Two of the saints recently passed away – Arvie Maynard and Leonard Hood. Arvie was the pastor of the Edgewood Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg prior to his retirement in 1997. That was the only congregation he had served. Leonard had a much longer ministerial career, finishing up as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Buckhannon and as the Special Presbyter for Quadrant 2 before he retired in 1999.
Among other things, Arvie was a woodcarver. I’m not sure whether he specialized in carving crosses, but I know he gave away many of them as gifts. I may even have one that he gave to me squirreled away somewhere.
I spent more time in meetings with Leonard than either one of us would care to remember. As Quadrant Ministers back in the day, we would get together at least three times a month – once for presbytery staff meeting, once for the Committee on Ministry (COM) briefing, and once for the COM meeting itself. While I sometimes dreaded going to another meeting, I never regretted the time I got to spend with Leonard. That was always an opportunity to listen and to learn.
Leonard was a quiet man who seldom got excited. When he spoke, you almost had to listen. You needed to listen, not only because he had a wonderful speaking voice, but because he knew what he was talking about. He had a deep faith, a deep love for the church, and a deep compassion for the frailties and failures of our pastors and churches. Sometimes he would get frustrated or even angry with certain situations or people, but you always knew he wanted the best for the church and all involved. He had far more patience and far more wisdom than I ever will. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to know and work with him. The world is a better place and this presbytery has been blessed because of the ministry of Leonard Hood.
Both men leave behind a legacy we can try to emulate. That raises the question: what kind of legacy will you leave behind?
Sometimes in an obituary you’ll read something like, “He never said an unkind word about anyone.” Unfortunately, those words will probably never appear in my obituary. If they do, people will be shaking their heads and rolling their eyes. That horse left the barn a long time ago. Although maybe I don’t say unkind words, I will admit I do get angry and am frequently disappointed as well as frustrated. I haven’t gotten to the point where I have started yelling, “Hey, you kids, get off of my lawn,” although that may be because I live in the woods and I don’t have a lawn. I know I need to work on being kinder, on being more patient, on seeing the potential in situations, in giving people the benefit of the doubt, and in being better able to directly express my concerns instead of inwardly stewing about things. I still need to learn from Leonard Hood. We all do.
You know I think the legacy question also applies to our churches. So, what kind of legacy will your church leave? Or to put that in the present tense: what do people know about your church? Are you known by your location? Do they know you because of your choir, youth group, Vacation Bible School, nursery school, food bank or church bazaar? Or are you known for the kindness and generosity of your members? Or are you known for the pillars on your building and the size of your steeple? What do people think about your church? What would you want them to think? How would you like to be known?