Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A tribute to Mark Bayert

Last Wednesday I received an E-mail from Bill Chadwick, pastor of Oak Grove Presbyterian Church saying that Mark Bayert passed away. I immediately called my long-time friend and colleague, Carol Osweiler who works as the Christian Educator at Oak Grove to discover what had happened. She confirmed this terrible news.

His passing was a shock. Mark had retired from being the Head of Staff of Oak Grove in September, 2007. I hadn’t seen him much since then and assumed he was enjoying his well-deserved retirement. As I heard the story last Saturday at his funeral, Mark was in very good health before he went in last Tuesday to have a heart valve repaired. The surgery did not go well, and he passed away last Wednesday morning. Mark must have had some concern about the surgery as I was told he planned his funeral service before the surgery.

His obituary is here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/startribune/obituary.aspx?n=mark-alan-bayert&pid=137161496

I met Mark and got to know him when we worked together on the Church Development Team (CDT) for our Presbytery. He was very supportive of expanding and re-vitalizing the Presbyterian presence in our Presbytery. Some of my favorite memories of Mark took place when the CDT took its annual retreat at Presbyterian Clearwater Forest. Mark would volunteer to cook breakfast. He got up early and took over the kitchen—preparing his special recipe of oatmeal.

We had a number of quality talks during those retreats. He was always interested in my work at the Presbyterian Church in Plainview. He was particularly interested in our House of Hope ministry and what we were doing with the Plainview Area Migrant Council. He shared stories of similar ministries he did when he served at Rock Island, Illinois.

His funeral was a treat to attend. I was able to sit with the Presbyterian clergy who attended. As Mark had requested in his funeral plans, many of us clergy were decked out in black robes with white stoles. The service combined the traditional elements of a Presbyterian worship service—call to worship, confession, the choir singing classical music, a sermon, and the Lord’s Supper. I was particularly pleased that a pictorial tribute to Mark’s life done with music was shared on the screens in the sanctuary at Oak Grove.

Mark was a renaissance man—and this came out at the funeral. He was passionate about his family, children, and grandchildren. He was devoted to his own education and sharing the faith through preaching and teaching; he played tennis, enjoyed cars, the theatre, singing and cooking.

The way he was able to combine these disparate elements into his life is an example to us all.

As a pastor I’ve had the privilege to get to know many Presbyterian clergy like Mark. They carry a determined outlook about our Presbyterian Church and how it relates to the world. Their lives and determination are examples to us younger clergy.

The world is a poorer place this week because of the passing of Mark Bayert. Praise God for the contributions Mark was able to make to the church and the world, and praise God for the ways Mark successfully modeled the living of a clergy’s life.

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