Tag Archives: Noble Road Presbyterian Church

Farewell to the Matrix

MatrixTransition is the nature of life. For individuals, families, communities, nations, the world, change happens.

Our family is no different. We have passed through many changes through the years.

This year has brought an acceleration of change. Eric graduated from seminary as did his fiancé, Essie. They remained engaged for about five days after their graduation and then, in a wonderful celebration, they became Eric and Essie Koenig-Reinke. And then they moved to Michigan for jobs with First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor.

Tricia received a new job in Louisville with the Office of the General Assembly. I received a new job in New York with the Presbytery of New York City.

Sean and grandpuppy Henrik have been the eye of calm in the midst of all the changes.

This weekend, we have gathered in Cleveland Heights for Eric’s ordination as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It will take place at Noble Road Presbyterian Church where Eric grew up and where he remains a member, until his ordination.

We all stayed in the house on Navahoe Road that Tricia and I rented in 1985 when we came to Noble Road. Tricia has stayed in the house ever since, which we finally came to own a couple years ago. This may be the last time we all stay together here, although thanks to a dear family friend, Renee Boykin, we will continue to own the house. Renee will rent.

Another marker of this time of transition came when Eric pulled into the driveway on Friday night driving a Toyota Matrix. It had been my car, purchased in 2004, and it is my favorite of all the cars I have owned or co-owned.

Now it has Michigan plates and belongs to Eric. Of course he has been driving it since I first moved to New York in 2010. But the title remained in my name and Tricia and I paid the insurance bill. And it still felt like mine.

No longer. Eric transferred the title a while back, put on the Michigan plates and started paying for the insurance. The Matrix is his.

An era ends. A new one begins.

Farewell, Matrix.

See you along the Trail.

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Never, Merdine T., never

Some messages should be delivered in person and not left in a voice mail box or sent by email.

Some times we have no choice but to leave such messages.

Tricia left one for me today.

I think I said farewell“Sorry to have to leave a voice mail. I need to leave. But I just got an email that Merdine T. died last night. And I wanted you to know.”

Some realities cannot be expressed adequately in words. They simply have too much meaning.

My relationship with Merdine T. Morris is such a reality. She was one of the most significant people in my life outside of my family. She helped make me who I am today – at least any part of me that is good and kind and faithful. I take full responsibility for my failings and shortcomings.

While I have been gone from Cleveland for almost 14 years, while the times that Merdine T. and I saw each other on a regular basis occurred long ago, while her health has declined and I knew this moment was coming, while I am a great believer in the Communion of Saints, I have to confess my heart bears a ragged hole this evening. I miss Merdine T. immensely. And I probably always will.

Merdine T. and I were friends for more than 20 years. Friend really does not do our relationship justice, she is my mentor, teacher, challenger, comforter, disturber of my peace, guide, anchor . . . the list goes on. She and her husband Luke played  and will play significant roles in my life. Luke passed away some 12 years ago, not too long after I left Cleveland.

Merdine T. and I have shared some amazing moments . . . conversations . . . experiences . . . times of learning and growth . . . disappointments . . . violations . . . injustices . . . ordinations . . . presbytery meetings (incredible to say, I know) . . . graduations . . . transitions . . . acts of justice . . . moments of witness.

If you want to hear some amazing stories about a child of grace and a faithful follower of Jesus, buy me a Jameson and ask me about Merdine T. some time.

Merdine T.’s health began to fail some years back. As she became increasingly fragile, I began to wonder each time I saw her if that time would be the last time.

And finally it was.

IMG_3763This past December, our mutual friend Nan Dorer celebrated her 90th birthday today with a party at Noble Road Presbyterian Church. Tricia and I took Merdine T. to the party.

The day was wonderful. Friends old and young, long-time and new, greeted Merdine T. warmly. Her presence meant the world to Nan. We stayed for the children’s program and carol singing. Merdine T. beamed. When we returned to the Fairmount Health Center, staff members commented on the joy that filled her face. A wonderful day.

In her room, as Tricia and I were leaving, Merdine T. reached up from her chair and hugged me. Tears filled her eyes.  And she said the words. The words she said to me every time we said goodbye over the past five or six years.

“Mark. Never forget me.”

Tonight, through my tears, I reply as I always did.

“Never, Merdine T. Never.”

As I grieve my loss, I give thanks that I had the privilege of sharing life with God’s beloved child, Merdine T. Morris.

See you along the Trail.

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Dick Wherley: choices made, choices lived

“We are going to walk across the country as part of a witness for nuclear disarmament.”

I am sure those were not the first words that Dick or Cathie Wherley said to me. They are among the first I remember.

Tricia and I arrived at Noble Road Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights as co-pastors in the fall of 1985. Dick and Cathie served on the Session – the church governing board.

Sometime that winter, they announced their resignations so that they could take part in the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.

Their faith led them to work for peace in many ways and many places. Seeking racial justice in Cleveland Heights. Working to end gun violence in Cleveland. Advocating for sanctuary for their sisters and brothers fleeing war in Central America. Calling for an end to U.S. arms sales.

Now their faith called them to make another witness for life, the life of the planet. With about 1,200 people they set out from Los Angeles for Washington, DC around March 1. About two weeks into the march, the marchers learned that the supporting organization had declared bankruptcy. The marchers gathered, pondered, thought, dreamed, and planned. On March 28, a smaller group, including Dick and Cathie, started out again.

Dick often drove a support vehicle because of his health. But he and Cathie and the GPM made it to DC. When the march came through Cleveland, about 30 Noble Road members marched with them. A dozen of us went to Washington for the end of the march.

