Fry On Friday, “Bob Fry” October 13, 2017

In Memory of Bob Fry

April, 1933 – October, 2015

 
             Most of us who have older brothers understand that from the beginning we are blessed.  Having not one but two older brothers, I was twice-blessed.  I was also twice-blessed because Bob Fry was not only my brother, he was my hero.  He became so when  he appeared on the cover of a national magazine.   It wasn’t GQ or Sports Illustrated, but it was the full cover of a magazine.  Young Life, a Christian ministry for high schoolers, published a monthly magazine and there on the cover was my brother along with the caption, “Best-liked Guy in School.”.   All- state athlete in football and basketball, as handsome as George Clooney, Bob Fry was who the Fonz hoped to be when the Fonz grew up.   

           Compared to Bob Fry, I was a punk kid, invisible on my good days, most times a nuisance, in a hero’s universe.  But Bob treated me like I was special.  Years later I concluded  that he realized what we brothers had never gotten from our dad, he could offer to me.  It was called warmth, the ability to laugh and enjoy life; it was called love.

            He took me along on dates to the high. school dances, to the movies at the Tennessee theater.  When his crowd went swimming at Alcoa pool, I went too,  like that was the most natural thing for an eight year old to hang with the high school crowd.  And Bob could get away with bringing me because he was the best-liked guy in school.  

            My brother Bob also taught me how to face one’s fears. Alcoa swimming pool had a series of diving boards, the highest  of which penetrated the clouds and  required use of a pressurized oxygen mask.  Everyone who rode to the pool in Bob Fry’s car was required to leap from the high board or else walk home.  But I was yet not yet eight years old!

           “What!  Are you insane!”   Eventually, after much persuasion, I choose to face a certain plunging death rather than spend the remainder of my days as a homeless nomad on the side of Alcoa Hwy.  So I jumped.  

           One of the high school buddies, nicknamed “Jaws,” refused to do so.  Calling Bob’s bluff, Jaws piled into the car for a ride home.  To my utter shock, Bob said nothing, just began the trip.  Just this side of the airport, however, Bob stopped, looked at Jaws, smiled and said, “Good Buddy, this is where you get out.”  “We’re thirty miles from home,” I pointed out. “Jaws should’ve remembered that, ” Bob shrugged.

           A couple hundred yards away, Bob pulled the car off the side of the road.  We all jumped out laughing and waved to Jaws to hurry up and get back into the car.  My brother Bob also taught me about mercy. 

           Except as we were waving to Jaws, he was waving back to us from a passing car.  He’d stuck out his thumb and hitched a ride and beat us all home.   Still, how  to face fear and the value of mercy are good lessons for a kid brother to learn in one day, even if every story doesn’t have an air-tight ending.

            Here’s the moral:  touch a person’s life with love at the right time and we’ll never forget. 
 


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. He will retire from PHPC and full-time ministry on Sunday Nov. 12. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.    

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Fry On Friday: “Las Vegas,” October 6, 2017

9Ominously, like a lion in its lair,
he lurks in secret to waylay those who are downtrodden.
When he catches them, he draws them in and drags them off with his net.
10 Quietly crouching, lying low, ready to overwhelm the next by his strength,…
12 Arise, O Eternal, my True God. Lift up Your hand.
Do not forget the downtrodden….
17 O Eternal One, You have heard the longings of the poor and lowly.
You will strengthen them; You who are of heaven will hear them.
18 Vindicate the victims and the injured
so that men who are of the earth will terrify them no more.
Psalm 10, The Voice translation, slightly modified.

Nice Psalm.  But this week I need more than words of prayer; I need to take action.  What on earth can I do about this?  The cries for gun control and retorts of Second Amendment rights have  the repetitiveness of an auto play loop.  I’ll eventually join that discussion, but not yet.  I want to do more than express my opinion about politicians’ debates.

Here are some ideas.  None of them solve the matter of violence; but they’re perhaps a step beyond total helplessness.

