There is a man walking down a Chicago street

In Honorum

Tom Terrell, January 22, 2017

There is a man walking down a Chicago street; one of several million in just this city alone doing just this. He has a soft yet resonant voice that calmly projects words of power; his own as well as those of others. He is a humble man in simple clothes topped by a clerical collar, well-earned grey hair and a perpetual unstrained kindness. He is a modest man of long years, considerable intellect and deep hours of good works most will never know of. He is a man that struggles unendingly to find what good might be missing in every situation and every person… including himself. He is a joyful man who, despite – or maybe because of -- his weighty care for all those around him, is quick to offer a joke, share a smile, preach something silly to make a child laugh. He is also prone to extended periods of profound concern for those persons he knows as well as those he has never met, and never will. He walks alone to his church and he walks home… but he is never really alone. We of his church carry him with us as we depart from him. We carry his message of the day, the Lord’s message to the world, which is relevant and well thought-out, with us as we go about our lives throughout the week. He is a man that would not recognize this because he is not the kind to credit himself. He is not the kind to profit here on this earth. He wisely balances his existence and how he lives his life so that he can offer whatever may be necessary whenever it may be required to others in need and this very act is a delicate dance requiring forbearance and wisdom and great strength. He creates a community of like-minded people through the strength of his faith in us knowing that we have capacity and capabilities that we may not have yet given voice and energy to. He easily sells this faith on our gifts as he so truly believes in them. He encourages us, gives us the courage, to grow into leaders. He is a man of unassuming stride content in being where he is when he is there and is not afraid of what might come whatever may. He is a man that believes with all his soul that Jesus, son of Joseph, son of Mary and indeed Son of God, is the only person that he knows personally that is worth following without preamble or hesitation; that this is a safe but impossible set of shoes to fill or model to emulate. He is a man that conceals from those passing him on the sidewalk a self that they could not readily imagine or expect because he is a man that they have so rarely, if ever, met. He is a man that is perfect only in his imperfection and he whittles away at his mantle of shortcomings whenever time permits; working with honesty and an uncommon work ethic.

There is a man walking through a cold, grey neighborhood that he blesses, and that blesses him, with a knowledge that people that “are not like him” are beautiful, loving, compassionate, caring and faithful regardless of skin tone or sexual preference, country of origin or even religious leanings or lack thereof. He is a man that will strive to share his love for others in such a way that his audience might avoid the requirement of passing a lifetime of self-learning to do so themselves. He will try to save them the hard work of studying and learning to accept and appreciate diversity as many may not have direct exposure to this diversity. He knows full-well how difficult it can be for a person, or a people, to not fear that which is not known or understood. He fights with peace as his weapon for social justice, and speaks boldly for those that are often left unheard in our society, and inspires those around him to do so as well. At the same time, he is soft-spoken enough in conversation, and his smile comes quickly enough, that you feel immediately comfortable, and know that he would take your burden. His blessing is in this diverse world of contradictory revelations of human nature and the nature of things and he is a force for good; predictable and true. He is a man that believes completely that it is not enough to “just believe” in Christ and his divine message and heritage nor to “only” accept Jesus as your Savior. He has long known that with this admission, there is an additional requirement that we try and change ourselves to better fit the profile of a person that has given him or herself over to the Lord; that this is the only real way to find fulfillment on this earth and to do the title of “Christian” honor through right duty. He is a man that refutes the ideas behind the victimization of “The Church” with crystal clarity, living a life of value to all around him; a life that is in the Church and a life that is filled with the Church. Pastor Thomas Norman Terrell is a testament to why church has mattered and always will regardless of whether it manifests itself in a constant and historical style or in a more dynamic and modern manner. He is as dynamic as our church and true to his call here reaching toward his third decade as the spiritual leader of our flock; satisfied with his position here despite the other options that are definitely available to him professionally and spiritually. His humor, his depth and his openness should be acknowledged as should any good person’s virtues today; they are necessary and they are desperately needed. There is a kind man of many well-chosen words and seemingly infinite sermons, who is free of judgement and is working to combat anger and aggression and injustice, sometimes tirelessly…sometimes tiredly, over the decades, walking once again to church today. Thank God.


-Rick Uppling and the congregation of Christ Lutheran Church, Albany Park, Chicago



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