The Rev. Richard "Dick" Burns, who passed away this week, had been a part of my life for nearly 30 years...though not many people know about our connection.
Dick Burns was a giant man of God. Few pastors of the Western PA Conference, I'd wager, have had his impact not only on our Conference but more importantly on Kingdom work in western Pennsylvania. So many people found Jesus through Dick's ministry, and countless more saw their faith deepened because of Dick. He has left a lasting impact for Jesus, and will be sorely missed.
In his younger days, Dick was very active in our Conference camping program, and was also a leader of the charismatic movement in our denomination. These passions combined years ago with Dick's involvement at Jumonville (one of the UMC's premiere camps) and specifically of the now defunct "One Way Camp", a camp which did many of the typical "camp" things but with a keen eye on developing strong relationships with Jesus while sensitive to the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. I began attending One Way Camp after Dick had already moved on to other ministry opportunities, but his legacy remained with that event for years to come. I (first) surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus kneeling at the altar in the chapel at Jumonville in June of 1983, at age 12. Again, while Dick wasn't present, leaders of the camp had been impacted so strongly by his ministry that I have considered Dick in many ways to be my "spiritual grandfather".
Years later, I served my first appointment in a lovely little town called Big Run, PA. Dick had recently retired and lived just up the road in Dubois, PA. I was blessed to get to know him a bit, and extremely blessed when he was able to lead a series of revival meetings at the church I was serving in Big Run. His love for Jesus, for people, and for the moving of the Spirit were so infectious that the joy he brought has remained with me ever since.
As I continued in our Conference, I was inspired by Dick's spiritual leadership and example, thrilled watching this wise friend elected to serve as a delegate to our General and Jurisdictional Conferences. I was truly humbled to receive from Dick and Aldersgate ministries (along with the rest of my probationary class) a brass vial of anointing oil prior to my ordination. His prayer that night meant the world to me; the oil is in use on the altar of Jefferson UMC.
My clearest image of Dick - the one I will carry with me till we meet again - is of morning at Annual Conference in Grove City. By the second or third day of our annual gathering, most folks are tired and grumpy. Breakfast is often sparsely attended, and usually only by those desperate for morning coffee. Yet, it never failed. Dick would enter the dining hall harnessing his loudest "preacher voice" proclaiming, "It's a beautiful morning! Hallelujah! Jesus is king!" Dick understood the blessings and opportunities the Lord brought with each day...and he was excited by those opportunities!
Today, along with so many others, I am praising the Lord for Dick Burns, his life, ministry, and legacy of love and power. I am in prayer for his lovely wife Wilma Jean (one of my wife Robyn's favorite people) and for his children and grandchildren. And I am already looking forward to breakfast in the Kingdom Come, when I hear again Dick's booming voice of praise, and am once again inspired by his never-dying passion for Jesus.