·      I want to attend the next big concert booked for Atlanta, whoever is performing.  (Dear God, have mercy upon me; please don’t let it be heavy metal!)   I will purchase my tee shirt, raise my illuminated cellphone, and rock my aged body, not for the musicians on stage but for the people of Las Vegas.  I will continue their love of music and keep alive the joy they embraced that evening and allow music to lay its healing touch on my wounds.  I refuse to allow fear to keep me away and isolate me as a citizen of our community and our nation.  I am going to seek out a large crowd and be part of it.

·      I also want to try to score tickets to an Atlanta United soccer (Excuse me, I mean “futball”)  game.  Not for the soccer, but for the singing.  I’ve watched on TV, marveling at 70,000 fans on their feet, singing the entire event.  The ones not waving banners have their arms wrapped around each other.  I want to be part of that:

I refuse to allow shootings to make me stop treating strangers as neighbors.  More than a possible threat, every person I meet is still a potential neighbor.  I will affirm that faith-truth, even with people I encounter beyond the Stadium.  And if they spell “futball” different from me, I can live with that.

·      I will attend the next funeral I hear about, even if the deceased is someone I only slightly know.  I will join in the hymns, stand for the scripture, and bodsw my head for the prayers.  I will weep with those who weep, and refrain from speaking any horrible clichés about this being part of God’s plan.  I will participate in the power of shared pain, for shared sorrow brings us together more than a hundred victory parades.

·      I will wrestle with God to accept that life is hard, that we are a fragile species, and that the most beautiful people can be taken in a split second.  No gun control or right to bear arms will make us safe; no security procedures will remove all danger; no theology will explain it satisfactorily.   Nevertheless, I will try to continue to trust in God, the Prince of Peace for my well-being, even as I continue to seek effective actions to take.


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.

Fry on Friday, September 28, 2017

             When we circled up at the end of a non-stop Laundry Love evening, Safir  broke away from his conversation and hurried to join us for our closing prayer.   It had been one of our busiest nights, with clients arriving at the laundromat in a steady flow for two hours.  More first-timers than normal, many of them new in town, made us wonder how word of Laundry Love gets out so quickly.  “Free” translates easily into multiple languages, it appears.

            Two pre-school boys with their grandmother, filled with desire for the contents of our snack tray, yet too shy to even make eye contact with the cookies themselves until Grandma gave them a nod of permission.  They then faced the impossible dilemma: chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin.  When told that “both” was a viable choice, it was instantly Christmas morning! 

            The middle-age mom with her son who is adult, though only physically.  Newly arrived from Louisiana, she is an insurance claims processor, here to service phone calls from Florida.   She packed for the trip in a hurry, so the two of them transport their laundry in about 25 small grocery bags, most of which tear from the weight.   

            And Safir, who hasn’t missed a Laundry Love event in months.  He’s a native of Pakistan and lives nearby.  In the laundromat he follows us around like a lonely puppy.  Nearing sixty, he tells of being a nuclear engineer until diagnosed with a brain tumor.  “It was the size of a golf ball!” he reports, his shaky hands indicating the girth of a basketball.  He now endures constant headaches and dizziness. 

            His tumor was removed but has returned and thus he travels daily to Emory Clinic for radiation.  I’ve given him a ride to tonight’s Laundry Love, because if I don’t, he’ll drive himself, which frightens us all.   The clean clothes are a side bar; he’s there for the companionship and, recently, for the closing ritual.  During the prayer, when his name is mentioned, his eyes fly open.

            Afterwards, the two of us heft his sizeable bag of clean clothes into my car.  “Does someone share this apartment with you?” I inquire as we pull into the driveway.  “I live alone,” he replies.  “Do you have family here in town?” I ask.  “Oh, no,” he shakes his head.  “What about in the U.S?”   “Dave,” he says,  “I have no family in the entire world.  Just me.” 

            I sit behind the steering wheel, trying to absorb what that must be like.  “Then we will be your family, Safir.”  “You already are,” he shrugs, as though it were the most obvious truth in the world.

            This week I have been grateful for every person in my life.  I am not alone in the world. 


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org. 

Clerk’s Corner: Transition Team Report–Survey Results & IPNC Update, September 2017

Dear Congregation,

First, I want to thank all of you who participated in Holy Cow Congregation Assessment Tool (CAT) survey.  The good response we received demonstrates your commitment to PHPC during this time of pastor transition, and provides valuable information as we move through our next steps.

