Emotion fills Mayfield’s final sermon
DILLON – Longtime pastor Rich Mayfield delivered his final sermon Sunday morning at Lord of the Mountains Church in Dillon, evoking both tears and laughter from a congregation about 300 people deep.The standing-room-only crowd listened intently to Mayfield’s every word as he shared stories behind the memorabilia he’d collected during his 23 years as pastor at the Lutheran church.He showed pictures of those who had influenced him over the years, including comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, author Mark Twain and sailing adventurer Tristan Jones, who Mayfield, 59, credited with reminding him to “push away from the dock and say: I’m in charge of the waters.” From a cardboard box Mayfield filled earlier this week as he cleaned out his office, he pulled the silver cross he was given when he was ordained in 1980, cartoons, photos and cards accumulated over the years, and his first royalty check he received as an author.”This probably isn’t the right time to remind you that my book is on sale,” Mayfield joked. Other stories stemmed from a piece of the Berlin Wall sent to him by a member of the congregation, a photo of a bald eagle with a tear in its eye he received following 9/11, and a rubbing from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial carrying the name of his childhood friend that hung on his office wall.
Mayfield sung a hymn he penned at one time to help share the gospel with church-goers before telling the congregation how much it meant to him to be a part of their lives. “I’ve traveled to distant places like Tanzania, favorite places like Great Britain many, many times, but nothing compares – nothing, nothing at all – to the joy of the experience of sharing my life with all of you,” Mayfield said, his otherwise strong voice shaking. “It has been an enormous privilege to be invited into your lives, in the happiest of times, in the saddest of times. I’ve been honored and humbled by your love.”A raucous round of applause boomed in the church, and tissues were pulled from purses as sniffles sounded around the room. Mayfield’s mark, it seems, is one that won’t soon be forgotten.”He relates religion to the real world and everyday life in a way that really resonates with me. … He assists me to put things in perspective,” said Tom Brown, who met Mayfield during his first year as pastor, and traveled from Littleton to hear his close friend’s last sermon.At a reception held Sunday in Mayfield’s honor, Brown recalled one sermon when Mayfield prepared and baked the communion bread while preaching to the congregation.”Except for today, it’s the only time I ever recall a spontaneous, enthusiastic applause at the end of a sermon,” he said.
Dillon resident and longtime Lord of the Mountains member Koert Voorhees said he’ll always remember the time Mayfield blessed his hermit crab during church.Mayfield’s memories of his time at Lord of the Mountains will be equally as cherished as those who listened to his words week after week for more than two decades.”It’s been a great job. I’m leaving a healthy congregation, I’m leaving well enough and healthy enough, I hope, to begin new and exciting things, so I feel real good about that,” Mayfield said at his reception.Not that he doesn’t have any regrets.”Pastors and columnists, I might add, can irritate people, and the thing I’ll miss least is hurting people, that’s been a toughest part, but it’s been outweighed by so many true blessings; knowing people and being a part of marriages and baptisms and funerals,” he said.Mayfield and his wife, Sue, a school teacher who’s also retiring, plan to spend their summers in Summit County and their winters in Southern California, where Mayfield grew up.He’ll continue to write his weekly column for the Summit Daily News, and consult in human resources for a local company, but other than that, the future is wide open.
“I don’t know what the future holds for him, but his gift, I think, is in preaching, and I just hope that he continues to share God’s love and the word,” said Mayfield’s mother, Florence, who traveled from Costa Mesa, Calif., to attend Sunday’s sermon.Mayfield was born Dec. 15, 1946, in Los Angeles. He earned a Bachelors of Arts in theater at Pepperdine University and completed graduate work in theater at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He did his theological work at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary from 1975 to 1979.Mayfield has been married to his wife Sue for 38 years, and has three children.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at email@example.com.
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