Today, a “giant” of a man transitioned from this life to the next. He was diagnosed with cancer less than two weeks ago and died surrounded by his beloved wife and family. He was a giant in so many ways, his love of God, his passion for justice and his commitment to the church oh…and he stood over 6’6″. His name was Reverend Charles Curtis and looked like ever picture you have ever seen of Abraham Lincoln.
Like Lincoln, Charles had a deep sense of what is just and right and good. Back in the sixties, Charles and his family were threatened when he stood up for the right of all people to be welcomed in the church and the neighborhood regardless of their race or the color of their skin. Charles marched for justice, preached the love of God for all and lived his faith and belief in word and deed. He served the local church as pastor, preacher and teacher. He served the annual conference as a leader, District Superintendent, and mentor of clergy.
On a personal note, Charles was a man I admired. He supported my ministry from the very beginning, following my different appointments, positions I held in the annual conference and delighting in my appointment at West Heights. He prayed for me, encouraged me and on occasion told me when my sermon was not up to standard. He reminded me that taking the side of the vulnerable, the outsider and those who were oppressed was worth doing, even when individuals, the community or even the church didn’t believe. Some things take time to be lived into reality. Our job as faithful people is to live the reality of the reign of God even when others don’t understand or see it.
Charles was beloved at West Heights as one of the early pastors and then in retirement as pastor emeritus. He lived with the long term effects of Guillain Barre. Even though his body weakened over time, he found ways to enjoy life with his beloved wife Betty and do most of the things they longed to do together. His last days were spent laughing, remembering, story telling and saying goodbye. His faith sustained in his dying as it did in his living.
I can only pray that my faith is as strong a witness in word and deed. Charles memory IS a blessing, but more importantly a challenge for those of us who remain. I am grateful for Charles faith, his love and his witness. I hope I can live and die As well as he did. As I remember his legacy, I remain
Graced to Serve