Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
2 Timothy 1:1-14
If this were a newspaper, all of the news reporting would be about a week behind !
In next week’s newsletter, I hope to tell you about our visit to All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church on September 25th, and about the interment of my Aunt Sal’s ashes. But this week, I want to describe the wonderful scenes I witnessed, the week before.
On Saturday, September 17th, Nancy B and I attended the Central Atlantic Conference’s memorial service for Rev. Dr. John Deckenback, our late Conference Minister, who passed away while working in the Conference office in Catonsville, Maryland on July 19th of this year.
Rev. Dr. Deckenback served our Conference from the early 1990s until his death. He held the role of Conference Minister far longer than anyone else in the United Church of Christ, and through the many eulogies that were delivered in his Conference memorial service, we learned the extent to which other Conference Ministers around the UCC looked up to him.
In addition to his Conference role, Deckenback helped to found the Conferences of the United Church of Christ Insurance Board, a non-profit organization which provides affordable property and liability insurance to UCC and Christian Church (Disciples) congregations. Several times, he served as the executive of the Insurance Boards, and struggled hard to keep it going to benefit the churches.
Deckenback was also a tireless advocate for justice: in Baltimore, in the United States, in Israel-Palestine, in Colombia and in South Africa. Since I have been with you-all at Bethel, he has gone to many “hot spots” around the world as a Christian from America, to show solidarity with oppressed people. Afterwards, he always came back to our Shenandoah Meetings or Conference Meetings to tell us what he had learned, and to bring us messages of love and of need. Only recently, he visited and embraced Syrian refugees who were living in primitive camps in Iraq, across the border from their war-torn homeland.
At the memorial service at St. John’s UCC in Catonsville, two and a half hours flew by as the congregation sang, clapped, swayed, laughed, wept, and reminisced about John Deckenback’s life and ministry. The music was heavenly, mostly led by the very sharp band and choir and soloists of Plymouth Congregational UCC of Washington, D.C..
The diversity of the speakers and musicians in the memorial service spoke volumes about the wide circle of love John Deckenback cast in his earthly life: we should all strive to be worthy of such a colorful tribute. This was found especially in one chorus we shared:
Every praise is to our God.
Every word of worship, with one accord.
Every praise, every praise, is to our God !
Sing hallelujah to our God !
Glory hallelujah is due our God !
Every praise, every praise, is to our God.
God my Savior; God my Healer;
God my Deliverer; Yes He is, yes He is.
It reminded me of the scenes in the Book of Revelation where “there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (7:9-10)
So it really ought to go without saying, that the tribute was not really to John Deckenback: it was to God his Master, his Creator.
I realize that not very many of our Bethel folks spent time with John Deckenback, our Conference Minister: for those of you who didn’t, it was your loss. If you get to the Heavenly City, you will get to know him better, then. You will hear him laughing as he continues organizing souls in God’s service.
† † †
The LORD answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.
-Habakkuk 2: 2-4