Friday, June 13, 2014

Easter 49. From other steps: Remembering John Sharick


Our friend John

From other steps….

To Youngstown for the memorial service for John Sharick.  It’s a beautiful sunny day, perfect for the drive from Pittsburgh. As I pull in to the old steel town, booths are being set up for Youngstown’s Pride Day.  I think John would have liked that.

Arriving at First Presbyterian downtown. As I enter, I get that Presbyterian classic feeling I haven’t felt for awhile. Although mainly white, and once you’ve lived in New York city while, that still feels strange, these are  good, solid people. Working, middle class people. These are the salt of the earth Presbyterians who defined a denomination for generations. And here in Youngstown, where the workers in a dying Mahoning Valley steel industry made a last stand with a heroic effort to organize a worker managed mill, with organizing help by long-time Presbyterian labor organizer Chuck Rawlings. They fell short. But that effort counts.

The  large photos of John in and outside the sanctuary give a feel for John over the years. Even as a young man he had the look of knowing confidence in his eyes.  And the service was a good tribute …. from the music, spirituals to classical,…For All the Saints…..Current First Pres pastor, Carolyn Griffeth, gives thanks for John’s active a participant in the life of the congregation, especially after his retirement. John’s successor as Eastminster Exec, the Rev. Dr. Dan Schomer,  gives strong witness to John’s ministry as a pastor to pastors. His friendly challenging of  people thoughts and ideas was lifted up, as well as his capacity to respect the humanity and divinity of each person, even in profound disagreement. Likewise his intellectual curiosity and the pleasure he took in teaching. And consulting…

Here is what I had to say:

John through the years...
It is an honor to be able to be here today and give testimony to the life and witness of John Sharick as on behalf of  the Board of Presbyterian Health, Eduction and Welfare Association. The details tell their own story:

 John served as President of the PHEWA Board of Directors, 2001-2003; and as a Board member from 1990-2005. As a member of the Presbyterian Health Network (PHN) Leadership Team from 1989-1993 & 2003-2007 he Chaired PC(USA) Task Force on Health Costs/Policies that wrote the seminal health ministries policy statement, "Life Abundant," adopted by 200th G.A. (1988). This denominational policy statement led to the formation of 3 new PHEWA networks- Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN), Presbyterian Health Network (PHN), Presbyterian Serious Mental Illness Network (PSMIN), as well as guiding the programming for the National Health Ministries program at the PC(USA) national offices. While that program was closed in 2009 budget reductions, the volunteer networks of PHEWA continue to keep ministries of health, healing, wholeness and justice alive and vital in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Using skills honed over his years as General Presbyter, John played a pivotal role in rewriting and renegotiating PHEWA’s Covenant of Agreement for Shared Ministry with the national offices of the PC(USA).  John received PHEWA's 2007 Rodney T. Martin Award, recognizing a significant long-term contribution made by the recipient to the ministry of PHEWA. In his obituary, memorial donations were requested to be sent to PHEWA.

Here is what our president John Scotland wrote in the  PHEWA E-Newsletter:

Dear Members of the PHEWA Family,
On behalf of the Executive Committee and the Board of PHEWA,  it is with great sorrow that I share the news of the passing of Rev. Dr. John D. Sharick.  We owe him more than you could know.  He would never have admitted it, but John embodied the spirit of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association; a spirit that continues to transform General Assembly Policy into ministry wherever Presbyterians bear witness to the good news!). 
 John was instrumental in PHEWA’s own radical transformation in the late 1980s.  He did this first by chairing a G.A. Task Force on Health Policy; then moving that policy into the formation of three new PHEWA health related networks; and finally through his leadership in the Presbyterian Health Network.  
 John continued to serve the Board of Directors with special concern for PHEWA staff support and our
Joh reflecting theologically
relationship with the PC(USA).  John was always closest to us during PHEWA’s most difficult struggles and we are all deeply grateful for his unstinting generosity in the sharing of his energy, intelligence, imagination, and love with us. 

And on a personal note, John was a deeply appreciated pastor to PHEWA staff. PHEWA  staff associate Susan Stack said that whenever PHEWA needed to look grown up, or to display public credibility, we brought John Sharick into the room.  Quiet and thoughtful, but firm and passionate when it came to the Gospel message of love and justice, and the Church’s responsibility to remain faithful to it. 

 I am happy to announce that PHEWA has instituted the first John D. Sharick Justice Award, to be presented at this year’s General Assembly in Detroit to First Presbyterian
Church of Birmingham,Michigan(Everybody’sChurch):  and  and their All Abilities Inclusion Ministry:

I will always be thankful for the creativity John brought to the work of Presbytery Executive. While he enjoyed the company of mavericks, John believed in the institutional church and what it could be.  John saw the institution as a means towards the facilitation of mission and ministry, not as a gatekeeper. John was a mentor, a colleague and most of all friend and our lives and ministries are and will be
enriched by his presence.

Meta Kraemer, long time friend of John and with John  and I, another Wooster grad, continuing the long tradition of  Wooster alumni serving as leaders in the church, delivered the sermon. It was great to meet John’s daughter Jenn after the service and know that the creation of the John Sharick Justice Award meant a lot to the family.

I would love to stay for the alt afternoon cocktail reception in John's honor, but need to get back to New York for Pentecost. I know John would appreciate that.

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