The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A match made in heaven

On a chill November day, Mother and I represented the family at a dedication. The new marble bench in the church courtyard reads “Pastor Lee A. McDaniel, 1973 – 1990. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” It could just as well say “Pastor Lee A. McDaniel and St. John Lutheran Church.” It was, I believe, a match made in heaven.

When Pastor “Mac” first visited St. John in Cumberland, Md., an Appalachian community, it was love at first sight—not just for the bright, airy sanctuary but for the congregation itself. He was a hands-on pastor who would beat the ambulance to the emergency room or sit vigil all night with a desperate parishioner. Once he appeared at a hospital in Washington, D.C., two hours after receiving news of a vacationing congregant’s heart attack. He frankly admitted that preaching and administration weren’t his greatest strengths. But love was. And St. John’s people loved each other and him, in return. This congregation of helpers and givers responded to his quiet, simple caring.

Jokes flew—about his bagpipe playing and the cookie sheet he banged to simulate thunder during Good Friday services. He just grinned his rueful grin. He went to bowling banquets and church league basketball games, and fished with the All-Weather Sportsmen. He got the church involved in the community, from the rural work camp for troubled boys to the Cambodian refugees needing a new home.

St. John presented him with laid-off blue collar workers and a depressed economy. Pastor Mac gave away much of the money he was given for weddings and funerals. When he asked, folks volunteered. They knew he would be there, and they chose to be there too.

Within a year after his retirement in December 1990, Pastor Mac and his wife, Maude, both developed cancer. The congregation closed around them with lifting arms and carried them forward—they had no choice but to recover. But when Alzheimer’s claimed Pastor Mac in the years to come, the parish surpassed itself. Caregivers came forward. Visits, calls, cards abounded. Parishioners sat with him in church while Maude sang in the choir.

And when Pastor Mac died in March 2005, his funeral was a celebration—of love and thanks and the symbiosis that was his and this congregation’s. He used to say, “I’ll never make bishop.” And he never did. But maybe his reward was St. John—and he was theirs.

This week's front page features:

It's all about grace: Martin Luther’s 95 Theses still teach us that 'the true treasure'—the gospel—is our gift from Christ. (Illustration at right.)

Parade of hope: "I know the line is full of joy and of brokenness."

Funeral stories, Part I: Light Side celebrates All Saints' Day with a humorous look at funerals.

'Retirement' means service: Psychologist begins counselor training in Tanzania.

Also: Numbers up, down.

Also: Table grace.

Also: Continuing their education.

Discuss continuing education:

Carol Schickel (right) of ELCA Vocation and Education will join users discussing continuing education advantages and opportunities for lay rostered leaders.

The conversation starts today and runs through Nov. 6.

Join the discussion > > >

This week on our blog:

Guest blogger Justin Baxter (who will soon have his own blog at The Lutheran) writes about his call to ordained ministry.

Julie Sevig (right) blogs about rites of fall.

Check out our blog > > >

Tell us! Peace-sharing preferences:

A staff blog on The Lutheran’s Web site about hugging vs. shaking hands during the sharing of peace resulted in 11 responses and an idea for a future story in the magazine. Share your opinion about sharing the peace — handshakes vs. hugging, comfort zones vs. uncomfortable zones.

Send your response to julie.sevig@thelutheran.org by Nov. 16.

Members: Respond online > > >

Take our 2008 topics survey:

Every year The Lutheran gives our readers the opportunity to help select the major issues we'll cover the following year.

Now it's time for you to contribute to our 2008 cover stories. The Lutheran staff has collected your comments and suggestions throughout the year and has used them to create a list of 25 potential cover stories. Choose 10 from our list or suggest your own.

The deadline to complete the survey is Oct. 31. Results will appear in the January issue of The Lutheran.

Take the survey > > >

Subscribe to The Little Lutheran:

We at The Lutheran think it’s important to nurture the faith of the little ones in our midst. We developed The Little Lutheran for children 6 and younger to help them learn about God’s love for them and the world in which they live. We want them to know Jesus as friend and savior too.

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February issue


Embracing diversity