Celebration of the Pastoral Ministry of Albert C
Celebration of the Pastoral Ministry of Albert C. Martin, on his Retirement
Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Floral Park, New York - June 28, 2009 at Ten Fifteen O'clock
Here's the invocation/table grace I offered Sunday, June 28th, at 12:30 pm in the upper room at Koenig's Restaurant in Floral Park, following the final service for Pastor Albert Martin at the church he served for 25 years:
The word "bittersweetness" in the opening line was carefully chosen. Pastor Al, a young man in his early sixties, is being treated for the opening stages of Alzheimer's Disease, the onset more than a year ago. Al's wife and I go back many, many years... to the day she first came into view for me when at the age of six she underwent an appendectomy and I visited her at her family's apartment at 4103 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn NY. Linda Alver attended Sunday School, youth fellowship, and worship at the church I pastored, the church once named Sunset Park Norwegian Methodist Church. Sixteen years later, when I left Brooklyn for a parish fourteen miles to the east, Linda was the aforesaid church's youth fellowship advisor. Linda found her way (with church secretary sister Karol's encouragement) to a young adult fellowship at St. John - St. Matthew - Emanuel Lutheran Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Al was a pastoral intern with a keen eye and heart for excellence: he and Linda married. They served a Lutheran church in Hollis, Queens, before Al was called to Christ ELCA in Floral Park. In their twenty-five years there the Martins raised two boys, Adam and Jonathan. Linda worked as a schoolteacher in Suffolk County. Al dug deep into the local community, becoming pastor to many not in his congregation, beloved for his compassion and sense of humor. During this past year of Al's diminishing capacity, Linda, ever the bright and resourceful soul, assisted her husband, rewriting his sermons and prayers, and keeping him on his schedule. As my Barbara, the retired schoolteacher observed, Linda worked at three jobs during the past year, her own, her home, and Al's.
If there were many tears at Koenig's Sunday afternoon, there were also some sighs of relief, for an exhausting race now completed and, everything considered, completed victoriously. The opening hymn of the service, "Lift High the Cross," contained a special poignancy, as in the final verse: "So shall our song of triumph ever be: praise to the Crucified for victory." Bittersweetness, indeed.
Like the advice Jesus offers party-goers, to sit in a modest place when arriving at the gala, so that the hostess, on seeing you, will beckon you to come up higher to her right hand: Linda spotted us in a back row before the service began. She insisted we sit next to her and Al in the very front row beneath the pulpit, so close, it turns out, that I could read the letterhead on the paper on which the preacher had written his sermon. That sermon, by Al's good friend, The Rev. Robert G. Wollenburg, was the highlight of the morning which also included the Eucharist by intinction. Pastor Wollenburg, who came within four votes of being elected bishop for the ELCA in the metropolitan area, spoke so movingly about the pastoral role, I, unaccustomed to welling up, felt several times a surge of moistness just below my brow. Pastor Al fulfilled that noble calling with compassion, humor, and faithfulness.
Here are some photos from photos from the reception: