Friday, May 28, 2010


I didn’t know quite what to think of Helen Leigh when I first came to pastor here. Helen had been at the church from its beginning. She was best friends with the pianist, Harriet Pollard. They had been close friends for years. Back in the late 50s the two of them were out on a walk. As they passed by the seed barn that was then located here on Seppa Road, Helen said, "Can't you just see this as a church?" They went inside and looked around. Helen remarked, "The pulpit would go over here." And so the seed of a thought of a building for the newly formed church was planted. Helen and her first husband, Arvo, deeded the seed barn to the church. That seed barn was then remodeled and became the meeting place for the church for quite a few years.

I didn’t know all of that when I first came to the church, I only knew what I saw. Helen seemed to me to be kind of stern and aloof. I wondered to myself if she had been a part of the undercurrent of discontent that had troubled the church for so many years. So when she invited me, the new Pastor, to her house for lunch, I was a little bit nervous.

Helen and Harold (her second husband) lived in the house across the road and to the west of the church. It was a quick walk to their home. I was warmly greeted by the both of them and we enjoyed lunch together, then she got down to business. She wanted to know what I was made of. I don’t remember all of the questions that she asked, but there were quite a few. Her interview was not to determine whether or not I would come to Pastor, that had already been decided. Her interview of me was to impress upon me some matters of importance.

She asked me what I thought was the most important virtue for a Pastor to possess. What a great question! I suppose that there are several possible answers, but I answered, “humility,” and went on to explain why. My thinking was that Pastors can sometimes be prone to be prideful and that pride works against spiritual dependence on the Lord, spiritual growth, and is contrary to Christlikeness. She appreciated my response, but suggested that integrity was the most important virtue. I thought that to be keen insight on her part. Her response no doubt arose from the practical experience of pastors who had failed to show integrity in the past. Integrity is an essential virtue for pastors and leaders--without integrity how can there be any trust? We ended our time together and I walked away with a new appreciation for the depths of Helen’s wisdom.

Sometimes first impressions are all wrong. My first impressions were that she was stern and aloof, the reality was that she was wary and needed some time to find out what the new Pastor was like. There had been too many failed situations in the past. Trust would have to be earned over time--which it was. You know what I found out about Helen Leigh?--she was an incredibly wise, caring, and delightful person. She so much enjoyed playing together with Harriet--Helen on the organ and Harriet on the piano. They did that for many many years. She was a retired school teacher and knew something about teaching--she paid attention to what was being taught. She looked after Laura and I. She bought Vitamin C tablets for me when I got a cold. She invited us to go out to dinner with her and Harold--they paid for dinner and for the babysitter also! She cared about us. She was a big help and became a good friend. But that was not my first impression.

I didn’t know it when I first came to the church, but Helen’s first husband, Arvo Seppa, had played a role in my ultimate calling to pastor the church. My uncle Bob had visited the church in the early 1970s. He had come to the church purposefully wearing his dirtiest clothes anticipating that the people would treat him poorly. It was Arvo who walked up to Bob and told him, “So glad to see you here, this is just where you need to be.” Arvo’s warm reception was in keeping with God’s invitation to Bob to trust in Christ--which he ultimately did. Bob was saved. He later prayed for me and I was saved. I was eventually prepared for ministry and called to pastor the church. Arvo greeted my uncle Bob as a visitor to the church, Helen would later welcome me as its Pastor. Her family had played a key role in the salvation of my uncle Bob, and later in my own. Sometimes there is more to a matter than what we see in our first impression.

Pastor Jerry

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