A question for my millennial friends: What were you doing when you were 42? What was going on in your life? Many of us who are retired or approaching retirement have children approaching the age of 42. This in mind, I have been reflecting on what I was doing both personally and professionally.
I find myself braking into song:
“When I was 42 – it was a very good year!
Very good year – for family, church and friends”
Now, I have some free time, in retirement, to write about such things. The years around the time I was turning 42 – 1991 and 1992.
What was painfully obvious in my reflecting on this slice of time was my addiction to my work as a Presbyterian Pastor.
Perhaps, someone who runs across this journal entry will benefit from my personal/professional reflections in asking yourself: What was I doing when I was 42!
Now, a quarter century beyond the age of 42, I can see clearly how I could/should have done some things differently. For the most part, I wouldn’t change a thing!
It’s hard writing these “personal highlights” because I don’t have notes or a journal to draw upon in building a chronology of evens.
Generally, Nancy and Emily and I, along with two cats, lived in Saginaw, Michigan. We lived in a beautiful home on Court Street. We loved hat house we occupied for over 25 years. We had great neighbors – especially Jim and Loraine and Sandra.
Emily was 12 years old attending South Middle School. An active young girl, she was involved in cheerleading and chasing boys. As with all dads, I was always worried about the “boy thing!” 🙂
Emily loved living on Court Street and inviting friends over to play. Two of these girls are friends to this day – Carrie who now lives in Seattle and Darcy who now lives in San Diego.
Nancy was always active as a mother, wife and leader in the church where I was pastor. She was blessed with an opportunity to get her Maser’s Degree in Library Science at the University of Michigan. Having worked for the Saginaw Public Libraries, she got a wonderful position at the Dow Chemical Company. As an ‘Informational Specialist’ Nancy had opportunities to travel the world. At the same time, she always found time to give 100% attention in supporting Emily and me and the church we both loved.
My biggest regret is in not spending more time at home. How many men say this? I can only hope, now and as a grandparent, that I can make up some of what I didn’t give Emily in now spending quality time with our grandson Tommy. Back in 1992 I could only dream of my little girl growing into the lovely parent and wife and daughter she has become today.
I also had ongoing issues with my health—heart issues and chronic arthritis. I will save discussing these important issues for another time. Needless to say, 1992 was a pretty good year for me health-wise.
One experience I recall and now laugh about: Following my doing a funeral with a good friend and mentor, Ron Watson, I went to my second floor study in the house to do some chores. I gathered some trash and decided to save some time by throwing it over the second floor deck fence. The fence wasn’t that strong. When I leaned against it, this fence gave way and I fell 18 feet to the ground landing on my right hip. How would this be funny? My adrenaline kicked in and I got up and ran up the stairs to my study – and called my wife. She came home and took me to he emergency room. Nothing broken but boy was I sore. I also recall attending a meeting of the Presbyterian Church General Assembly Council within a few days – boy was I stiff and sore! Muscle relaxants did a pretty job of helping me through this tough experience. Who do I laugh? The neighbor who said they thought we had an earthquake when my body hit he ground. I hit so hard my glasses were found twenty-feet away!
Lots of personal things that could be said, I want to move to my passion for doing ministry.
A capsule in time between 1991 and 1992 – when I was 42
Ordained in 1977 at the age of 26, I was in my 15th year of ministry in the year of our Lord 1992. This was my 7th year as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw. Having previously lived in Davenport, Iowa and Evanston, Illinois, the Cundiff family, as I mentioned before, was living on Court Street in Saginaw.
Church membership in 1992 was roughly 350 members. We celebrated 11 baptisms the previous year, a statistical reminder that things were going well in the church. We received 9 new members in 1992. Unfortunately, we also had 7 funerals that year. As years went by, we would see the losses surpass gains. The church, 26 years later, would need to make the heart-breaking decision to close.
Back to 1992. One thing I loved about this church was the fact the active membership never let the statistics drive their mission. Of course we wanted to see more members—in bringing more people to Christ. In reality, we were more focused on bringing Christ to people in the community. There was a large number of churches in our community. This being a predominantly African American neighborhood, most of the potential for church growth was with neighboring black congregations. Main-line denominations weren’t doing well when it came to receiving large numbers of new members.
As church leaders, again in 1992, we struggled with budget issues. With a demanding program schedule and full staff we were dependent on an endowment fund –a million dollar bequest that was given to the church roughly 20 years earlier. We had a huge campus, nearly 40,000 square feet. There was always a long list of expensive maintenance projects. The endowment fund was often used for emergency repairs that cost a lot of money to maintain. From the 1992 Annual Report:
“As surely as churches have roofs, those roofs will have leaks. We had to deal with three areas of water damage this year, including the renovation of the organ pipe chamber and repairs to an area in the sanctuary. …. We also did a major re-roofing over he Narthex…..” Ruth Gardstrom.
