Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A tribute to Ward Sessing

Last week I received the very sad news that Ward Sessing passed away.  His funeral will be this Saturday at Presbyterian Church of the Way at 11:00 a.m.

I first got to know of Ward when I served as the pastor at Community Presbyterian Church in Plainview.  He was known in the Presbytery as an architect who had particular skills in designing churches.  Our congregation was talking about re-designing our building, so we invited Ward to come talk to a group of us.  He made the two hour drive to Plainview.  The drive must not have done much for him because Ward immediately told us that our church should buy the three lots of property adjacent to the church.   Certain thoughts went through my mind—thoughts that I couldn’t share as a pastor at a meeting.  But toned down the thoughts were like “thanks for driving from the Cities to tell us what to do something that we can’t afford.”  

That was Ward—willing to state the truth as he saw it—even if people didn’t want to hear what he had to say.  

I’ve always enjoyed honest people, so Ward and I quickly hit it off well.  When he became the moderator of the Presbytery he invited me to speak about the ministry at Plainview.  As the moderator he did his work with grace and a sense of humor.  Every time he addressed the Presbytery as the moderator he would say something like, “it’s always a pleasure to be with you.”  

He had the task of moderating the special meeting where the Presbytery voted to ordain Paul Capetz.  It was a difficult and contentious meeting.  Ward did it with grace and a sense of humor.  He later told me that he slept for two days after that meeting.

Ward was a big supporter of the new church development called Chain of Lakes.  When I first started as the Organizing Pastor I needed a place to stay.  Ward was able to secure the church house at Presbyterian Church of the Way and convinced their session to let me stay there.  It was a big help for me at the start of this ministry.

Ward’s lasting legacy to Chain of Lakes will be the hundreds of hours he put in to help secure a piece of property.  Before we started I told him I would be willing to get down on my hands and knees to beg him to be the leader of our first group.  He laughed and said that wasn’t necessary.  At our first meeting he, Dave Nyberg and I drove around the area looking at listings from a MLS print out.  We finished our meeting eating hamburgers and drinking a beer at Millers on Main.  We never could have dreamed that a little more than a year later the Presbytery would unanimously approve the purchase of a 8.9 acre parcel of property at the northern edge of the Lakes Development.  Ward’s leadership was a significant reason that this purchase happened.

When cancer struck Ward, he faced it liked he faced all his projects—with an upbeat attitude and a realistic assessment of what could happen.   As he did with others, Ward came to visit me when he closed his office because of his health.  He talked about what he wanted to accomplish, the treatment plan that he had chosen, and we shed some tears about what was happening.  We prayed together putting our trust in God who knows much more than we do.

I last talked to Ward about ten days before his passing.  He had already shared publicly that he had stopped taking treatment, so we didn’t talk about his health.  He was thrilled about going to church at Presbyterian Church of the Way on Easter and the wedding of his son.  

The world does not shine quite as bright because of Ward’s passing.  None of us understands why a person at age 57 and in the prime of his life is suddenly taken.  We can give thanks for all of the qualities in him that we loved.  Ward, it was always a pleasure to be with you!

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