"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."
- 1 Peter 5:1-4
Peter, the rock on which the Christian church was built, knew the shame of failure, but God still commissioned him to shepherd his people and to spread Christianity to the world. The master shepherd, Jesus Christ, equipped him for the work and Peter in response became the humble shepherd for many. I grew up at Raleigh Court Presbyterian. My earliest memory of church was walking there with my mother with a dime in hand of my $1.00 allowance because she told me that as a young disciple of Christ it was MY responsibility to give to the church. My mother was my first shepherd who taught me the importance of attending church every Sunday and about the importance of giving monetarily back to God. She and the many shepherds at Raleigh Court shaped and molded my faith and modeled wonderful spiritual practices that I rely on today.
Jim Allison practiced well the scripture, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” He let me climb up in the big chair in his office when my feet wouldn’t even touch the floor and listened attentively to a young 10-year-old who was experiencing a sad moment. Betty Merritt McFadden taught me the importance of memorizing scripture as she announced in her very animated way, “Learn it so that it can jump right out of your brain when you need it most!” She also taught me that happiness comes from a relationship with God and the knowledge that Jesus took our sins away when he died on the cross. We learned this through singing, “I’m in, right out, right up, right down, right happy all the time.“ Beth Parrish taught me that you don’t have to have perfect pitch to sing in church, you just have to sing with gusto to glorify and praise God. Bob McClelland taught us as high schoolers that you didn’t have to have words of deep reverence to pray, you just had to do it. He would make us take turns saying the ending prayer in Sunday School. If anyone happened to say, “I don’t feel comfortable praying in public.” His response was, “God doesn’t care if you feel comfortable or not, he just wants you to do it, so PRAY, Ellen, PRAY! Mary Jo Shannon taught me the importance of reading the Bible. She told me that if you read 3 chapters a day and 5 on Sunday that you could read the Bible in a year. She started me on the path of reading scripture on a regular basis. Emma Hunter Maxwell taught me the importance of having a daily devotional practice, one that has sustained me in good times and bad.
I continued to have shepherds at RCPC as I moved into adulthood and continue to have them today, shepherds who teach me compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, and grace and who, like those shepherds before them, do so willingly, eagerly, and without seeking recognition for their amazing influence. They, like the shepherds of my childhood, do it because they love God and they love me. Shepherds learn from other shepherds.
I can only hope and pray that, with God’s grace and guidance, I can have as positive an impact on others as my many RCPC shepherds have had on me. Shepherding is a responsibility, a call from God to spread his word, to feed his sheep, to make a difference in the lives of others.
Thank you to the many RCPC shepherds who continue to help me on my faith journey!