Upon returning to Cleveland Dick and Cathie plunged back into the life of the congregation, the community, and the peace and justice movement. Transitional housing and the inclusion of our LGBT sisters and brothers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) became two areas of particular concern.

The simple reality though, was if people in Cleveland gathered to act in compassion, pursue peace, and do justice, Dick and Cathie were present more often than not.

Dick’s health continue to falter through the years. He appeared in person less often and in the spirit more regularly. His spirit remained strong and true.

This week, Dick died peacefully in his sleep.

My prayers are with Cathie and her children, Joanne, Rick, Tom, and Sandy and their partners and children. May their memories be blessed; may they find comfort in their grief; may the rejoice in love shared and love that binds them together still.

Frodo Baggins, in The Fellowship of the Ring, expresses a wish to have been born at another time, a gentler, kinder, less-troubled time.

Gandalf reminds him that none of us choose the times in which we live. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” the wizard gently says.

Dick Wherley decided what to do with the time he had. Dick chose life. He chose faith. He chose love, peace, and justice. And he lived his choices well.

Thanks be to God.

See you along the Trail.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A simple star cut from paper bearing a word – received as a gift from God on Epiphany or the Sunday closest to Epiphany.

Many congregations participate in the practice known as Epiphany Stars.

Here’s how it works: Individuals have the opportunity to pick out of a basket a paper star.  The star will have a word on it, naming a gift from God; visually, nothing special, as God’s gifts are not always flashy.  Sometimes the gift is known by all to be one that you already evidence or experience in abundance.  Sometimes you will feel that it is something you’ve needed, a challenge to work on.  Often it’s something you don’t understand, or could learn more about.  In any case, it will provide you an opportunity to ponder and pray in the coming year.  It’s suggested that you display it during the year in a place where you will see it often.

As far as I know, the first Presbyterian congregation to experience Epiphany Star Gifts was Carpinteria Community Church in Carpinteria, California when the Rev. Sam Roberson served as pastor. An article about Epiphany Star Gifts appeared sometime during the late 1980s in Presbyterian Survey. A number of congregations picked up the idea, including Noble Road Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights where my partner and I served as co-pastors.

Noble Road has continued to share stars each Sunday. Even after Tricia and I took other calls, our sons would draw stars for us. This year, Tricia preached at Noble Road. The star she drew for me said: RESPECT.

I have long wondered if I am Batman. Now I am thinking that I may be Aretha.

See you along the Trail.

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Always never

Three years ago, I thought I may have said farewell to my mentor and friend Merdine T. Morris. She was ill at the time. Seriously ill. When I left her room at the Fairmount Health Center, I thought that day’s visit might well have been our last. Others agreed with me.

But Merdine T. proved us wrong. She not only made it through that crisis, she improved. She has been able to leave the health center for various events. She did so again today.

IMG_3763Our mutual friend Nan Dorer celebrated her 90th birthday today with a party at Noble Road Presbyterian Church. Tricia and I took Merdine T. to the party.

The day was wonderful. Friends old and young, long-time and new, greeted Merdine T. warmly. Her presence meant the world to Nan. We stayed for the children’s program and carol singing. Merdine T. beamed. When we returned to the Fairmount Health Center, staff members commented on the joy that filled her face. A wonderful day.

A big shout-out to Bob Pescho and Dan Wills for their work on the church’s chair lift that allowed Merdine T. to attend the worship service. A shout-out to Eric, Dan, John, Maria, Cathy, and all who helped Merdine T. navigate her way to the various events. A shout-out to David Dorer who took the photo with this post.

When I visited her three years ago, Merdine T. said “Never forget me.” “Never,” was my response then. “Never,” is my response now.

See you along the Trail.

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Advent 8: Wisdom

Merdine T Morris

7 April 2007
Noble Road Presbyterian Church
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

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Standing and sitting in the rain for justice

My friend Tim Luttermoser wrote this. He granted permission to post his words and photo.

TimHey Francis,

The past few days on campus, a conservative preacher (Tom the Preacher, you can google him) has been on campus doing… well, the typical conservative preacher things. But with larger displays and more professionally, unfortunately. Over the last two days I designed a poster (you can see it, sort of, in my profile picture) of welcoming congregations in the area, including Episcopals, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians (I’m happy to say), UUs, and a Reform Judaism temple, and today I stood across the way from their display for several hours, providing people with an alternative perspective and reminding them that this wasn’t the only face of Christianity or religion in general. I’m happy to say that, for the most part, Tom and Grace Campus Ministry (which invited him to campus) left me alone when I made it clear I was not interested in engaging.

I’m telling you all this because, if you have a minute on Sunday, I’d like you to pass along my thanks to Noble Road Presbyterian Church for me. I can say with confidence that being raised in that particular community has shaped me into who I am today, and I am grateful for the influence. Even as I’ve personally moved on to other religious and spiritual traditions, I always remember the loving and welcoming community of Noble Road, and when faced with hatred and bigotry, I can always draw on my history there and be reminded that there are wonderful religious communities with better approaches. Noble Road did a fantastic job modeling not only acceptance of LGBTQ people, but actively fighting for them, particularly within the religious community, a fight I still consider absolutely essential. While I’m fairly confident I would be supportive of LGBTQ people regardless of where I grew up, I know that growing up in NRPC specifically was what gave me the energy and the passion to contact these congregations, create this display, and stand through the two brief rainstorms to keep making my point all afternoon.

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do, both you in particular and NRPC as a whole.

Mark Koenig and Tricia Dykers Koenig – this thanks LARGELY goes to you as well, don’t forget.

Francis Miller, to whom Tim wrote, is currently the pastor at Noble Road Presbyterian Church. Tim lived in South Euclid and attended the church before he went to school. Tricia and I were co-pastors there at the time.

See you along the Trail.

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