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In the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) the month of October is designated to honor the ministry of both pastors and congregations. This BLOG will focus on acknowledging with appreciation the ministers who serve our congregations throughout the world.

Our minister, Rick Vale, has brought to this congregation a wide range of creative gifts and talents as well as a treasure-trove of knowledge, insight, and wisdom through his sermons and teachings—and we at Central Christian Church have benefited immensely by the uniqueness of his diverse gifts and talents in music, theatrical arts, and skills in public speaking.

Sermons highlight scripture as well as offering us, the listeners, a wealth of theological but relevant insight for this day and age. Those seeking depth in their understanding of biblical passages have welcomed Rick’s studies and discussion groups. THE ALLEY THEATRE offers a community-enriching series of dramas which Rick has been instrumental in the creation and support of this vital connection of our congregation to our city and beyond.

One occasionally wonders how a minister fulfills both the duties of a minister as well as the expectations of parishioners and the community. How does a minister prepare and deliver quality sermons week after week–especially when one of those weeks is filled with a funeral, a wedding, counseling sessions, visitations, community endeavors (ie, ministerial associations, various local boards that have asked the minister to serve a term, dealing homelessness and poverty in the community, etc.). Frankly, it takes a lot of ingenuity and wise use of time to preach well each week. One way a minister “stays ahead” in sermon planning is the use of a sermon series on topics or selected scriptural themes so any study time allows the preacher to work on several sermons simultaneously. Or a minister will plan ahead for several weeks, perhaps using a lectionary (a 3 year planning system in which the same scriptural passage is not repeated; then the cycle begins again) the purpose being to allow the minister to make wise use of study time to cover several weeks in case a week becomes exceptionally busy. Another reason to plan is that musicians and music directors must also plan for choir anthems and special occasions. Rick has consistently woven our worship services into a unity of theme and music each week–not an easy task!

Yet, does anyone recognize the impact of the covid pandemic on ministers? Some congregations, like ours, did not hold worship services for several consecutive weeks. Goodness gracious! Talk about a radical and massive shift in how ministers provided weekly worship services! Our congregation relied heavily on the internet or electronic media. Pastor Rick provided sermons with music and lay participation through that media. Families in homes read scripture and this was incorporated into the service and soloists (or others) provide “recorded” music to enrich our online worship. Rick readily mastered the challenges, and our congregation was blessed. During the pandemic, our online worship gained support at a level that Rick continues to provide weekly online worship.

How does a congregation say “Thank you” to its minister(s)? I can only speak of my experience in the congregations I have served in our denomination as I have no knowledge of the practices of this congregation. I have been richly rewarded with a variety of “Thank-You-s” during the month of October, including heartwarming words of appreciation given in a worship service by the personnel committee or board chairperson who spoke on behalf of the congregation. One year I moved to a new congregation in mid-October. That congregation had a rich history of expressing appreciation to its pastors during the Month of the Ministry in our denomination. Did they ever surprise us—on Halloween night many, many families in the congregation brought food items, baked goods, staple groceries, etc. to “treat” us (in the south, it is called “pounding the preacher”) and the warmth and laughter of the evening with a parsonage full of folks still resonates today! I have received “free” dinners for two (includes spouse) reservations at a favorite or esteemed restaurant within a reasonable traveling distance, or tickets for an event (movie, drama, etc.), or an overnight “package” including meals at a resort or B & B (Bern, IN or Metamora, IN which were Indiana places of interest that we had never been), or tangible items (ex: once Della and I received an elaborate serving set for hosting events in our home), modest cash gifts, among other tokens of appreciation. Even though the congregation presented these tokens in worship on a Sunday in October (or at a board meeting), the date of the meals, events, or overnight trips would usually be in early to mid-November to offer Della and I some time to re-adjust our schedules. I cannot think of a single year in my 40 years as a Disciples of Christ minister in which there was not some form of appreciation in October. Funds for these expressions of appreciation were not taken from the church treasury because of tax issues, but I was seldom aware of the method(s) by which the congregation selected or provided for these welcomed expressions of appreciation.

May I encourage each of you to voice your appreciation to Pastor Rick, whether in person, or by social media? With a busy thanksgiving and Christmas season rapidly approaching, let us remember that “giving thanks with a grateful heart” to Pastor Rick is “a gift that keeps on giving.”