About 15 years ago, we had an interim pastor come to lead us while our search committee worked to find our new permanent pastor. He had been a pastor all his career and decided that he could best be useful in the interim role for his last ten years or so before his retirement. Interim pastors are so important to the life of the church. They bring a fresh perspective and a different way of doing things as they manage the day to day ministry of the church. They allow mission and ministry to continue and even begin new ones during their time in the church. Bill did all those things and more.
He joined right into the life and work of the church, accepting the people, listening to their stories and sharing laughter and sorrow as together we experienced the abundant grace of being part of God’s family. He shared his accordion at church events as well as his rich gift of laughter with young and old alike. He went to Montreat Worship and Music week with a group of us and didn’t even complain about our choice of housing. It did have about a hundred million steps up from the road to get to the porch and goodness knows most of us did complain or at least we huffed and puffed loudly as we made our way to the top.
Bill had a way of discerning the gifts of others – even those gifts they had not yet discovered for themselves. Then he mentored those individuals until the fruits were visible. Bill loved to sing and once or twice even loaned his tenor voice to the choir for a special event. Everyone loved Bill, perhaps because it was clear that Bill loved everyone.
When his time among us was over, we were saddened, but glad for him at the same time because he was one step closer to his dream of retirement and spending time with his growing family. On his last Sunday with us we had a little party after church for which some of us shared our thoughts about our time with Bill. I was one asked to say a few words. On that day there was nothing better for me to say than to quote the words of Paul to Philemon, verse 7: “ Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints”.
Fast forward to the morning of October 28, 2014. I was reading my devotional which just happened to be Philemon. As I got to verse 7 it brought back vivid memories of Bill and I took a moment to remember him fondly once again. I did not know this morning that Bill was gone from this earth; I only learned several hours later that Bill’s ultimate dream of seeing Jesus face to face had now come true. I know that Jesus and Bill are having a jolly laugh together and that Bill has received his new clothes and had the honor of hearing God say “well done”. One day we will see Jesus and Bill along with many other saints as together we join in one great big reunion party. Praise God for this wonderful man and the life he led among us.