Thursday, October 09, 2008

Jerry Hyde was awesome

The first person to welcome me to Broadway Church has passed away.

Before I even worked here, before my first interview, I attended worship at Broadway, just to get a sense of what the church was like. It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2006, and I came into the large, formal (Gothic? I don't know...) sanctuary about 15 minutes before the service was scheduled to begin. (Of course, I know now that there's almost nobody in the sanctuary 15 minutes before the service is scheduled to begin. Ever.)

But anyway, as I was sitting there, hoping I wasn't in anyone's "spot" (you know how people are about "their" pew), I heard a commotion behind me and to the right. It was about five minutes before the service was to start. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that an older gentleman and his wife (a gentlelady and a truly gentle lady) were making their way toward their seats in the pew behind me, greeting the people around them.

As they got almost directly behind me, I glanced over my shoulder again and caught a big smile from the man, who introduced himself. "I'm Jerry Hyde. I'm sorry, I don't know your name."

I said, "There's no reason you would know my name; this is my first time here."

He instantly replied, "In that case, may my wife and I come sit with you?" and, without waiting for my response, took his wife, Martha, by the hand and moved up one pew to sit right next to me. They helped me navigate the service (different from St. Luke's in many ways -- a hymnal and a supplement songbook, a much thicker bulletin, Passing of the Peace which lasts close to five minutes, etc.) and they introduced me to their friends in the pews around us (which was everybody).

As I got to know Jerry and Martha, I learned that he was a retired United Methodist pastor, and they lived at the United Methodist Community in Franklin, Indiana. Which meant that, in order to get to Broadway, they had to drive about 30 miles (ONE WAY). I asked about that decision and they responded that they really believed that Broadway did church the way church was meant to be done -- both in worship and in service. Wow! They must have passed dozens of United Methodist Churches on their way to Broadway -- including the Chapel right where they lived -- but it was their commitment to the open family of Christians walking their talk that led the Hydes to Broadway.

As I look back I realize that, even more than the distance they traveled to worship at Broadway, it was Jerry's great show of hospitality that made a lasting impact on me; it embodied the best of what Broadway is. I've told this story around Broadway many, many times, and when I tell folks that it was Jerry Hyde who welcomed me so openly, folks nod affirmingly, as though it was no surprise at all that Jerry would behave that way.

That's a true legacy. And that's who Jerry was to me.


Clifton said...

Forgive the rant, but you pushed a hot button when you said Broadway Church has a ten minute passing of the peace. If I wanted to mill around, hugging, shaking hands, God-blessing and heaping peace upon people I don't know and jumping over chairs to get to the hottest babes so I can cop a feel, I would go to a cocktail party. The line about jumping over chairs is not original. It comes from a retired Episcopal Priest friend who shares my curmudgeonly view of the Peace Passing Parties.Have I ever copped a sacred feel in church? You bet I have.

SSS said...

The rant is completely forgiven.

If you ever visit Broadway, you will find that you are not alone in your feelings about the Passing of the Peace, Clif.

Especially among the choir, I know there are a number of us who think that it drags on way too long. Of course, there are others who think that it's not long enough...