Ross Foley died less than two weeks after he was diagnosed with liver cancer. For the last year, up through Christmas, Rev. Foley had been the interim pastor at the small struggling church of which we are members. He had been retired only two months from his 30+ year tenure at another church in the metropolitan area when he answered a call to give life support to a church that had suffered a potentially fatal hemorrhage after a long slow bleed. His presence stopped the bleeding and helped salvage some precious life force. We have a new pastor now. As he stepped into place, Ross stepped out. But he still didn't step into retirement; instead he was off to help another church that needed him. At 67, he could have had many games of golf ahead of him. He chose a different path.
Yesterday, I went to the reviewal/visitation. My husband and I arrived in the second half of the three-hour scheduled period and waited in line for an hour and a half to get to the front where the casket was and where the family was offering and accepting consolation. By the time we left, the event should technically have been over but there were nearly as many people still in line as when we had first arrived. The family, no doubt, was there a long time. The long waiting period, longer than a wait at Disney World even in peak season, was not due to the fact that we were there toward the end rather than the beginning. I talked to others who were there at different times and all reported the same 90 minute wait.
Our new pastor is young (29, I think) and I'm still getting to know him but he strikes me as someone with maturity even someone my age (far from 29) could strive to emulate, yet the sparkle, passion, and insight of youth. Interestingly, this new pastor grew up in the church that Ross Foley pastored for all those years. Our new pastor attributes much of who he is today to the presence of Ross Foley in his life from the time he was a little boy. He is grieving this week because he has lost a mentor, a spiritual parent.
I'm thinking about the hundreds and hundreds of people--certainly over a thousand, maybe approaching two thousand--that stood in line yesterday to pay their respects to this man. I'm thinking about the young man who was shaped by this man and who is now daring to pastor a struggling old church when it would likely be so much more fun to be somewhere on the ecclesiastical cutting edge. This is an enormous legacy to leave behind.
Ross Foley: Thank you. Peace.