Yogi Berra, the famed NY Yankee and his long-time friend of Joe Garagiola, then on the NY Giants, was giving Joe directions from New York to his house in Montclair when he said this: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
Yogi was a catcher, manager, and coach who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, most of them with the NY Yankees. He was an 18-time All Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player - more than any other player in MLB history. His batting average was .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 RBIs. This Hall of Famer (1972) is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history.
My affinity with Yogi is a childhood love for baseball and catching. He also tickles my funny-bone with his down-to-earth, humorous ways of saying things…(while butchering the English language); so, here is some vintage Yogi Berra:
“It ain’t over til it’s over”
“The future ain’t what it used to be”
“If you don’t know where you’re goin’, you might end up somewhere else”
“If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them”
“Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded!”
“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility!”
“You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
(of the ’73 Mets) “ We were overwhelming underdogs”
I briefly considered doing a whole sermon-series this summer on life in the Church, based on these Yogi-quotes, but instead I’ll use them as a basis for my September newsletter article.
Having served in the pastoral ministry for over 37 years, I have come to a fork in the road… and I am going to take it! Most of you know by now that at the end of June 2018, I am planning on retiring from my service to the United Methodist Church.
When I try to come up with the right words to express my decision… 2 (or 3) come to mind.
Recognizing that the past few years have been extremely draining emotionally within our family, with the death of both Gabriele’s mother and father, I feel strongly that it is time to recharge in retirement with Gabriele while we both have health and vitality. It’s also about retiring from pastoral ministry while I am at 100% and “still firing on all cylinders”.
These 37+ years of service to the UM Church have been challenging, energizing, painful, joyous, creative, sometimes draining, most-times deeply fulfilling. It has been a privilege to serve churches within the Greater NJ area all these years, and we have friends that will be with us for the rest of our lives. To be able to enter into the most meaningful times in the lives of individuals and families, at baptisms, weddings, and funerals is a privilege only clergy experience. To work through difficulties in families, visit in hospitals, get special invitations to attend birthday parties for little children, enter into relationships in the community, e.g. Joey Bella Fund, Denville Foundation Fundraisers, consulting with the Business Administrator and other clergy on dispensing the $750,000 to victims of flooding, being a chaplain for the Fire Department, offering spiritual support to the Denville School District… these are all privileges that have come because I have been a pastor all these years.
Gabriele has been right alongside me the whole time! In addition to supporting me through thick and thin, she has followed her own calling to engage in ministries, too. Prayer Shawl ministries, Youth ministry leadership, Vacation Bible School director for years, playing in bell choirs and singing with the sanctuary choirs, offering leadership for reading groups and book clubs, organizing gardening and beautification projects, decorating parsonages, participating in the mission of United Methodist Women’s ministry, Secret Prayer Sisters, Bridges and ASP… these are a few of the many, many ministries to which she has whole-heartedly responded to God’s calling in her life. Over the course of our partnership for 41 years of marriage, all of which we have been engaged with some form of ministry, she has been the primary source of support and love for me.
In many ways, the main-line Church in America, including the United Methodist Church, is a group of “overwhelming underdogs”, as Yogi said of the ’93 Mets baseball team. We are often out-paced by non-denominational congregations meeting in storefronts, movie theatres, high school gym-atoriums, and brand-new mini-mall structures. But there is a critical mass here at DCC to engage the work of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, which is in great need of healing and wholeness; and I am deeply appreciative of the dreams we dream and the work we accomplish!
In the coming year, I will remain deeply committed, along with you, to our mission and purpose: “To be an enthusiastic community of God’s love in action… Empowered by the Holy Spirit and guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ, we seek to share this love in response to human needs, hurts, and hopes”.
I am completely convinced, after much discernment, and conversation with Gabriele, that it’s time for my retirement, to finish strong and leave the congregation healthy and eager to discover what God has in store…
I see the fork in the road, and I am going to take it!
Deep peace pure blue of the summer skies to you… Pastor Ed