We never were in the same social swirls in high school. Later, though, I’d steal his sermons. Unashamedly. Well, that’s overstated, because we’d reciprocate. Often. I am clueless to ask him why he shared mine? He’s dead now. And has been for toooo long. Let me explain.
When I served as Associate Pastor at First Congregational Church in Eugene, Oregon, circa 1969-73, I learned that Laron Hall was the minister at the Methodist Church in Springfield, across the street from Eugene. We re-connected. Well, that’s presumptive. We connected and had lunch once a month.
Days and years progressed.
Laron was terrific as a pastor. Eventually he became the Senior Pastor at the First Methodist Church in Portland. I would visit Portland each summer and a highlight was having at least a 3-hour lunch with Laron. No martinis. We became so very close and continued to share sermons.
He shared what he hid in his closet. In those days, and too much now, being gay was a blemish. That’s the mild version. I so cared for Laron and appreciated his dilemma. He had to remain closeted. So sad. And then the tragic moment arrived. At lunch he shared he had HIV.
My first reaction, not with any pride, I was furious with him. Such a devastation. Then I got over it and did what I could to be a caring presence.
He died. He had invited me to be one of the speakers at his Memorial Service. That was hard. Even perhaps the hardest speaking time I can remember. Still, I affirmed Laron and felt a profound loss because he died.
Then about a year later a former minister of that First Methodist Church wrote a history of the church and gave Laron a paragraph or two and indirectly cursed Laron. I should have confronted him, but I didn’t.
Why all this? Because yesterday was Pride Sunday. Two of my dearest friends, I’ve mentioned them very often because they are that loved in my heart, are Jo Hudson and Joanne Brown. Thanks be to God for them, Jo and Stephanie are married as were Joanne and Christie. I use the past tense because Christie died of brain cancer.
Still, homophobia is horrific to me personally. Matches my disgust with racism.
On this day, Monday, June 25, 2018, I think of Laron. Thought of him all of yesterday. Such a treasure in friendship. Probably a good thing I’m not preaching any more. Because I always need help with my sermons. And Laron’s aren’t being written today. Sigh.