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A Pastor I Appreciate: part five

October 26, 2022

October has become Pastor Appreciation Month in many churches. With that as my filter, a quick glance up at my rearview mirror shows some past pastors I appreciate. Here’s one now —

Dr. Larry A. Bauman was Senior Pastor of the Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta. We met my first Sunday as a student at Emory’s Candler School of Theology.

Glenn Memorial could have been built as part of a movie set. The closest thing I could imagine to a Southern Cathedral, it was an almost intimidatingly breath-taking building on a hill as I walked from my car that morning. The people were friendly in a formal way, exuding whatever the word “polished” brings to your mind…it’s for sure what they projected to me.

And then worship began. The music was incomprehensably excellent, both in presentation and spirit. The liturgy, led by an Associate Pastor, was a blend of traditional “high church” and everyday expression.

And that’s the University President sitting right there one pew in front of me.

Then it was time for the sermon. Almost as one, as if rehearsed, the congregation — wow, was this Pack a Pew Sunday or something? — shifted attention from the lectern to the pulpit.

The preacher ascended.

And brought heaven to us.

His sermon was gripping, biblical, and met head-on with both international and local key issues of the day.

He was entertaining and provocative, in the best sense of both words.

The preacher preached!

After worship, leaving took a long time. I was caught in the slow shuffling flow up the aisle, wondering why we were taking so long.

Turned out it was because ours was the aisle that led to the door where the preacher was greeting people. And he was taking a while doing so.

The closer I got the better I could see what was going on. His was an approach like R. A. Lippman’s (see “A Preacher I Appreciate: part one” back on Monday, 10.17.22).

My turn.

He talked with me, not at me. Asked questions and listened to my answers.

As I walked away I glanced back. He jotted something down on either an index card or in a little notebook, I couldn’t see which. Then he turned his attention to the family who had been in line behind me.

At a student dinner later that week, he approached me, called me by name, and picked up where we’d stopped talking several days earlier after worship.

His influence? About the only word I have goes beyond enormous to something like “Ghi-Normous.”

Here I was, stumbling and fumbling my away around Atlanta, starting classes at a large school at least three heroes had recommended separately, one that would prove to wonderfully weave together the various strands of my heretofore wildly divergent education and experiences, and had already found a church home with yet another pastor I appreciated.

I miss him.

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