Holy faces make holy places

16 11 2018

I love the beach!  And anyone who knows me well, knows that.  My family and I have been visiting the Outer Banks since 1993, and at times it seems as though I have more memories of North Carolina’s barrier islands that there is sand on their beaches.

But I also like the mountains.  I have wonderful memories of camping in the Poconos in Eastern Pennsylvania, and of retreats in the hills of Montreat, North Carolina.  I similarly love the rolling plains of Denmark, as well as the tropical landscapes of Jamaica.  All of these places have afforded me rich opportunities to move deeper in my walk with God, and I am not being overly generous when I refer to them as holy places for me.

However as beautiful as those landscapes were, the sense of holiness I found there was likely less about the location, and more about the people with whom I visited these memorable spots. When I’m at the beach I’m with my family, who always give my days joy and my life meaning. When I was camping in the Poconos I was with my wife, who 33 years ago was just beginning to teach me about love and marriage. And when I was on retreat in Montreat I was with colleagues, friends, and sometimes complete strangers, and all of them taught me volumes about relationships, faith, and ministry. My time in Denmark brought me into contact with people who taught me about trusting God; and mission trips to Jamaica grew within me an appreciation for the plight of the poor and the needs of the oppressed. But of all the people who have touched my life over the years, few can measure up to a saint who still lives in York, PA.

Her name is Kathy Levey, and I hope this blog somehow makes it into her hands.  Kathy was on the search committee that called me to serve as the Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of York, and she was the face of God to me and my family for the 6 years that we were there.  She helped my wife and me to find our way in a community that has more than a few provincial tendencies; and to make a home in a church that was overwhelmingly large, and thus by nature somewhat impersonal.  She was a sounding board as I began to develop a ministry of my own, in the shadows of one who had been dearly loved and who broke many hearts when he left; and she was a counselor when my wife discovered that she had somehow gotten pregnant, in spite of our convictions that we were going to wait ‘at least five years.’  Kathy babysat at the drop of a hat, just so my wife and I could keep date nights and enjoy dinner and a movie; and with her husband Stu, had us over for holiday dinners when we had no family around and were all alone.

When I left York in the summer of 1992 to begin serving as the Senior Pastor of the largest Church in the Presbytery of Lake Erie, at the tender age of 31, Kathy gave me a plaque that you can still find in my office today. It reads, “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”  And while my interpretation of the message is vastly different today than it was 26 years ago, the words are no less meaningful.

It is truly the grace of God that has kept me well throughout my life; and when I look at what I consider to be my life’s most holy places, I am quick to discover that what made them holy in the past, and what continues to make them holy today, is and are the people around me in those spaces . . . people like Kathy Levey.  This Thanksgiving, it is those people for whom I am especially grateful: high School teachers who molded and shaped my mind and soul; an amazing group of college friends from McDowell Hall, and my ‘brothers’ from AEPi; Godly women and men with whom I walked through seminary, especially the guys on the second floor of Hodge Hall; amazing youth groups at First Presbyterian Church of York, PA; the staffs of all four Churches I’ve served, particularly the secretaries and office administrators with whom I often worked most closely, and especially the pioneers from Stone House; all the small groups that my wife and I have been privileged to be part of over the years; and today; and my amazing colleagues in National Capital Presbytery.

This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for the grace that God has showered upon my life in all the places I’ve been led over the years, places made holy by those who inhabited them with me.  Thank you for YOUR holy face, and for the gift of countless holy spaces!  Happy Thanksgiving!



2 responses

30 06 2019

Bob, going through some old files I came across your blog address. We had heard about your blog but I have never visited before. Thank you for your kind words concerning Kath.
She continues to be a great servant. As our dear friend Pete Piper would say,
God bless.

30 06 2019
Bob Melone

So glad to hear from you Stu. Hope all is well. Peace!

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