throughout the church.  It was nearly a shockwave of concern.  Some of the leading families in the church were known to be very conservative and at least one of the patriarchs of those families was rumored to be openly racist.  People thought at a woman simply would not be welcome as a leader of the church and many feared that her appointment would divide the church and that whole families would quit together.

But they were willing to give the new pastor a chance.

And, as far as I know, not one person left the church.  Because you see, although Pastor Linda was a woman (obviously), she was found to be more conservative in many things, than several of the male pastors that had been at our church.  She didn’t come to our church with an axe to grind or anything and more than that, she did something else.

She loved us.

Linda just loved on the entire congregation and many (okay, all) of the old curmudgeons that we worried wouldn’t like her, fell in love with Linda too.  In the end, Pastor Linda stayed at that church longer than any other pastor in the history of the church.

There were changes that we had to adapt to though.  Some because we had a female pastor, others because every pastor has their own unique personality, and still others because Pastor Linda’s husband, Pastor Mike, was appointed to a church across town.  Where we had grown accustomed to the pastor’s family attending our church, Linda’s didn’t.  Pastor Mike rarely ever came to our church.  I think I saw him two or three times in five or six years other than when we visited them in their home.  When Mike and Linda’s kids were in town, they most often attended Mike’s church, if at all.  It wasn’t what I expected.  It was different.

But different isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just different.

For many of the same reasons, you will find that things here at Trinity will be different.  Tina is going to be good at different things than I am, she might not be good at some of the things that I was, she’s going to like, and dislike, different things, she might run meetings differently, and I’m sure that there are a lot of other ways in which the two of us are different.  Only one of those things is our gender.  And after our experience with Pastor Linda, as well as seminary classmates, and other colleagues, I no longer even consider that to be an issue at all.

Different isn’t bad.  It’s just different.

In the last six years, our family has fallen in love with Trinity Church and many of the people in it.

You can be sure that I will be praying for all of you in the days ahead.

I hope that you will do what our church in Akron did.

Just give Tina a chance to be your pastor.

My bet is that you will fall in love with her too.

Blessings,
Pastor John


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Monday, March 26, 2018

A Different Spring To-Do List



I know that many of you will be reading this after Easter even though I am writing it in March.  But the arrival of Easter and spring often signify a flurry of activity.   Many of us are already making lists of things that need to be done outside in our flower beds, gardens and lawns as well as a host of things that we put off during cold weather.  If we have children, there are even more things being added to our schedules with the arrival of spring sports and other activities.  But in the midst of all this busy-ness, I hope that you will also take the time to put a few spiritual things on your to-do lists.  Spring and Easter are filled with images that remind us of God and of spiritual things.  And so, in the midst of our rush to get things done, I encourage you to take some time out to appreciate the gift that spring really is, to “be still” and listen to the heartbeat of God, and to notice the ways in which we are surrounded by the miraculous. 

What follows is far from being an all-inclusive list, but are just a few suggestions to get you started.

·        Sit.  That’s all.  Just sit.  Once it gets warm enough, find a place on your porch or in the back yard, pull up a lawn chair, and just sit.  Leave your phone in the house.  Feel the sun on your face.  Listen to the wind, the birds, the neighbors, squirrels, or whatever it is that’s going on.  Now remember the silence of the winter and give thanks.  You’re alive and all around you the world is emerging from death and the grave of winter.  Remember the resurrection of Jesus at Easter, and imagine what your new birth will be like.

·        Look for the signs.  Flowers, trees, and animals of all kinds have been buried in the earth, or been dormant, in hibernation, or have migrated for thousands of miles.  Now they are emerging from the earth, reawakening, and returning from far away.  Within the boundaries of your lawn you can find dozens of examples of rebirth and resurrection.  Give thanks for all of these little miracles.

·        Smell. Seriously. Take a moment. Snow doesn’t smell like much, but now your yard and your neighborhood smell different.  Pause for a moment.  Take a deep breath.  Smell the fragrance of spring flowers, the aroma of dirt, earth, and grasses that are warmed by the sun.  They are alive and growing.  Even the more unpleasant smells are new.  Rejoice in all the new-ness around you and give thanks that you can smell, that you have life, and health, and can appreciate these gifts.

