Katy’s Long Obedience In the Same Direction

Sister Mary Katherine. No, not Sister Mary Clarence. Katy was no Sister Act, not an undercover nun. She was my first grade Sunday School teacher.

Only in more traditional Baptist churches did you hear women referred to as sister. Don’t let we Baptists know that Roman Catholic women, given to simple vows, have been referred to as sisters longer than there has been a Baptist Tradition. We would quickly adjust our confessional statements declaring such a designation anathema if we knew.

About two weeks I drove my Dad and Mom to Portland Avenue Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. That sentence sounds like it is such a long trek. It isn’t. We went to the funeral for my first grade Sunday School teacher I knew as Mrs. Kilman. Spellcheck changed it to  Kidman. Not kidding.

The funeral folder reminded us that Katy influenced many in her 56 years at the Crestwood Baptist Church, the church of my childhood and youth. I will be 56 in May. She spent another 25 years at Portland Avenue Baptist Church. If you are keeping score, that is 81 years. I have some to go to get my 81 year pin. Katy not only taught me in Sunday School. She also taught me in Training Union, think Baptist discipleship for children. 

One Sunday evening, I was maybe 6 or 7, we covered the story of King David and a descendant of King Saul. David and Saul are pretty simple names. No trouble with pronunciations. Saul’s grandson, Mephiboseth, received kindness from the new king. It was an act that ran counter to the practice of most new power families. When I heard Saul’s grandson’s name I giggled. So did Randy and maybe even Jimmy. It was the sort of funny that you could not stop. The more we realized we were laughing at a Bible name, and the momentary guilt that we might somehow be acting sacrilegiously by thinking the name was funny, could not overtake our belly laughs. Katy’s husband, John, saw it humorous even as he tried to settle us down to listen.

We weren’t scolded. We were loved.

Over the years of my childhood, Katy taught in Vacation Bible School. She had the voice of an angel. Beautiful alto harmonies added to the Ladies’ Trio of which she was a part. She sang in the choir, in the alto section. Katy and my mother worked with our church’s Senior Adult group – The Jolly Elders. They may have been the initiators of the ministry at Crestwood. Katy’s mother, Grace “Nanaw” Peterman, was my first lawn mowing customer when I was 9 years old. Katy’s daughter-in-law,Mary, taught in our Youth Department when I was in high school. Katy’s grandson Ryan was the ring bearer in our wedding nearly 36 years ago. To say this family holds a number of special places in our own family is an understatement.

One of my favorite books is Eugene Peterson’s, The Long Obedience In the Same Direction. Centered on the Psalms of Ascent, Peterson’s reflections key in on life as journey. The songs were sung on the way, during pilgrimage. We make much of achievement, of accomplishment, the arrival at a destination. Teaching children the Bible is less an achievement and more a journey. First graders move on to Second grade and on to the Third. A Teacher shows up to do it all again. It would be easy to see how over time we must adopt a different vision since a year in elementary Sunday School is not accompanied by finals, exit exams as it were. What is being taught is that we are not alone in our journey through life. God is with us. So are his people.

Ron, Katy’s oldest son, led us in congregational singing. He encouraged us to sing the parts. I sat next to my Dad and we sang the bass line. The gathered family and friends sounded like a church choir. Sitting near me was Maria. We grew up at Crestwood. We graduated from high school and college together. We sang in the Youth Choir. I saw adults I had not seen in more than 30 years. The memories were rich that day.

Thirty years. 

Sitting in the service and reflecting on Katy’s faithfulness to family and faith and God’s faithfulness to her, I realized that in January of 1989 I began serving my first church as a full-time pastor. The church that put up with my novice attempts and had faithfully provided young preachers a place to begin. I am not sure I achieved the average tenure in its history. Reading the list of their pastors put the average at between 2-3 years. I served about 16 months. 

It was not happy feet or a forced departure. I had been accepted into the Doctor of Ministry program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The move to a church closer to the seminary would make me more available to Patty and the girls should a need arise. Otherwise, I would be gone during the week for four weeks at a time, three times a year. A five hour commute every day would have made it largely impossible to succeed in the program. I commuted for three years in college but the drive was less than an hour.

This summer I will have served Snow Hill for 25 years. When I graduated with my MDiv in 1988 the average tenure was somewhere between 2-3 years. Using that figure, I have pastored somewhere between 8-12 terms at one place. My predecessor served for 25 years. In fact, since 1968, Snow Hill will have had just two pastors. God willing, I may be privileged to spend the rest of my time as pastor right where I am.

Some days I wonder what influences have led me to think a pastor may, if possible, remain at one place for a long time. Brother Justice pastored at Crestwood for more than 20 years before retiring. Brother Carpenter, our Bible History teacher in high school, was pastor of a small congregation in south Oklahoma City for a long tenure. Brother Emery pastored at Snow Hill from 1968-1993. I know there are others.

Maybe it was Katy, and those I knew/know like her. Today, many look for the day when they can retire from serving in a local church. Know this, young boys and girls remember those who taught them in Sunday School when they were children. Sometimes it even sticks that despite the ups and downs of church life, the highs and lows, helps them weather their own experience of the highs and lows faithfully at one place for a long time as adults. Sure, what we are physically able to do over time may change. Serving others may last a life time. It did for Katy.

