Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Pastor Retires

(On November 22 I was privileged to take part in Bob Shrum's retirement from Oakland Baptist Church,  Rock Hill,  South Carolina. Bob had been Pastor there for almost 33 years. 

He is one of my oldest friends. We have been friends, colleagues and partners in crimes for 40 years. It has been a blessed relationship for me and our compadre, Randy Wright. So I was delighted to be part of this last service for Bob's retirement.

Everywhere he served his ministry has been significant.  At Oakland he has led the church in a courageous way.  He led the church to ordain women as deacons. An ordained woman serves as his associate. When Furman University was having serious difficulties with the SC Baptists, Bob Shrum spoke eloquently for the school. Some ten years ago he address the SC Legislature about the rightness of supporting same-sex marriage. 

He has led his church to move outside the walls and minister to the community of Rock Hill. His church has led in the building of several Habitat Houses, established a free-medical clinic for the needy, helped move the church from the fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention to the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He has led his church to struggle with the issue of gays in church. At the same time he has ministered to his church family and the people love him and the church has flourished.

So--on his last Sunday--this is what I said when I spoke...)
When Bob had been Pastor here for 25 years I was asked to have part on the program. As I thought about what I wanted to say I remembered a picture that hung in my office. It was a Charleston scene. It is called: "Ceremonial at St. Philips." It shows the outside of St. Philips Church. It was raining. The robed Choir stood beside the front door all carrying umbrellas getting ready to process into the service. And what I said that Sunday was that Bob Shrum opened the church's doors and helped people come in out of the storm. A place of warmth and love and safety.

After I sat down that Sunday--the next person that spoke presented Bob with this picture. This same picture I had been talking about. And the man that presented it said: Our Pastor has helped so many people here come out in of the storm. Bob had told that story many times--an idea which he stole for me. But it represented for the church what he had done. And what I want to do today is to say again Bob Shrum has helped so many, many of you come in out of the storm. And your lives have been changed. This wounded healer--and many of you have known his wounds. Wounds and all-he has stood by the door--sharing with you his wounds--but not often--and welcoming all of you out of the storm and into the church. And I would applaud this congregation for standing by Bob during his own stormy times. This church did not shoot this wounded soldier and you and he are the better for it. So--Bob--thank you for opening up your heart and life not only to the congregations you served--but also to your friends. We are better because you have helped some of us with our own storms. I could not finish without mentioning dear Rosie and Stephen and Jonathan and David and Jason and Laura. Without you Bob could not have done what he did.

I think it is time for us to bow our heads and give thanks on this Sunday for Bob and all he has meant to so many of us.

God of grace and God of glory
We come to thank you this fine day with hearts and hands and voices—
For all the tributaries that have flowed into Bob Shrum’s life.
Lord—we don’t know where to begin.
Parents…Sunday School teachers…Pastors…and friends who showed this little South Carolina boy your face and led him to believe.
We thank you that one happy day he heard his name called and like those disciples of long ago began to follow you.
So many tributaries. 

For all those along the way that opened the doors to learning and dreaming and stretching and laughter and joy.
So many tributaries, Lord.

For Joella and Rosie and Earl and Carol Ann and Stephen and Jonathan and David and Jason and Laura. They, especially have graced his life and made his journey rich indeed.
We are grateful for his ministry in Sumter and Pendleton and these rich years at Oakland. 
And for all those staff members that shared the burden and the joy.
So many tributaries, Lord.

We thank you for all those that nurtured and tolerated and encouraged him…
So many along the way, Lord
  those who gather here today…
  and all those others out there that cannot even remember his name—but know your name because of him.
So many, many tributaries, Lord.

And so this day we pray for him that he might look back and count it all joy as he remembers places and faces and moments when the bush burned so brightly.
Give him health and strength as he continues his journey as your servant still.
Give him time that he has not had to do   what he never had time to do.
   time to reach up and stop the sun.
   time to praise the human season.
   time to ponder the mystery of his tributaries
   time to “get home before dark.”
And when that day comes when he lays it all down—may he be surprised again by the wonder that comes to those found faithful.

We ask it all, Lord in the name of the One whose name is above every name. Amen.*

*I am indebted to the late Tom Corts for some of the ideas in this prayer.

Bob and Rosie Shrum

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogsplot.com


  1. Hi Roger. Mother seems to follow your blog. She thought this might be here. Shrum showed me a God of love and Grace.....a pathway to Him which might follow different forms......a salvation experience that does not require blinding on the road to Damascus....and a faith that includes ALL people....wonderful foundations in faith...loyal and constant friend. So glad we both got to share in this day....Susan Barnette

  2. Thank you Roger for your deep friendship with Bobby, your support and love for him through all he's been through. Thank you for you words at such a momentous and special time. You are a treasure!