Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Happy Surprise

This Sunday at the eleven o'clock service, I was pleasantly surprised when I looked out over the congregation and found that among our worshipers was a former Moderator of the General Assembly.  This does not happen every day, at least, not in suburban Orlando.  I had missed the chance to say something during the announcement time (I suppose my mind was on getting through the long list of announcements) and so I added one further announcement as we began the time for the New Testament Lesson.

I told the Wekiva Presbyterian Church congregation that I sensed somewhat what Timothy might have felt, had he looked out over the congregation and found the Apostle Paul among the worshipers.  For there in the middle of the center left section of the Sanctuary was Chuck Hammond.

Although we had no chance to talk about it beforehand, I asked Chuck if he would come forward and offer the Benediction, which he most graciously did, tying together the thoughts of the Romans 5:1-5 scripture that was the text for the morning's sermon.  As it was Reformation Sunday, the message was to take and use the gifts of the Reformation, today.

Chuck served as Moderator of 192nd General Assembly of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA), meeting in Detroit in 1981, when the two great Presbyterian denominations were on the verge of merger, and Chuck had much to do with helping the reunion come into being as the PC(USA). 

It is a joy to mention that from time to time, Chuck Hammond and I have been near neighbors as well as colleagues in ministry. When I was called to First Presbyterian Church of South Bend, Chuck was already in Indiana, serving as the Executive Presbytery of Wabash Valley Presbytery, there.  But the connection goes back to Donegal Presbytery, where early in his ordained ministry Chuck served at the Kreutz Creek Presbyterian Church in York County.  There, some years later, I had the joy of serving as a pulpit supply while in seminary, Donegal being my home Presbytery.  For many years Chuck was the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Philadelphia.  In "retirement" (ministers don't really retire, they just go out to pastor), Chuck  has served some very fine Presbyterian congregations, including Oceanside CA, LaJolla CA,First San Luis Obisp CA, and First in Salt Lake City.

Judy took these two photos, during the closing hymn and as Chuck pronounced the benediction.  I am glad she did; since they record a special moment for our congregation and for me personally.  Chuck has a daughter who lives in Central Florida, hence his being in our neighborhood and gracing us in worship this Sunday.

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