On August 26, members of the Session, the Interim Pastor Nominating Committee (IPNC), the Transition Team and the associate pastors met with the Rev. Joy Fisher, our Presbytery Congregational consultant and Mark Roberson who is a member of the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. Both Joy and Mark, who are guiding PHPC’s leaders through the transition process, were instrumental in interpreting the results of the CAT survey, which the leadership found favorable. Please take a moment to read the Summary Report HERE.

The second thing I want to share is that the Interim Pastor Nominating Committee has been meeting weekly to develop a Position Description (PD) for the Interim Pastor/Head of Staff and the Ministry Information Form (MIF). The PD describes the duties that we expect the Interim Pastor/Head of Staff to carry out.  The MIF describes the church so that any candidates who are interested in this position will know more about who we are and can determine whether they think they would be interested in applying.

The MIF was developed from the info in the CAT survey and demographic data. Thus, this description of who we are and where we want to be was based on the congregation’s feedback.  The PD and MIF have been approved by the Presbytery, the church’s Personnel Committee and Session.  This information is being made available for Presbyterian ministers to apply for the Interim Head of Staff position.  The IPNC expects to eventually interview 3-5 candidates.

Finally, plans are moving forward for a celebration of Dave’s ministry following a special 10 am worship service on Sunday, November 12.  If you don’t have that on your calendar, be sure to add it.  This will be a great opportunity for all of us to thank Dave and acknowledge the incredible work he has done at PHPC.

David Ashley
Clerk of Session, Pleasant Hill Presbyterian

Fry On Friday: “Chipper At the Old Ball Game”

        Chipper Jones attended the Braves game this weekend, appearing on camera for a single five-second shot with his wife—his “lovely wife”, according to the broadcasters.  Like many fans, they were talking together about something that didn’t appear to be baseball-related.  Like many fans, they were nowhere to be seen by the ninth inning.   Chipper Jones, the greatest switch-hitting third baseman to play the game, a constant All-Star performer, a future member of the Hall of Fame.  Chipper Jones—now a baseball fan.

            I was glad to see him at the old ball game.  No one paid him to attend; he was not under contractual obligation to occupy those seats.   I’m guessing his tickets were comped, but I’m also guessing that aspect wasn’t the determining factor.  “I don’t care if I ever get back,” he and his wife testified musically as they joined with 41,000 other fans in the seventh inning stretch anthem. 

            What must it be like, to have played the game for so many years, then be relegated to watching it being played? 

            I will soon know.

            After almost a half-century of preaching, leading worship, and being paid to be in church on Sunday, I’ll be present in worship purely as an amateur.  “Are you excited?” people ask.  “I’m scared to death,” is my honest reply.  

            What if I don’t find it interesting?  Though Chipper’s seats were section 101, front row, from there the game cannot be as intensely engaging as when one is at bat, bases loaded,  with a 3-2 count.  I’ll be at the mercy of others’ sermons, other choirs’ anthems, other pastoral prayers to nurture my soul.  Which will probably be an improvement in quality, except I’ve always preferred being on the field of play over watching from the stands. 

            I think I’ll evoke a mantra I’m just beginning to practice lately:  “Not my problem.”   God has led lots of people through retirement, even clergy, and many of them seem to be doing quite well.   Abandoning a person simply because they aren’t as useful as  before—doesn’t seem to be God’s style.  Maybe God’s interest in me is not contingent on my performance.  It’s a theory, anyway.  We’ll see. 


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.    

Save the Date of 11/12: Dr. Dave Fry’s Retirement Party

After 33+ years, Dr. Dave Fry is retiring as the founding pastor and head of staff of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church. His last Sunday to preach and lead worship will be November 12, 2017. A reception will be held afterwards in Fellowship Hall. More details on times of the worship service and reception coming soon.
 

Come and celebrate Dave, and the super amazing ministry he has done in the church and community!  Please RSVP to DavesRetirementParty@outlook.com if you plan to attend so we’ll be able to have enough food for everyone.