·        Touch. Lean down and look at the spring flowers, the buds on the trees, or even the tender shoots of grass.  They are so small, so fragile, and so tender that anything but the slightest touch might damage them.  And yet they survived the winter, and they’ve pushed their way through the soil or forced open the tips of a woody branch to emerge into your world.  Rejoice that you are there to see it but also consider how God has made something so small, so tender, so fragile, and yet at the same time, so determined, so tough, so persistent, and so resilient.  Remember that the same God made you.  Toughness, resilience, persistence, tenderness, love, and compassion all live within you.  Give thanks for the gifts God has given to you and the ways that he has brought you through your wintery trials.

·        Your turn.  Consider.  Contemplate.  Be still.  Listen.  In what other ways will God reveal himself to you?








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Monday, March 19, 2018

How "Local" is Mission?


How “Local” is Mission?

Recently, I have heard folk from Trinity discussing the need for our church to focus on, and to encourage the support of, more local missions.  My impression was that the speakers meant to say that we might be focusing too intently on missions that weren’t local and that local missions were more important.   To be fair, one of those speakers was deliberate in saying that other missions were important, but the implication was that our focus might have shifted too far in another direction.  I admit that my impression of that conversation was probably shaped by other churches where I have served, because I’ve heard that opinion expressed in other places before.  My first reaction was to dismiss that idea as wrong, but as I thought about it, I decided that I ought to look in our church budget and see where our dollars were really going and next I decided that I should probably write about it because if a few people are talking about it, the odds are good that a lot of people are thinking about it.

Before I get into the details of what I found, I want to remember why it is that we do missions.  First, in Matthew 28:18, as Jesus said goodbye to his disciples before he ascended into heaven he gave us what is now called the Great Commission saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And in Luke’s version of this story, found in Acts 1:8, Jesus says, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

Our calling, as the followers of Jesus is not just to stay in Jerusalem, but to go share the gospel throughout the entire world.  With that in mind, I know that caring for those people nearest to us has to have some priority because if we don’t do it, who will?  But, at the same time, the good we can do in other places for a small amount of money, is also vitally important.  And so with that in mind, I looked at our January finance report to see where Trinity spent its time and money and divided those places into the same kind of categories that Jesus used.  Instead of using Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the earth, I translated that into local, Ohio, National, and International.

While some of the ministries we support were a little difficult to neatly put in one of these categories, and without asking what mission the UMW supported, I counted 22 local missions, 2 Ohio missions, 7 National missions, and 4 International missions.  Local missions were things like Perry Helping Perry, Neighbor Helping Neighbor, the Homeless Outreach Team, the SAM Center, Canton Calvary Mission, RAHAB ministries, Aunt Suzie’s Cancer Wellness, Guidestone, and our own Trinity youth.  Ohio missions were things like Flat Rock Homes in Cleveland, and the Kairos prison ministry.  I classified things like Disaster relief through UMCOR, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Red Bird Mission, including our mission trip to The Joy Center, as National missions.  And finally, there were four International missions such as Zoe ministries, Farmer to Farmer, Heifer International, and Africa University.  Financially, the breakdown of these categories was, Local $10,727, Ohio $100, National $7,739, and International $1300.  It was interesting to note that as far as I can tell, all of the missions in the International category were given by our young people from your generous giving to the noisy offering.

Ultimately, I think that we are finding a good balance in these categories but if you have any concerns I invite you to share them with me, or Jan Gash and our missions team.  In total, the generous people of Trinity gave nearly $20,000 to these missions and that is both incredible and commendable.  The people of Trinity have good and generous hearts, and it shows.  At the same time, even this generous level of giving adds up to less than 10 percent of our budget, so maybe we do have something to think about.





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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Leaders Lead from the Front




General George Patton demanded much from those under his command, but he never asked them to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do himself.  During the heat of battle, General Patton demanded that his troops only sleep once every two or three days, but he did that himself.  Being his driver was known to be a dangerous assignment, because George Patton was often so close to the battle that he got shot at and lost at least one Jeep to shell fire.  General George Patton led from the front and intended for his officers and men to follow his example.

