Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hamilton Clemow's Eulogy

On Monday, March 10, I had the privilege of celebrating the life of one of Center Moreland and Dymond Hollow's favorite pastors, Rev. Hamilton Clemow. For those of you who are CMDH expatriates or couldn't make it on Monday, I post my eulogy. Rev. Jackson Cox, the pastor of the Carverton Charge and a longtime friend of Ham and Mary's, also eulogized Ham.

Hamilton Clemow

According to the Wyoming Conference Journal, Ham served the following churches or charges: Lemon, Huntsville, East Lemon, South Auburn, Center Moreland, Dymond Hollow.

He served for 31 years.

He was appointed to Lemon 6 months after I was born.

I have been at Center Moreland Charge, serving Center Moreland and Dymond Hollow for a little over 8 months. Even before I was officially appointed, in the discussions that pastors have during appointment transitions, Pastor MJ was telling me about Ham Clemow. He was a sweet guy, a former pastor who was now sick.

Very soon after I came on, I heard his name from a lot of people, and always with regard.

He was sick, and Mary was very vigilant in making sure that Ham didn’t get exposed to too many things that might make him sick. I think I wore a surgical mask the first time I met Ham. We talked for a little bit of time, and I asked him what the state of his soul was then. He said something along the lines of blessed, and assured of his Savior.

He was a model of how God’s blessing, when accepted and cherished, runs over like that cup in Psalm 23. With Ham, you couldn’t help but get splashed by that grace that runneth over. In fact the line from Luke comes to mind:

37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Luke 6: 37-38, NRSV

I left the house that day thinking that this is someone who would make a good mentor. Yes, it is true that in the church’s hierarchy, I have a higher “rank”. But in the matters of the spirit, I could completely trust the advice he would give me about how to be a pastor. Ham was a generous spirit. Or, maybe he had opened himself to the Spirit to such a degree that God’s spirit shone through him. Yes, I get the impression that whatever was positive about his character, whatever was generous, or kind, or principled, was God reflecting through him.

In hearing about him from the members of the churches I am now serving, it was soon clear that there were a lot of people who were still in contact with him, even 9 years after he’d left as their pastor. The first time I drove out to his and Mary’s house, I kept thinking “Good Golly, this guy lives in the sticks!”

"And these people keep coming out, calling, e-mailing, keeping in touch. Who IS this guy?”

Now, in our United Methodist system, where pastors are moved with some regularity, it’s not exactly forbidden, but certainly discouraged for parishioners to remain in contact with former pastors, and pastors are certainly expected to discourage contact. There are good reasons for that. With Ham, none of them seem to apply. Knowing him just the little bit that I do, he would have encouraged people who might want to complain, or whatever, to come to the new pastor directly, just as Matthew 18 teaches. But he wouldn’t have necessarily quoted Matthew 18 immediately, he would have expressed its spirit, first; and then, probably from memory, quote it to the person he was talking to.

Each pastor has what I call a Pastor of Blessed Memory (PBM). Ham, I think is this pastor for Center Moreland, and probably for Dymond Hollow, too. Ham was generous with me, for sure. We were in a unique situation in that he was the former pastor of the church he was now the member of. He acknowledged the call of the current pastor without jealousy, without insecurity, and with grace. And even now, nine years after he served the charge I now serve, and with his health limiting his ability to be out in the world, his generosity bolstered the special character of these two churches. I would expect that if I were to go to Lemon, or South Auburn, I would expect to find elements of that same Holy Spirit generosity.

Ham is gone now. I didn’t have much time to get to know him. But I appreciated his sense of humor, and the way in which Mary and he interacted with each other as partners, as lovers, and as friends. I appreciated his humility and his sense of faith.

My current parishioners have probably recognized by now that I always preach that it is the call of a Christian to reflect the love and grace of God. I have found Rev. Hamilton Clemow to be an excellent example of that. His ministry was a model of how to influence the lives of his parishioners so that they show God’s love is topmost.

I should hope to be so effective, so loving, or so faithful.

He will be missed by a lot of people, but if we can be assured of anyone now being with God in eternity, it’s Pork.

1 comment:

  1. Pastor Ham came to Center Moreland at a time when I was seriously impressionable. I went through Confirmation under his guide and still reflect on those Saturday mornings we spent together. In high school I wrote a speech about him when I was competing in a contest for county fair queen. I can't remember the topic of the speech but others spoke about their grandfathers and older siblings. I spoke about Ham. He will be greatly missed.