Most of you know…my journey in ministry got the best start in the world. To share in staff at St. Pauls Church in Chicago, arriving in July of 1966.
The first week was far more startling than strengthening. The night before occupying our 3rd floor apartment, the FBI were occupants to scope a bookie across the street. The first Friday my car was stolen. The first Sunday the staff joined in a Civil Rights March with Martin Luther King, Junior, in the Chicago Loop and State Street, the week after that eight nurses lost their lives…and I knew for better or for worse—most of you know how those vows go…I wanted to experience and share some value as a pastor. No matter what.
The experiencing of same far outweighed the sharing. Because of Fred Trost. He was senior pastor…and for more than three years I learned from him…about how truth in love could be offered, how witnessing to injustice was more than academic and perhaps most of all, no matter the differences he and I had with neighbors and [some] church members above all we were pastors…caring presence on behalf of others.
I believe it true those years were my real seminary, learning the ways of ministry.
Why write this? Today, a Wednesday leading to next Sunday, the fourth Advent Sunday? Because Fred and Louise and their family lost their daughter-in-law, Shelly McLain Trost, this week. She suffered from cancer. Fred wrote many of us a paragraph that will be indelible in my soul and heart.
Yes, I know. Christmas is about birth. Christmas is about God becoming human. Christmas is about angels and voices heralding how joy and peace can happen.
Yet. For Diane and me personally, even more…Fred has brought such wisdom and hope and love to our souls and hearts..by sharing the final moments with Shelly…as the family gathered, and Shelly’s husband, Paul, Fred and Louise’s son, held her hand.
Fred has given me permission to share this…please read it…and ponder the beauty and the power of this moment…and then, if you will, please offer a prayer to God for eternal care-giving and presence with Shelly, and comfort and peace for Paul. And, no less, for yourself. For in our living…the good and the bad, the realities of life and death…God is. And. We are also. Bringing God and each of us in covenant—a bonding relationship—helps more than we’d ever imagine…but can also experience.
From Fred to many of us…and I share with many of you:
“The closing moments of Shelly’s earthly life were deeply moving. The angels who have surrounded Shelly were present with each of us. She tried to say something. Paul asked Shelly in the last moment, “What do you see?” She responded saying in a whisper we could hear… “God,… God,… God,…” and within seconds, she breathed deeply and she died. It was, for each of us, one of the most tender expressions of faith, hope and love we could imagine.”