This is also a repeated theme in the writings of the Apostle Paul.  Paul often says things like “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1), and “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” (Philippians 3:17).  But Paul also expected the members of the church to live their lives the same way saying, “And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:7)  Our calling is not only to hear about Jesus, and read about Jesus, but, as much as possible, to live like Jesus so that others can learn from our example.

While this applies to every believer, I believe that it is especially true for those in leadership.  Just as it was in the time of the Apostles, people today still look to their leaders to model what it means to be a follower.  This is why many people are so disappointed when our heroes fall, or when our elected representatives and other government officials act in ways that we think are inappropriate.  As a pastor, I find this to be especially challenging.  

While I try to be a good example of how to lead a Christian life, I know that I often fall short.  But, at the same time, because I know that others are watching, I often try to lead from the front.  While I can’t come to every event, I try to pass out food at Perry Helping Perry, bag potatoes with the Society of St. Andrew, help where I can with the Homeless Outreach Team (H.O.T.) and participate in other ministries of the church.  This is also why I go on mission trips to Kentucky and Liberia.  I realize that some of the things that I am doing may be new to you.  But I hope that when you see me doing something new, you might ask yourself if maybe God might be calling you to do something new as well.

I’m obviously not perfect, but I am trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ, and I hope you are too.  But as we follow Jesus together, please remember that just as the believers in Macedonia and Achaia were watching the example of the Thessalonians, your friends, family, and coworkers are watching your example too.  Your life may be the only Jesus that they ever see.

Will you be leading from the front?



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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Important Preparations

Advent isn’t about being warm, or having the house well stocked, or even about feeling festive on Christmas morning.
As we enter December, we are also entering the season of Advent.  Advent, much like the season of Lent before Easter, is meant to be a season of preparation.
But what does that mean?
Honestly, an easy way to think about it is the same way we think about preparing for many other things during this time of the year.  We know that winter is coming, and with it our usual mix of snow, ice, and cold weather.  And so, in preparation, many of us have spent time digging our winter coats, hats, mittens, scarves, and other things from the backs of closets.  We’ve stocked up on salt for the driveway and made sure that our snow shovels and snow blowers are ready to go.  Similarly, we have begun preparing our homes for Christmas by pulling our decorations out of the garage, attic, basement, crawlspace, or wherever else we’ve stored them since last year.  And we’re making plans to bake cookies, make candy, bake pies, and whatever else needs done to make us feel “ready” for the arrival of Christmas day.
Some of us, and I am one of them, need this time.  It is sometimes hard for me to feel festive at Christmas.  I drift more easily toward “humbug” than to “Ho ho ho.”  And so to prepare, I deliberately try to listen to Christmas music, and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and other classic Christmas specials that we grew up with, along with various Hallmark Christmas movies on television.
But Advent isn’t about being warm, or having the house well stocked, or even about feeling festive on Christmas morning.
Advent is about our heart condition.
Advent asks us to think about whether or not our hearts are ready to receive the Christ child at Christmas.  Advent asks us if we are ready to accept the greatest gift that God has ever offered to us.  And so, for four weeks, we are offered this season of preparation.  This is a time for us to consider the condition of our hearts.  To read, and to listen to the stories of scripture, to fellowship and sing with others and, just as we are preparing our homes, to prepare our hearts so that we will be truly “ready” for Christmas and the arrival of God’s greatest gift to humanity.
So consider this an invitation to the season of Advent.  Come with us on a journey together.  Let us spend time worshipping together, singing together, and studying together.  I invite you to be a part of something bigger than yourself.  Perhaps to pick up an Advent devotional and have a few moments of daily quiet time alone with God.
You wouldn’t dream of being snowed in this winter without coats and hats, shovels and salt, and a pantry full of food (with a few cookies and fudge).
You want to be prepared.
The Savior of the world is coming.  God’s greatest gift.
Please take the time to prepare your heart as well.
Blessings,
Pastor John

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