The arrival of Father's Day every June always has me thinking of my own dad. He died in 1999 – and though that might seem like a long time ago, whenever Father’s Day comes around, it feels like just yesterday. I miss him terribly. My dad was one of the nicest people I've ever known. He lived his whole life in one town – one house, in fact. He was born there and 71 years later, he died there too. In between those two events, he lived a good life – not a wealthy life nor a famous one; not an exciting life or a really interesting one – but a good one.
He went to school without complaint, attended Sunday School and church faithfully, served his country without hesitation during the Korean Conflict, came home (fortunately) whole, got married, raised a family, and worked hard. And he was active in his community as a Little League Coach for over twenty years. The thing I admired most about his coaching was that on his team, every boy played in every game. It was a promise he made to them and he kept that promise every game, all those years. He was that kind of coach – that kind of person.. He was nice to everyone he met; he had a great sense of humor; and was an animated storyteller.
My dad is someone I really look up to and admire. He didn't dress to impress or use fancy words or tell eloquent stories, but people liked him. He was friendly and funny and kind to everyone. Sure, there were plenty of things he could have done better in life, but he did the important things really well. When he died, all four of his children believed that they had been his favorite child. And that speaks volumes to me. He made each of us feel like his favorite. And that reminds me of how Jesus makes each of us feel – what a blessing for all of us who love him.
He didn't talk about it much, but I knew my dad loved Jesus – it showed in the way he acted “like him”. But, even so, my dad had an interesting relationship with the church. Just before he left to serve in the military, he was awarded a “lifetime perfect attendance” medal from his home church. Imagine that – he never missed a Sunday his whole life up till then. But, when he came back from active duty, he just got too busy with life to make room for church anymore. He had family and work, chores and tasks to be completed. There just didn't seem to be time in his busy schedule for church. That's understandable – those were the days when the whole family had to get dressed up, eat breakfast, and spend most of the morning doing church stuff. It was a lot to take on with four kids (even though my mom did most of the preparation). So, going to church fell by the wayside.
We eventually went back to church when we kids were teenagers and could get ourselves ready – but dad was now out of the habit. He had gotten used to his long Sunday drives with a cigar to keep him company and taking the dog for a run in the park (the dog ran while he read the paper). Instead, he volunteered to drive people who needed a ride on Sunday mornings to church and that became a type of “church going” that he came to enjoy. In my mind, that made him a good servant – a good and faithful man serving Christ in his own way.
I share all this with you because I want you to understand that when I think of those of you who do not attend our church on a regular basis anymore – there is no judgment on my part. To me, “going to church” is not an indication of being a good disciple. I understand that getting back into the habit of coming to church is a challenge - been there myself – and now that I've explained about my dad, you know I mean that.
So - no pressure, no shame, no explanations needed. Just know we miss you and you're always welcome. And even if you don't come back to church like me, I want to encourage you to be like my dad. Find ways to do good - whatever you do, wherever you go, with whomever you meet out there in the world. Being good and doing good is what matters most. Be good, be kind, be nice – be the kind of person that would make my dad (and yours) proud.
And may God stay close to you and bless you abundantly all along the way.
Reverend Susan Hanson has been serving churches since December 19, 1993, when she delivered her first sermon to her first congregation. Since then, Pastor Susan has served in 12 different settings of churches as an interim pastor and to nursing homes as a chaplain, primarily helping to heal hurting congregations and institutions so they could recover and start anew. Reverend Hanson came to St. Vincent UCC in 2013 - her lucky number 13, as she says - and has been with us ever since. How lucky we are because on Sunday, April 8, 2018, Pastor Susan was officially installed by the PA Southeast Conference of the UCC as St. Vincent UCC’s permanent pastor!
Susan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development from Florida State University; a Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary; and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling from Moravian Theological Seminary. She was ordained in her home church, St. John’s UCC in Lansdale, PA, on January 9, 1994.
Susan and her husband, the Reverend Doug Hanson, pastor of St. Peter’s Pikeland UCC, live in Chester Springs. They have a daughter and son-in-law who live in Alabama with Pastor Susan’s two grandchildren, a daughter and a son who live locally, and a Golden Doodle. In addition to meeting new people, Pastor Susan enjoys reading a good book, taking walks in nature, and visiting with family and friends.
In her Statement on Ministry, Reverend Hanson says that “a pastor assists the congregation in living out our call to be the heart and hands and voice of God here on earth in our own particular time and place. We can be assured that all of God’s hopes and dreams for us will be realized when we allow God’s Spirit to work within our own lives, and through us, to help others as we seek to do God’s will in the world. Together, we celebrate that when good people seek to make a positive difference in the world, it is there that real ministry happens.”
Feel free to contact Pastor Susan via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell phone at 610.393.6971.
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