In the 1990s, I was a newspaper reporter in Western Massachusetts and for about five years, I covered the small city of Northampton. While my main “beat” was education, I also became the secondary city reporter for some events. It was during my time there that I kept running into the Rev. Peter Ives, of the First Churches. When there were issues of domestic violence, he was there to talk through and push for changes. When there were racial issues, he was one of the voices calling for restraint, even in the midst of protest. He opened up the church sanctuary for all kinds of community events, although many were of the social justice nature. I came to respect and admire Rev. Ives, and his wife, over the years for their outspoken nature balanced with true compassion.
Flash forward a few years, and my wife and I are having our second son. My wife, who grew up in a church-going household, was seeking a religious home, and she chose the First Churches for our family. I was reconnected with Peter Ives and his wife, Jenny, on another level, and again, I was amazed at how open and supportive they were/are to everyone, no matter their religious, race, sexuality, whatever. Although I am not religious, I attend church periodically, and I am always blown away by Peter’s sermons — they are poetic, touching and full of meaning. He takes gospel, weaves it in with world events and makes the issues personal. Peter has always connected with my children, too, on a personal and spiritual level, and they respect him. It helps that he organizes three fun family football games a year, too.
Well, Peter is retiring from the ministry, and yesterday, the church service centered on Peter’s years as a teaching minister, and how he has helped guide 30 people over 30 years into religious leadership. As part of that celebration, I was honored to be asked to join our little church jazz band and choir for a jazzy rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” which seems appropriate for Peter and Jenny, as they seek to make the world a better place.
Peace (in the world),