Great in God's Eyes
In 1971 I moved to Philadelphia and became pastor of a church just north of the city limits. Our Clerk of Session there was a man by the name of Al Maul. He was a man old enough to be my father. We were polar opposites. When he would say stop, I would say go; when he would say yes, I would say no. I was young, impetuous, and aggressive. Al was older, careful, and conservative. I was determined to come in and shape and shake that church up. I'm sure Al Maul, who had seen a succession of young ministers come and go over the years, must have said to himself, "This, too, shall pass."
Yet, in all of this I respected Al Maul, for he was a good man, and he loved the church and loved our Lord.
In January 1975, my father had a massive coronary and died just like that. He was 53 years old, and up until the last day of his life, had been in good health. I was shattered so badly that I didn't think I would ever be the same again. For I loved my dad, and he loved me. He was the best dad in the world.
On the Sunday I returned to Philadelphia after the funeral service, I stood in line after the service shaking hands with the congregation. When Al Maul came through he gripped my hand with both of his hands. He looked at me. There were tears streaming down his cheeks. He said nothing. He didn't have to.
And over the months that followed, the care and the concern of those people at the Melrose Carmel Presbyterian Church helped thin out my sorrow, and helped put their shattered pastor back together again. Now the Melrose Carmel Presbyterian Church will have never been counted as a great congregation in our denomination. It was always small and struggling. And to my sorrow, it closed down a couple of years ago. But it will always be great to me, and I think it will always be great in God's eyes because it was a church that instinctively understood that a church must minister to its minister.