The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Goodbye Hyde Park United Methodist Church

Today we say good-bye to an old friend who forever changed the course of our lives.  I know that sounds so dramatic as to sound trite, but if we had not walked through those doors in 1992, when Suzanne was expecting with Grace, I don’t know what our lives would have become.  I certainly would not be adding this entry to a blog started long four years ago, when we left for Africa. 

This old friend we say good-bye to today is Hype Park United Methodist Church, the church I received my call to ministry in, the institution that supported that call, the congregation that listened to my first sermon, where I conducted my first funeral, served my first communion.  Maybe received is too strong a word to attach to call; answered might be a better choice.  Something happened to Suzanne and I in that Friendship Class room during Disciple Bible Study, and that call I’d been running from since high school, and known about since age six caught up with me, and I answered it. 

All week I’ve been thinking about Hyde Park, a church once known as Shettles United Methodist, and before that I think Avenue D Methodist Episcopal Church of the South (that would have been about 100 years ago).  I’ve been thinking about people like Bob Swanson  who used to stand out in the parking lot and ask people as they drove in, “Methodist Parking?”  Hyde Park was in the shadow of a large and powerful Baptist Church of the same name, and their people would often park in our parking lot, but Bob faithfully steered them elsewhere.    One of our kids asked about the difference between Methodist and Baptist parking. 

I think of Rev. Jim Cloninger, the pastor when we joined, and his 60-40 rule.  Jim believed that in a marriage if each person would contribute 60% of the effort to sustaining the marriage, and expect to reap 40% of its rewards, it would never fail.  Jim believed this so much that it seemed like between 60% and 40% of the time, his sermons contained that phrase.  I saw him the week before he was killed in a car accident.  I was walking my son home from Lee Elementary, “hey Buchele,” I heard in his distinctive voice, from the open window of that little truck.  Jim had driven up from San Antonio to pick up his daughter, and who knew it would be the last time I would see him?    

Jim and I worked habitat houses together, and played guitars on the porches of some of the finest homes in Hyde Park for their Tour of Homes.  It wasn’t just me, Jim would get many of us together doing something, remodeling a house, fixing up something at the church, he would get us all together in one place doing something, and then do something he was famous for:  be late.  We used to call it CST, Cloninger Standard Time, about 20 min. late.  I sometimes wondered if he did that just so we’d have to talk to each other, while we were waiting.  In fact at his funeral, the pastor began the eulogy with these words, and I’ve never forget them, he said: “It is clear that Jim Cloninger had nothing to do with this service…it started on time!”
One time Jim talked about the streetlights of Hyde Park, how they went off when he was walking or running at night as he passed under them.  “Does that ever happen to you?” he asked in that sermon.    It happens to me more often than not, and each time it does I think about what Jim said, wondering if it was a warning to him then, to me now, and what the heck did it have to do with the Gospel lesson that day? 

I think of Rev. David Gilliam, who followed Jim at Hyde Park.  I learned so much from David in the year I served alongside him as a campus minister.  David introduced us to the music of Taize, to the art of crafting a worship experience, to Lebh Shomea, the Catholic retreat center in south Texas, and who was always so generous in sharing ministry; never wanted to be the sole person in the spot light.   Then David left, and soon I was appointed to serve a new church in Temple.  Looking back at those seven years at Foundation, I see Hyde Park was always a part of all I did.  I sometimes wonder if I wasn’t trying to create or recreate a bigger and better Hyde Park, combining the ministries of my mentors Jim and David.

I think about the Christmas Eve services, the cold and sometimes wet Easter Sunrise in the park, about Children’s Time, VBS, and the annual Christmas “Play” which was more of a frolic with costumes.  I think about singing with Katie Hull, Michelle Schumann, Cayla Cardiff, and the Campus Ministry to feed the day workers on Tuesday mornings at 6am.   Bring a dozen hard boiled eggs and tortillas. 
I think about the secret places of the building, like under the fellowship hall stage, or above the stage wings, or the trap door under the pulpit.   I think about the year we gave up the organ during Lent, and how powerful “Christ the LORD has risen today” sounded on Easter when played with all the stops out.  Turns out the organ was broken and it took the six weeks of Lent to fix it. 

I think about the amazing people that were such an encouragement: Ruth Hansen, Ambra Reedy, Charlie and Annie Lancaster, Bert Bowman, Jody Cook, Mary Beth Hoffmann, Hank Strange, Bob & Ruth Swanson, John and Sharon Lancaster, Carole Franke, Nate Davis, Dorothy Barber, Wanda & CL Evans, Leonia Cronk,  Brick & Dana, Betty & Brock, Ingrid and Scott, and of course the College Class:  Kelly & Melina, Kelly Willis, Robert & Susan, Mark, Kristine, Daniel & Julie.

I think about those who came into ministry, or trained for it there: Rev. Sue Abold, Rev. Nancy Day, Rev Ingrid Acres, Rev. Krista Ingram, me, and I know I’m forgetting some, but I wonder, who will love on them as Hyde Park did?

I guess what makes me most sad is that in a generation, all this will have been forgotten, just as I can’t quite remember the stories Bert used to tell about the men of his Sunday School class dressing up in skirts and dancing.  I can’t remember why, only that I used to heard this story about as often as I heard the 60-40 rule.   It makes me sad that after today I won’t be able to take my daughters, who were both baptized in that sanctuary, back to that place and tell the story of the day they were baptized.   Maybe the place is not as important as the work that was begun that day and the people who began it. 

Every few years I do a Google search on the name Rev. Jim Cloninger, and usually there is nothing, but this morning I got one.  It mentions Jim alongside another clergy, one who like Jim, had so much potential.  The author is listing those who have died before their time:
…Rev. Jim Cloninger, whom I was just getting to know, appreciate, and learn from when he died in a car crash. Part of the tragedy in each case was the sense of unfulfilled promise, a gnawing, smoldering feeling of unfairness, that they, and we, and all who loved them, and all whose lives they would certainly have touched in the future had been unjustly robbed, wrongfully plundered of an unfathomable treasure.  [blog]
So I guess there is hope, that the stories of lives that the people of Hyde Park touched, and changed will not be lost.  So today, Hyde Park United Methodist completes its mission, and like those who have gone on before it, its passing will not be overshadow by what it has already given to this world.   Thank you Hyde Park for the journey you began in my life, and for those who you brought into my life.  God Speed.


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