Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I had an unexpected but welcome drive through beautiful wine country today. My errand was to meet my boss at a church in a nearby town and deliver two black clerical robes, which belong to me, to my District Superintendent for loan to visiting bishops and clergy at General Conference. Many of them were unable to pack their robes, so asked for some local ones to borrow. What is really nice about that is that one of the robes was given to me by Harrell Guard, a dear friend who passed away several years ago. Harrell was a big, physical guy, red-headed, jovial, tough, and a survivor of polio, so faced pain and physical limitations daily. He also had served various roles in the greater United Methodist connection, and, if he were here, would be excited about our whole wide world General Conference coming to Portland. Where footprints comes in is like this -- at my former parish, Harrell put me on his donut delivery rounds. Once a week I would hear his distinctive tread coming up the stairs, through the fellowship hall, and up to my office. He always sang happily to himself while doing this, a meandering, tuneless "Doot de doot de doooo". As his footsteps drew near, I would look up and see his smiling face peeking through my open door. I would invite him in, and immediately receive a fresh apple fritter on my desk. Then he would sit and visit, listening in a unique and caring way to whatever I needed to share in the moment. To say he was one of my best friends ever hardly describes how special and important he was to me and my family. Anyway, somehow Harrell had inherited a black, Wesley-style clerical gown from someone. The robe was brand new, a rather expensive make, and a size 61, tailored for a very tall person. I wear a size 54, to give you an idea of the difference. Of course I can never wear it without tripping all over myself. But now, that gown is on the way to Portland, where I hope some very tall bishop or pastor from another country will be delighted to find a beautiful robe just his or her size, ready to wear for whatever occasion is needed at General Conference. Harrell, when he gave me the robe, asked me to keep it for some unspecified use or gift to another pastor. I've kept it in my closet for a number of years, and never came across a need for it until now. As Harrell was involved in the governance of the church in previous years, I think he would be pleased with the use the robe will be put to. And may it infuse compassion, caring, and good horse sense to the person who wears it! (The second robe on loan is my 35 year old, care-worn garment I've used my whole ministry career. Whoever puts that one on might feel like he/she got the bottom of the barrel. Then again, it might cause the wearer to want to grab the nearest available electric guitar and attempt to rock General Conference.)