I also liked to joke with the fact the church, with such a large campus, had 11 toilets…..one for every 30 members.
As a congregation, the intentional decision was made to remain in the downtown Saginaw location in order to use our resources in serving the community—especially the children. We made the decision to maintain a full staff including an Associate Pastor, the Rev. Tony Patrick. The Associate Pastor, in addition to doing general work as a pastor, was called to manage our Summer Magic program.
For years, women and men would return to visit the church talking of he wonderful expediencies they had participating in community youth programming.
The congregation loved Tony Patrick. He was a good friend. One of the best things we did as a church during my pastorate was calling him to serve with me as a pastor. We truly grieved when he made the decision to move to Detroit to become pastor of hi s own church—the end of 1992.
1992 was the year the work of a long-range planning committee came to an end with proposals forwarded to the Session in redefining how we would manage bequest, memorial and endowment funds. The church still had an endowment valued at roughly 1 million dollars. This number, however, was misleading given the amount we chose to use to support our annual budget. In 1992 12% of the Market Value of he Endowment was used to support the church operating budget.
1991 Endowment Fund $ 965,175
Amount taken for operating budget $ 115,820
Payback of Renovation Loan $ 40,000
1992 Endowment Fund $1,052,913
Amount used for operating budget $ 126,349
(Numbers from Annual Reports)
In 1992 we adopted a new Mission Statement:
“We are a people of God rooted in a commitment to use our human, physical and spiritual resources to enrich the lives of our members and our neighbors, near and far, in creating a sense of community. We shall invite and welcome all who profess Christ to join us, to be a witness for Almighty God as revealed to us in Jesus Christ, that we might serve the poor, heal he broken and create a community and world filled with God’s justice and peace.”
I must not forget this important fact: I begin service as a member of the General Assembly Council and Committee on the office of General Assembly in the year 1992. Serving the church at the national level was an honor of a life-time!
In 1992 we celebrated our 125th Anniversary. Some of the guests we invited to be with us in celebrating this anniversary:
September 13, 1992 Dr. Clinton Marsh, former PCUSA Moderator and brother of former city mayor and church member was invited to preach.
September 15, 1992 We were host to the meeting of he Presbytery of Lake Huron with Dr. Clinton Marsh preaching.
October 11, 1992 Rev. Timm High from the Community Presbyterian in Flint was invited to preach on HOMECOMING SUNDAY.
November 15, 1992 Dr. James Andrews, Stated Clerk of he PCUSA was our guest preacher. (Note: A perk in serving on the General Assembly Council was in gaining access to national church leaders. Rev. Dr. Ken Hall, another former Moderator, was also scheduled to speak.)
All of these reflections, from my perspective, paint a positive picture. We had (and would always have) an enthusiastic core of church members excited about all the things we were doing in and beyond the community. With a lot of factors working against us, we never lost HOPE in the work that would be accomplished in coming years because of the endowment funds and because a core group of members would never – ever waver in their commitment to be Christ’s Church in the neighborhood.
While I am no longer pastor of the church, I know this church will be closing the end of this year (2018). Yet I have to CELEBRATE all the years we were able, with God’s sustaining help, to move for another 25 years beyond where we were in 1992! Many thought back in the early 90’s that the church was dying and that there was little hope. I now thank God for all the decisions that allowed this wonderful church to serve Christ for many years to come. Everyone who reads this should be proud of all that the church was able to accomplish in its first 125 years in serving Christ. Another 25 years would follow.
As a pastor I loved everything I was called to do. We had, in the church, way too many funerals. I would delight in monthly meetings with the “Lunch Bunch” – seniors who gathered regularly for lunch. I loved leading worship and preaching.
The weekly gathering of members for worship was the highlight of every week in my ministry. I enjoyed greeting members before and after worship.
I enjoyed all the meetings – not because of the work but because we shared in fellowship every time we gathered to meet. I found a great deal of satisfaction in seeing church members gather to do Christ’s work.
One guiding principle in the work we were doing as a congregation and disciples of Jesus Christ was in having fun! In my mind none of the hard work we were doing was worth anything unless we had a sense of satisfaction – and having some is and having some fun in the process. For me Worship was in giving glory to God.
I end this journal entry with this – from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
What is the chief end of man (humankind)?
To glorify God and Enjoy God forever!