During the summer of 2001, I began to seriously explore the call to ministry. At the time, I couldn't believe that I was even thinking about it! After all, I had been a teacher for more than 20 years, I enjoyed it, I was pretty good at it, I was at the highest level of earning that I could manage, and I still loved my job.
So why was I even considering that mysterious thing known as a "call to ministry?"
Because I was pretty uncertain, I did what any good Presbyterian would do: I formed a committee.
Actually, it was an unofficial committee, and it never met together. However, I contacted each member, discussed the possibility of ministry, and asked their opinion.
One of the members of that committee is my friend, Susie Croes Barone.
Susie is like my third sister. I have known her for more than 30 years. She introduced me to my wife on Valentine's Day, 1981. She was the maid of honor at our wedding. She knows my family, and she knows me. She is also a righteous, beloved Christian woman whose opinion I value.
She and I spoke about many things that day, and she strongly encouraged me to pursue ministry. But I asked Susie a question that no other member of the committee heard: "What do I do if I cry at funerals?" Susie knew that I was pretty "tender-hearted" and that funerals were hard for me. Yet I knew that if I went into ministry, I was very interested in being a pastor. That means funerals - no way around it.
Susie gave me some terrific advice; she said, "If you are going to cry at funerals, then go ahead and cry. The people will see how much you care."
Since that day, I have attended lots of funerals, I have officiated a few, and I have spoken often. I also remember what Susie told me. I am not embarrassed at my tears; they show how much I loved that person.
Today I am going to the funeral of a dear friend, Lisa Doran. I am not officiating the service, but I am speaking. My heart is very heavy, and I may cry as I speak. But her family and friends will all know how much I loved her.
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