Welcome to the website of a retired United Methodist pastor! This corner of the Internet continues nearly fifty years of a weekly column in a church newsletter, on topics ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. The opinions expressed are the author's and represent no institution, although it is hoped that within these pages you will find a reflection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who, in his own borrowed words, insists that we love God with, along with all the rest of what we are, our minds. "Critical" as used in the title does not mean being nasty or grumpy; it means using intellectual faculties in the service of God. Your reactions, rebuttals, comments, and questions can be addressed to: BobHow9846@comcast.net.
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March 15, 2015 - Essays: Interim Report on Retirement No. 3
March 27, 2015 - Essays: Al and Linda
Other old men
Al and Linda
Al and Linda
Al Martin died two days ago. The
Rev. Albert Martin, beloved former pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran church in Floral Park for many
years, a preacher who loved to laugh and swap funny stories, a collector of frog
artifacts, chaplain to the local fire department, father of two boys now grown.
But I got to know him, officiate at his
wedding, and celebrate his retirement because of Linda. Linda is his wife.
She was a very little girl in my church in Brooklyn when I first visited her
home as she recuperated from an appendectomy. I can still see her in
the apartment on Seventh Avenue across from Sunset Park clutching a stuffed
animal. During the nearly eighteen years I was her pastor, I watched her
grow into a beautiful, intelligent, and capable woman. For a while she and a
friend, another girl as close to me as Linda, supervised the church's youth
I left my beloved Brooklyn in 1972 for parts
east. Not long after, Linda married Al in St. John's Lutheran church
situated alongside Prospect Parkway. I was privileged to do the honors.
Linda had begun a career as a schoolteacher and met the young Lutheran padre at
a church social for young adults. Al had a pastorate in Hollis, Queens.
He and Linda moved to Floral Park and Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church.
They raised two boys as Al earned a reputation as an attentive pastor, a
raconteur, and positive influence in local community affairs.
Toward the end of his pastorate Al and Linda
found themselves in a very shadowed valley. Together. Al had Alzheimer's. As his
mental capacities diminished Linda started writing and then also delivering
sermons. I have written about this extraordinary fulfillment of "in
sickness and in health" on this website at Linda
and Al Martin's Retirement.
Easter is a little more than a week away. This year I'll sing a little
louder and with a little more focus the Palestrina carol for the day, "The
strife is o'er, the battle done; the victory of life is won." Thinking of
Al and Linda... Linda especially for she's the one whose arduous vocation was to
keep vigil over the man, once vibrant and charming, as he descended into the
bathos of that humiliating disease. "They also serve, who only stand and
wait." You and I had better believe it!
what I mostly take away from this long journey of my friends in the shadowed
valley is the beauty and the exaltation of the human spirit which Al and Linda
achieved. Together. All that kindness and patience. All that courage
in the face of wearying frustration. All those unanswered prayers. The Book of Genesis pictures our first
parents after their fall from grace leaving the garden to go East of Eden, the
territory we now inhabit, filled as it is with so many sorrows, but going there
hand in hand. There is nothing (at least, nothing that I can think of) in this life that
cannot be faced and overcome when we go at it together.
Barbara and I celebrate our sixtieth wedding anniversary this June. At her
80th birthday last March I explained to the celebrants at her party just what it
is that the pretty little PK had given me. In a word, life.
course, we are and I am not alone in this discovery of God's grace and mercy
unfailingly provided those who go at life together year in and out. I'll
name a few of you, those who, like Al and Linda, were "more than conquerors"
going together through the valley of shadows, a jurisdiction which Barbara and I
have been largely spared. And if I don't include you and you think I
should, Email me and I'll amend my list, probably responding to you with, "Of
course; please forgive the omission." Here's my list of angels and heroes:
Austin and Bi, Granthia and Fred, Dick and Nancy, Steve and Joanne, Martha and Bob, John Paul and
Marion, Barbara and Hugh, Don and Marianne, Henry and Dorothy, plus those of you
who are going to tell me you should be on the list of those of us East of
Eden who have held hands and encouraged each other to get through more hells
than seems fair two people should face.
look on and am inspired. Such as you make the human race look good, very
good indeed. And God says, "Amen."