Monday, February 28, 2011
I, personally, have two pastors in my life. I have the pastor I had when I was a kid, who I still think of as my pastor. And I have my pastor/friend/mentor, appropriately named Paul, who has been helping me for years to find my way and be faithful in what I do. I love them both.
Unfortunately, we found out last night that the pastor of my youth, Willard Nance, has passed away. I have to admit it’s got me feeling pretty down. It’s sad to see him go, but he was very ill, very old, and it’s good to know his suffering is over. He had a stroke a few years ago, and he was incapacitated by it. I went to visit him a few times and he became frustrated and agitated because he couldn’t communicate clearly and we couldn’t understand him. It was miserable and it made me feel bad for him, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
I could write a book with memories of this pastor. We went to church a lot in those days. Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Plus, eventually, youth group things with our youth leader, a guy named Gary. It was a big part of my childhood and teen years. I remember standing in the baptismal pool and being dunked by Pastor Nance. I remember going to a Holloween party in the church basement, and finding a creepy person in a mask that all the kids were standing around, trying to figure out who it was. It was driving us crazy, and it ended up being the last person we would have guessed. It was our pastor.
A pastor who wears creepy Holloween masks to spook the kids. Or, just a pastor who will wear a Holloween mask in the first place. That’s my role model. And he was a great role model. We KNEW he loved us.
And there was never any doubt about how Pastor Nance loved Jesus. He loved the Gospel. He knew what the word “grace” means because he believed so much grace had been poured out on him. I don’t know the details, but we heard glimpses of stories over the years about how he had struggled with substance abuse in his younger years. We knew that when he presented the Gospel, he was sharing something that was very personal for him. It mattered to him, so it mattered to us.
He never had a mega-church. He wasn’t asked to speak at conferences. He didn’t do a lot of big, impressive things in the eyes of the world. He was a working class, working man’s pastor, and I loved him for it. He was a great man, but not for the usual reasons people might bring up. He was a great man because he had a great love for Christ and he acted on that love. He served faithfully for years until he literally couldn’t stand anymore.
He is one of my heroes, and he will be greatly missed.
Peace to the family and friends of Willard Nance.
© LW Publishing 2011