Last week, John Peters, Elder Emeritus at Curwensville Alliance, passed away unexpectedly. We remember his wife and children and grandchildren in prayer. As when Ed McCulley and Jim Hand passed away, I present here a memorial of John. – Pastor Steve
John and I met when Laurel and I were being interviewed by the Board at Curwensville as they were seeking a new pastor. I immediately noticed the warm smile from John as he sat at the far end of the table. It was disarming and reassuring.
When speaking to a group of people, there are certain faces that you learn to look for – faces that put you at ease and relieve any nervousness you may have. John was that face for me for over a quarter of a century.
It didn’t take me long to realize that coming from a pastoral home, John understood things about ministry that I didn’t. And as he shared that knowledge, his wisdom brought the same sense of reassurance as his smile. When I’d kick myself for a mistake, he’d say, “Pastor – everyone makes mistakes.” Recently, we spoke together about the difficulties of ministry and he didn’t need to say any words at all; he just smiled that smile. I knew.
John smiled that smile as he worked in the kingdom. There are pictures of him working on the church building when we moved to Susquehanna Avenue. I remember him teaching children – I think he subbed for Gale. My daughter said that John taught her as a young adult – in a class in the old library. John didn’t have a strong interest in The Wild Game Dinner, but I remember him setting up tables and chairs for those who loved that ministry. And John faithfully toted tables up the narrow stairway in the back of the church so we could have a church dinner upstairs. One evening, during a Board Meeting, John said, “I’d like to ask that we buy enough tables so we don’t have to carry them up that stairwell. I’m getting too old for that!” And then he laughed. Of course, the motion passed unanimously – and John smiled that smile.
I tell these stories because of something I heard John express from time to time. John had come from a family of Christian workers – missionaries and pastors – kingdom workers. He loved being part of that family and he loved their work.
Occasionally, John would remark, “My family has done so much for the kingdom – and here I am in Clearfield.”
He didn’t smile that warm smile when he said that.
That always broke my heart, because John Peters made a huge difference in my life – encouraging his struggling pastor. And John made a difference in my daughter’s life – teaching those young adults. Her husband said that John was one of the first people whose name he learned at Curwensville Alliance. John’s warm smile was something with which he connected. Today, they’re in a foreign land, serving Christ. John’s investment was vital.
Who knows who else John influenced for Christ.
Over and over, I tried to help John understand that his ministry right here was vital – that each of us serves in different ways and that none of us has a trivial calling. He would nod, but I never really knew if he understood and felt that reality in his heart.
Today – he does.
With all my heart, I believe that this week, John heard what all who follow Jesus long to hear: Well done, good and faithful servant…. –Matthew 25:21a (NIV)
I can imagine John hearing that and humbly weeping in joy. And then – the smile. I can imagine that warm smile coming upon John’s face.
Well done, John. Thank you for being you. Thank you for your ministry. Thank you for serving God.