Wednesday, August 08, 2007

My Top Ten Influences in Ministry:

I've been spending time lately reflecting back on the journey of my life (a little navel gazing is always a good thing ...), and I got thinking about the radical bunch of personalities who have been the anvil on which my life and ministry have been forged ...

So, today I present the list of my top ten influences on my ministry and why it is the way it is ... with no shame and even fewer regrets, I offer those "church" voices that have helped form my thoughts and my world view. Some I've met, and some I've just read of, but all of them have left indelible impressions on me and my life and most importantly my ministry:

The Rev. Ross Cumming - Ross was the minister at my home church when I was a lad. Words fail me to describe him - he was a humble and unique phenomena. He was the kind of minister I've strived to be - just with fewer corners ... Timbits, apple juice and coffee come to mind when I think of him ... He was a living saint.

Dr. Ben Meyer - Ben, was my thesis advisor during my third year at McMaster as I struggled with a theory on the Life and Ministry of Jesus. We laughed, we chatted, we argued, and we even disagreed - but through it all, his office was ALWAYS open, and a big chair was always available. One of my most cherished possessions is a paper I submitted to him that had the comment at the end in red ink - "I disagree with every word you wrote, but your argument is so compelling that I have choice but to give you an: A+"

Rev. Desmond Tutu - I've never met the man, but I've read voraciously much of what he's said and written. His smile, his humour, and his steadfast determination to stand for justice no matter what is utterly breath-taking. How can you NOT like the guy ???

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr - Again, a man I've never met - but a man whose writings shook the core of my being and changed my view of the world. I remember the first time I heard his Christmas Sermon on Peace, delivered in 1967 - we were in the basement of Centennial United Church in Stratford and Ross Cumming said - "I think you boys need to hear this ..." King's words caught hold of me and have NEVER let me go ... The world can be a better place if we dare to dream and work at making the dream happen ...

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel - Another man I've never met, but one who's writings have altered my world view ... On the surface he seems crusty and curmudgeonly, but when you plunge into his words and listen to his narrative, you are carried to places where the Holy is SO present reality is forever altered ... One summer a couple of years ago I compiled and read his collected published books - an action and addition to my library I've never regretted. Heschel is utterly amazing ... a true prophetic mystic who gently shows us a better way ...

The Rev. Mervyn Reuber - One of the Saints of the Old Evangelical United Brethren Church that in 1968 folded into the UCC ... Rev. Reuber married my mom and dad, buried my dad, and my grandpa. Rev. Reuber remained "our family minister" throughout his life and mine. And perhaps most meaningful to me was the night before I left for my ordination when he stopped by to wish me well and to tell me to never forget my roots and where I've come from. Later he and I began writing back and forth, and I now have several letters from him tucked away (they are cherished items for me). In the letters he says repeatedly - "Live the Gospel !! The real Gospel, not some namby pamby warm pink fuzzy nonsense, but the Gospel that changes lives and challenges people to grow up !! Be bold, and don't be afraid!!" He did just that till his dying day in his 90's !!

Henri Nouwen - My first encounter with Henri Nouwen was when I picked up a friend in Toronto and he had to deliver a parcel to a man in a place called Daybreak somewhere North of Toronto ... sometimes, fateful days start out that way ... casually. By the end of the day my friend and I had shared communion with the author/activist/priest Henri Nouwen, who was resident in the L'Arche community of Daybreak. From there I began reading his writings and have found his words to be challenging and inspirational - my favourite remains "The Wounded Healer". Nouwen's work, coupled with that of L'Arche founder Jean Vanier, show us how to envision the world as a gentler, more loving place ... if only we could dare to listen.

Rev. Wes Siebert - Another old EUB'er from way back ... Wes was the minister at Centennial when my mom arrived not long after Dad's death. With two little children in tow, he became a minister, a friend and an inspiration to mom and her boys. He was an amazing man who without words showed many of us in a myriad of ways that the Kingdom of God was near at hand - we just need to open our eyes, our hearts and our souls to its presence ...

Mother Teresa - Another celebrity of faith I've never met, but I've followed and read about and read of voraciously. The stories of this gentle woman from Calcutta abound - her humour, determination, toughness and faith are simply amazing. Her commitment to serve and more importantly, love the outcast and the cast offs is an inspiration to EVERYONE. I may not agree with everything she said and did - but I agree with enough to see her as a model for successful and faithful ministry.

Father Oscar Romero - He died lifting the Body of Christ over his head - his body torn by an assassin's bullets ... What does a priest have to do to be murdered during Mass?? Romero showed the way of peace, understanding and faith through a place of violence, politicking and inhumanity, and in the process he paid with his life. His words are eloquent, his prayers are breathtaking and his voice still speaks for those of us who want to see Justice pour down on humanity ... Romero is one I've never met, but one I've never forgotten ...

peace is not the product of terror or fear,
peace is not the silence of cemetaries,
peace is not the silence of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all
to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
Peace is right and duty ...
(Oscar Romero)
May it be so - thanks be to God.
There are others who could be on the list, it's longer than just 10, but these will do for today ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I stumbled across this blog. My name is Gord Cumming, Ross was my Grandfather and I am the oldest of about 20 grandchildren of his. I would love to talk to you sometime about your memories of him. Hope to hear from you.