A very nice article was printed in the Mirror last week about the ministry of Pastor Brint Shafer of First United Methodist Church in Hollidaysburg.
As of this past Sunday, he has retired after 47 years of service, most of it in Central Pennsylvania charges, including churches in Huntingdon County, Altoona and Roaring Spring.
His congregation would tell you that he is a wonderful person and preacher; his sermons were entertaining and inspiring, comforting and funny. His countenance is both strong and gentle, whether at the pulpit or next to a hospital bed, in a business meeting or counseling session.
They could also tell you that he's a sports fan and often injected stories about sports, games and athletes into his messages; on Sunday mornings in the fall he'd talk football with his parishioners.
With a passion for playing on the church Sunday softball team, his Roaring Spring congregation in the 80s celebrated Pastor Shafer's Doctor of Ministry degree with a postgame picnic.
During those years, he'd also run several miles through town on most days with a couple of friends, and enjoy high-paced games of hide-and-seek and flashlight tag with the church youth group.
For the Hollidaysburg congregation that swelled under his leadership, he was like the seasoned skipper of a baseball dynasty or a legendary football coach. He seemed to know when his team needed to be fired up with a rousing pep talk and when they needed an understanding shoulder to cry on after a tough loss.
Pastor Shafer has never graced the cover of Sports Illustrated or had his likeness on a box of Wheaties, but he has been a champion of hearts and souls over several generations.
Whether it was during a candlelit Christmas Eve, or contemporary coffee house service, in a sanctuary or on a softball diamond, he found a way to pursue a higher calling while somehow staying completely down to earth.
He is someone who has been loved and admired by so many, not just because he is a man of God, but because he is just a good man. He's the kind of coach you want to play for.
On Sunday, Pastor Shafer gave his final sermon, and just like a great coach would do, in his unselfish, strong and gentle way, encouraged the team he has served so faithfully to only "cry until July,'' and then to forge on to new promised lands, while he enjoys his next chapter.
Shafer and his wife, Connie, deserve a long, happy and healthy retirement filled with more quiet "sports'' like walks in the woods.
No, he's never been part of the highlights on "SportsCenter'' for his softball or flashlight tag prowess, but he is an all-star among men, and in his last game, hit a walk-off home run.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.