Summary: This is the sermon we preached on our 23rd anniversary as pastors of the church. It chronicles God's blessings upon us.
Our God is an awesome God. God reigns from heaven above, with wisdom power and love our God is an awesome God. Today we celebrate 23 years of love and of ministry together as pastors and congregation. If someone were to ask us to sum up our experience together, it would have to be , “our God is an awesome God, God reigns from heaven above with wisdom power and love our God is an awesome God.
If you go back 24 and a half of years ago, you’d find a church by the name of Glenville United Presbyterian Church which is what our church was called back then. Glenville was a church in search of a new identity in God. It was experiencing a different kind of searching for its future. For years it’s budget had been supported by the Presbytery, and for the first time in 25 years, it would have to pay for its own support. This was not going to be easy with a dwindling membership and a poor giving pattern. Although there were nearly 200 names on the membership rolls, attendance was averaging about 75 people a Sunday.
Most of the church’s pastors had come and moved on after an average stay of about 3 to 4 years. There was not a lot of unity within the congregation, but there was a thirst to know God. God had a group within the church that wanted to know God and to experience God on a deeper level. The church established a pastoral nominating committee, to go and find a pastor. Now the nominating committee was given a task to do a nationwide search for pastors, but had to do it on a county wide budget. So at first the search was pretty much limited to Cuyahoga County. There was a young pastor at First Church East Cleveland, who was looking for a move, but due to a series of events, the nominating committee was unable to present him with an offer. He went on to pastor at Heights Presbyterian Church.
This led to some discouragement on the Nominating Committee’s part, but they had the faith to believe that somewhere out there, God had to have somebody. The nominating committee knew they had to get it right the first time they brought someone in to interview, because there was only enough money in the budget to bring in one candidate. This obviously meant a super wise and intelligent and spiritually discerning person could serve as chair of the nominating committee. That’s why Gail H. Banes was chosen for the job. No doubt she asked God, “what on earth did I do wrong for you to give me this job. God have you seen the budget I have to work with. Have you seen the salary I’m suppose to offer the pastors. The person will think I’m a comedian with a joke for an offer.” At that Gail and God both laughed and Gail has been a comedian with a joke ever since. But she and the committee reorganized and restarted their search. One day a gleam of hope came, when they received a packet from a couple from Boston, Ma.
In Boston, we were pastoring Roxbury Presbyterian Church. Roxbury was in the midst of a small revival as a congregation. The church was full of life and energy. It had grown in average attendance from about 40 to 150 and was moving forward. The financial giving of the church was continuing to rise steadily. The congregation was marked by its members love for one another, and its commitment to the Bible as the word of God. Although we were thrilled and happy at Roxbury Presbyterian Church, we began to sense in September of 1988 that perhaps God was going to send us somewhere else. We did not know where God would be sending us. We filled out the paperwork required by the denomination and indicated we were open to going anywhere in the country. We specifically requested sending a copy to Baltimore, to Washington DC and to Cleveland. We were simply open to where God would send us.
Then one day, our phone in Boston rang but we were not at home but our answering machine was. On the machine there was a lady with a deep rich voice asking us if we would be interested in coming to an interview in Cleveland. Gail H. Banes asked us to please return her call. We called back and Jerome answered the phone. We spoke with Gail and agreed to come. Gail picked us up at the airport and gave us a tour of the city. We met with the Pastoral search committee and had a wonderful meal together. We were both intrigued by the other. The Nominating Committee wanted to give us as positive a light about the church, without also telling the truth about its weaknesses. But perhaps the most favorable thing the Committee did, was to have us stay in John and Jonnie Hayes’ home. They were just downright loving saints who made us feel right at home. Little did we know then, that God was using them to show us how much love we could have by coming to Cleveland. The last words John Hayes said to us was, “just want you folks to know, you already have my vote and I hope you come back to be our pastors.”