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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

My Tribute to My Father

I delivered this as a part of my worship leader duties at Mayflower Congregational Church, but I don’t think I got around to typing this up and distributing it. I recently uncovered it from a pile of papers on my desk.

In February 1951, my father, Robert H. "Bob" Green, took the position of Youth Director at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene. Last month, he retired from the full-time ministry completing 52 years 11 months of service to the Nazarene denomination. Around 400 people a retirement service and reception in his honor. Dad said that he had "never seen so many people in one place for the purpose of seeing a guy quit."

His last act as a full-time minister was to speak before 40 or so men at a downtown Seattle mission. I asked him about his progress from one of the largest congregations in the Church of the Nazarene to a skid-row mission. He laughed and said, "Yeah, I’m sorta like the guy who started out with a fortune and ran it into a shoe-string."

That bit of self-depreciating humor is very typical of my father. He once gave me this bit of advice. "Never take yourself seriously, but always take other people very seriously." Would that our world learned such wisdom.

In his nearly 53 years of ministry, Dad was associated with 9 different congregations, 5 times as senior pastor and the other times as associate minister. He was, in fact, one of the first full-time associates in the history of his denomination. He estimates that he has participated in 10,000 church services. "I should have gotten how to do them straight, by now," he told me. One highlight of his ministry was his 10 years as the director of Golden Bell, a Nazarene campground in Colorado mountains in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. Camping was big with Dad, and through it he influenced an entire generation of young people.

He did a lot of building too. He built the gym at 39th Expressway and Willow in Bethany still in use today. And it seemed to me that wherever we went we were building gyms, education wings, camp cabins. Dad said that ministers like building things. "You know that when you put a nail in a 2x4, it’s gonna stay. That’s not true about the people in your congregation."
He developed a variety of other ministries: church sports leagues, after school programs, summer youth activities. For 7 years, he took members of his congregation in Seattle, Washington downtown every Sunday to feed the street people. On average, they served 300-400 a week a hot meal. I asked him if he ever tried to "save" any of the people he fed. He just shook his head, no. "Sometimes it’s just enough to give a cup of cold water in Jesus name," he explained. That was a command he took to heart. One of my best memories comes from a time when I went "to the street" with him on Sunday. A man approached him complaining that he didn’t have a good pair of shoes. Dad looked down at the man’s cracked and worn out shoes, sized up his feet, and then took off his own shoes, gave them to the begger, and spent the rest of the afternoon serving food in his stocking feet.

I asked him what he is going to do now that he is retired. On the day I called he said that he was going to teach an adult Sunday School class and then preach at the church in Seattle where my sister works because they are between pastors. He promised that he wouldn’t be one of those people who claim they are busier after they retired than they were while working. "I always wonder about those folks. How hard were they working before?" He said that he is determined not to get lazy, however. "I will never sleep past 11 A.M." He acknowledged that this will be something quite different for him, "I’ve always been good for something. Now, I will just have to be good for nothing."

After I gave my presentation, my pastor, Robin Meyers, said, "You may tell you father from our congregation, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’" The congregation then rose and gave Dad a standing ovation. >

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