Monday, October 28, 2013
My Favorite Church Member
This past weekend I had the privilege of being part of the funeral for my most favorite church member of any church I have been able to pastor. I know that pastors aren't supposed to have favorites - but I did! It's kind of a "bad news/good news" scenario for those in my present church here at E-Free in Gaylord, Michigan. The bad news is that you were not my favorite! Sorry about that! The good news is that there is now an opening for a new favorite and you can send me an application if you would like to be considered.
Seriously - Agnes Bracker (or "Grandma Backer" as we called her) was a pure delight. I honestly don't think that God makes them any better than her. She was a widow at the first church I was Senior Pastor of in Osceola, IN. Her late husband was also a pastor and had actually been one of the previous pastors of the same church. As a result, Agnes knew the challenges of being a pastor, and more importantly, she knew the challenges that came with being a pastor's wife. As a result, she became very special to my both me and my wife.
She was also special to my children. We would bring her to their sporting events and she would cheer for them on the sidelines as if they were her own grandchildren. She was always part of our kid's birthdays and from that started a tradition. When the gifts were all unwrapped a "wrapping paper fight" quickly ensued. And it was Grandma Bracker who always threw the first wad of paper. In fact, when my daughter heard of Grandma Bracker's death, she told the students in her classroom that she teaches about Grandma Bracker and gave them each a piece of paper so her class could have a paper fight in honor of Grandma Bracker.
At her funeral, I shared the following three thing I will always remember and cherish about Agnes.
First, Agnes encouraged bountifully! In the 9 years I was at this church, every Sunday Agnes would tell me what a great sermon it was. I'm sure if you are reading this and you were part of that church over those 9 years, she was definitely showing me grace. Over the 28 years I have been a pastor, I have kept every single note, email and card of encouragement I have ever received. I have them in notebooks and periodically, when this 'pastoring thing' gets tough (and it does), I pull out those notebooks and I read those correspondences. And as I do so, I realize that no one has ever sent me more encouragement cards than Agnes.
Second, she prayed fervently. If she knew you - she prayed for you! That was a ministry that she began with her late husband and which she continued until the day she went home to be with her Lord last Wednesday. I believe I can safely say that in the 28 years I have been a pastor, no church member has ever prayed for me more than Agnes did.
Third, she aged gracefully. Agnes was 99 when she passed away. She desperately desired to make it to that century mark but came up a little bit short (yet, I'm sure she is in no way disappointed). But this is what amazed me about Agnes. Over 28 years of ministry, what I have found is that the older people get in the church, the general pattern seems to be that they serve LESS and they criticize MORE. Not Agnes. She never stopped serving and her words were always filled with grace.
Agnes was my most favorite church member. I readily admit that. And when I get old (many, many decades from now), I want to be just like Grandma Bracker. I want to always be the one who encourages bountifully; who prays fervently; and who ages gracefully!