The practice of a long obedience in the same direction haunts my memories and provides hope for my future.

It Can’t Go Without Saying

Early this morning the local weather prognosticator provided the temperature pattern for the first 14 days of October. Generally we are dry and still longing for cooler temps. That it seemed summer was hanging on at the first of October was evident. Temperatures were well above normal.

Like a correction in the market, the temps of late have been well below normal. At a meeting earlier today the Mayor and I were complaining, er uh, talking, about the weather. Deer hunters are often sweating in their stands, swatting flies. Not so this week. We both must have seen a similar graphic. Our October temperatures are anything but normal. In fact, it looks like we will not see the normal low-70’s the rest of the month.

Ministry is like the weather in Oklahoma, more often not normal than normal. I guess someone could argue the irregularity of ministry is actually the norm.

Some years ago someone had the idea to set aside October as Pastor Appreciation Month. So, I thought I would put together a self-congratulatory post.


Instead, I want to give a shout out to the folks that lead out at Snow Hill as part of our team. Some are paid. Others are not. It takes us all.

The Usual Suspects. Nathan. Rusty. Brad.

These three have combined to serve at Snow Hill for 36 years. Nathan (16). Rusty (11). Brad (10). Nathan moved from Youth Minister to Community Ministry, from full-time to co-vocational, what used to be termed bi-vocational. He could not do what he does without quite a few folks. We added a monthly community meal and his wife Carrie is the coordinator for this group. LaRae, Eloise, Norma, Chrissy and Ginny lead out in sorting and stocking food for our Food Pantry. Others include Johnny, Jim, Glenn, Jeanene and Wes. Most weeks Mae, Ginny, Norma and others help prepare a food for folks who find it hard or can’t get out of the house. Brandi, Shelley, Connie, Shelley and Leslie help administrate our Food Pantry either ordering food, logging records, signing in and welcoming our friends.

Add John and Sandy, Charlotte, Stacy, Gary and Janice, Brad, Randy, a host of young people and some already mentioned help with the bread and produce line or putting food boxes into cars. Every one of them serves, ministers.

In an adjacent area you would find Frances, Linda, Janet and others who help sort and display clothes for our clothes closet. Just up the hall you would find Jeanene, Jeff and Ginny providing a craft, snack and Bible story for children.

Nathan or someone may want to comment if I left any deacons out of the group. That’s right, deacons are servants. They certainly are that!

Once a mont we provide a free clinic, Community of Hope. Jesse, Andrea and Charlotte work the pharmacy, Greg is our doctor and Tina our nurse. Connie, Barbara and Brandi sign in and welcome patients.

Often we think about these ministries being carried on and those that do serve without need for recognition or accolade. But, it cannot go without saying.

Rusty has planned and led out worship for more than eleven years. He depends on Ryan, Greg and Brad. He looks to Emma and others in the past who have faithfully stood to help lead our congregation in worship. Rusty plans and coordinates taking children to our chosen summer children’s camp. His first group consisted of a couple of boys. Today he takes enough that it requires others to help sponsor. Over those years a variety of folks have taken time from work to spend time with these children in the heat and often high humidity. Rusty helps in a number of areas. You may find him working with the worship team for our Youth Gathering. He makes up part of the Staff Handyman Team. Not an official group but we do think you lead by example rather than by fiat.

Brad, once a part of our youth group, has now led our Youth for more than ten years. Carrying on the Lunch Spot tradition, his current group includes Holly, Stacie, Stacie, Stacy, Christy, Lainie, Carrie, LaRae and likely others. I say likely as I am not always present for this event so I need to leave room for those I may miss. Every year a team of sponsors help with Summit Youth Camp and various activities. Sunday Bible Study will find Laura and Alex, Mary, Shelley and Debi welcoming, encouraging and teaching. Wednesdays includes a Youth Worship team, sound persons and video assistants. Many of our tech needs fall to Brad to research and even install. Most recently he has helped us work toward a sensory room for those with special needs. We have had a number of upgrade and repair needs. Brad has taken those tasks on with confidence.

Evette has been our Secretary for more than eleven years. The number of things she does from receiving calls and people to scheduling and administration could not be done without her. In fact, to begin to list everything would mean leaving out something.

Irma has been our Custodian some fifteen years, at least. She knows just how messy we are! Often she will take time to help on Wednesdays when we have received a large delivery of food for our Food Pantry.

You may notice that I have tried to list not just those who serve one Staff at Snow Hill, but those that actually make the Staff at Snow Hill appear to have more together than we do. Most would not be interested in being the subject of a blog post much less a social media shout out. But, it can’t go without saying.

Make no mistake. There are plenty of others. Sunday School Teachers, Deacons, Nursery Volunteers, Children’s Church Teams and more. They too would prefer to quietly serve without drawing attention. But, it cannot go without saying . . .

We appreciate you more than you will know and certainly more than we say. So, rather than Pastor Appreciation Month, let me say this is . . .

The Pastor Appreciates You Month.

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