As I write this, the end of the year 1980 is approaching. I am reminded of the fact that with the retirement of two more of our older ministers, our churches have in a sense reached the end of an era.
I refer, of course, to the fact that during this past year the Rev. Robert C. Harbach and the Rev. John A. Heys attained the status of minister emeritus in our churches.
It is not my intention to repeat the various biographical details which were included in this year’s synodical Yearbook. These are available to all our families in that little booklet.
With the retirement of these two brethren, our churches have undergone a considerable transition; and all of the older generation of our ministers are now retired, though, fortunately, not inactive. Rev. Harbach, who was older when he came to us, became a minister in the post-1953 era and was a minister in our denomination for 25 years. Rev. Heys, a son of First Church, is the last of what might be termed the early generation of our Protestant Reformed ministers; he labored in the ministry of our churches since 1941. By the way, Rev. Heys has the distinction of being the musician among our ministers. He was organist in First Church before he entered the ministry; and he also has the distinction of making a contribution to ourPsalter.
None of our retired ministers stops working when he retires, of course. And these retirees are no exception. We are glad about this. It not only eases the shock of retirement for them, but also for our churches. May the Lord continue to bless them in their remaining years, and cause them to be a blessing to our churches in the labors which they may still accomplish.
Permit me the observation, however, that what might be termed a “changing of the guard” has been accomplished in our churches. Due to various circumstances, there is a considerable gap between the older and the younger generation in our ministry. Perhaps I myself belong between the two generations, since I am now the only pre-1953 active minister. For the rest, all our ministers are post-1953 and most of them are post-1960. In fact, if the Lord keeps all our men in good health, it should be several years before there are any new retirees.
There has been a transition, therefore. Our ministry is now preponderantly young.
From this point of view, I think we may be thankful, first of all, that our retirees are still active. It eases, the transition, and it helps to steady the ship.
Secondly, however, we may all be reminded also that the burden of the labor and the urgency of the calling to be faithful to our heritage falls with heavier impact upon our younger men. The “changing of the guard” must not mean a change in our ecclesiastical course, and it must not mean decreased emphasis upon our Reformed distinctives. We have an example to emulate, a tradition to preserve, and a heritage to cherish!