Maynard was Pastor Emeritus of our church. It is very unusual to name someone Pastor Emeritus who was an Associate rather than a Senior Minister of the church. I suppose it’s been done at some other church, but I couldn’t name one that did. Rev. John McFadden deserves some credit for this, but mostly it’s a tribute to Maynard. He embodied something vital about First Congo: a loving spirit, a fierce commitment to justice, an unwavering and joyful dedication to service. To name him Pastor Emeritus was to say that THIS is who we are; THIS is what we are like; THIS is what we must always be if we are to be faithful to our calling as church.
I am heart-broken to lose Maynard, and I know many of you are as well. I am also just a little bit frightened, anxious about who we will become without him. And not just without him; these last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself thinking about Wanda, Maynard’s loving wife and faithful partner in ministry, who we lost several years ago.
So many of the people who are pillars of this church have told me that their love of First Congo started when Maynard greeted them on their first Sunday here or when Wanda reached out to them after a service. In just a few words, Maynard and Wanda were able to represent the best of us to those who were just getting to know our church. What will we do without their loving hospitality?
Of course, each of us have asked similar questions and faced similar fears in our own families in our times of loss. And we’ve found that the love and care of those we’ve lost continues to love and care through us and all those they touched in how we pass on that love and care to others. So part of the answer to my fears lies in us.
Just as importantly, as a family of faith we remember that the source of the loving spirit we found in Maynard and Wanda was not ultimately them but God. They were instruments of God’s love, and God is certainly still with us – particularly in this time of grief and uncertainty – loving and caring for us and providing for our future.
So even as we prepare to lift up our joyous thanks for Maynard Beemer’s life and ministry, let us remember to praise God, whose love and blessings continue to surround us in the saints who sit beside us. Maynard and Wanda knew that. That’s why they were always so excited to see you here. That’s why they were so delighted to reach out to us in loving welcome. In that spirit, let us always greet the saints around us.
Your friend and fellow minister,
Rev. Steve Savides