Friday, January 11, 2008

Farewell Omer

I was saddened a few days ago to hear of the passing of Omer Nichols. Omer was a faithful member of First UMC in Greensburg, PA, and I had the privilege to serve as one of his pastors for two years.

In many ways, Omer represented the best of the so-called "Greatest Generation" of Americans. An Army veteran who served in World War II, he returned home to help build essentially a new nation and a new world. He and his sweet wife Jean raised their children and became very active in their community.

More importantly, in my estimation, Omer was extremely active in Church life. A devoted member and longtime Lay Leader of First church, he served in a variety of roles through the years. He ran the lay speaking school in Greensburg District seemingly since the dawn of time, and also served as the director of Conference lay speaking. Omer was elected by his peers to attend General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference on more than one occasion. He was committed to traditional Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and represented our Conference well. He was a hard worker in every area of his life.

Personally, Omer was a real friend to me during a very difficult time. He often came into my office and reassured me and affirmed my ministry. In many ways, he was a "grumpy old man", and he would likely have admitted that, but that never kept him from letting me know that he appreciated me and my family. On some days, he kept me going when I was ready to pack it in.

Omer's passing is a loss for our Conference and certainly for First church, and especially for Jean. I thank God today for Omer's ministry, and I recognize that I am a part of his legacy.

That's how it works, isn't it? When a saint moves on to glory, those of us who have been touched by their ministry take a little of them with us. So, through me, and through many others (including, perhaps, some readers of this blog), Omer's ministry will continue every time I hug my children or share food with the hungry or proclaim orthodoxy or hold the hand of a dying servant.

I praise the Lord for Omer and for the many saints who have entered the Church Triumphant, who have touched me and helped form me, and who continue to be a blessing through what I do; I pray for Jean and her family, that they would know comfort, peace, and the presence of the living God during this time; I look forward to seeing my friend Omer again someday, and thanking him for his faithful ministry to me.

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

4 comments:

Eric Park said...

Thanks, Keith, for this fine tribute.

I join you in thanking God for Omer and his faithfulness.

Jeff St.Clair said...

Nice story brother. I thank God for those who left a mark on our lives, pressing us forward in ministry. I pray you are well and blessed.

Jeff Kahl said...

Good thoughts, Keith, and a reminder for us to celebrate the saints in our midst. Praise God for all those who have faithfully run the race.

Dave Thomas said...

It was a bittersweet pleasure to read your tribute to Omer Nichols. I first knew him as a Sunday school teacher, and later as a friend.

Seems funny in a way that I learn of his passing the same day I saw the movie, "The Bucket List". Guys like Omer -- and like my dad -- didn't need a bucket list. They came back from WWII, got jobs, families, busy. While they may have thought globally, they were best at acting locally. They improved the world around them, and didn't appear to want much more than that. May we all have more of that perspective.