By The Rev. Dale A. Hempen
Associate Conference Minister, Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
The call of Abram and Sarai was to “bless them that they would be a blessing!” In and through Sarai and Abram “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed!
As I approach retirement after 40 plus years of ministry, 13 with the Massachusetts Conference, I’ve begun to reflect on how my life has been blessed by God’s call to serve in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ. By the deep and abiding friendship I would not have known without the Church, some so lasting I know you as “brothers and sisters.” By the new experiences and challenges that invited new learnings, commitments and involvements with area persons and groups. Left to my own devices and discoveries, my life would not have been as full and enriched.
But, this is what I have gained and been blessed with. What have I shared and given as a gift and blessing to others? I cannot say in full, but in part, I have tried to live the ministry of encouragement, hope and gratitude… giving to others what I have been given!
Some blessings to consider:
- In Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Robinson writes, all are given the gift of blessing; ministers are given a full measure…in baptizing a child and really holding the child and knowing it!
- In knowing a wholeness of life and not being consumed or focused on the trivial and unimportant…Jesus said something about this, “You tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God.” (Luke 12:42) (Talking with younger clergy this is one of their most important concerns…I don’t want to waste my life on things that don’t matter!) Who does??
- Also from Marilynne Robinson’s, Gilead, her main character John Ames, the pastor of the Congregational Church in Gilead, Iowa in the 1950’s, watched the evening news troubled about the racial strife, abuse and mistreatment of the blacks in the South. He may have been the only one concerned about this topic in that Iowa town, but he preached about it, he raised the issues. Why? Because he was preparing the young and old for issues they would address now and in the future! This too is a blessing…not accepting the status quo, but seeing a wrong and working to correct it!
- In a similar manner, one of our Ohio clergy in a small Amish town saw his role and the ministry of the church as preparing the youth who lived in this insular and isolated community for a future they could not even imagine…blessing them with trips to New York City, Washington, DC, expanding their world-view, as future citizens and church members.
In gratitude to God, my life has been blessed…in order TO bless, through our shared ministry in the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ!
Dale Hempen was previously the Associate Conference Minister serving the Southeast Area. He is not retired.