Farewell, Rev. Tremba
Randy Tremba, minister extraordinaire, stepped off stage on Sunday. I haven’t felt this sad since Johnny Carson retired. Yes, Buddha, I know impermanence is life but give me some time to adjust!
Some memories. A few years ago, when we felt moved to attend a Christmas Eve service, we opted for Randy’s. He gave a spellbinding sermon that night depicting Mary, a strong mother, as the source of the passion for social justice that later blossomed in the Sermon on the Mount. Filing out that evening, I gave Randy a hug and told him that I was an ex-Jesuit and his sermon was the best Christmas homily I had ever heard, including my own!
Later in the winter of 2012, when I was retiring from teaching in Loudoun County, I wanted to talk with someone in town about networking and getting established here. I had a delightful talk with Randy and Ethel Hornbeck in which we did the mating dance of the crabs until we found the spark that told us we were all of the same mind: affection for Rumi and Hafiz seemed to do the trick. From there it was smooth sailing and there is one moment that has stuck in my mind. Randy, with a kindly smile, asked me: “Are you committed to Shepherdstown?” I responded in the affirmative.
On the night of this past June 8th, Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, commonly known as “Randy’s” was packed with his own congregants and many, many others who were not of his church but just came “to hear Randy.” Someone next to me commented that she was not feeling really well but did not want to miss what she called the major social event in Shepherdstown for 2017. All of Randy’s talents were in bas relief and, as he wove a tapestry of stories from his 40 years here, I was struck by how Christ like he is. Once, he said, he went in to the Meck and someone complained that they had seen the minister going into a bar. I thought to myself “He eats and drinks in the company of sinners.” (I realize there are other layers to this!) He had a keen eye and empathetic heart for anyone who was in any way on the margins of mainstream approval whether it was the town drunk, the local characters, or the wondrous and blessed LGBT community. “Who was neighbor to this man?” I was also struck by his many non-church innovations such as the Good News Paper and the Rumsey Radio Hour. For Randy, and he told me this himself, church was the vast world out there; the church building was not “the church” and that is why he always would begin services by welcoming people to “this house of prayer”. That is also why he was often found out on the hustings visiting, dialoguing, engaging, organizing, leading. The church was everywhere.
As I listened to Randy Thursday I could also hear the words of the people in explaining their enthusiasm for Jesus: “He speaks with authority and not like our Scribes.” Finally, I notice when I see Randy that I always break into a smile. This is because he has such a great sense of humor. We do not hear much about Jesus having a sense of humor but here the Sufis come to our aid. They are the mystical sect of Islam and they believe that the essence of God is laughter.
Godspeed, Randy. How good that you will continue to live among us and bless these loving streets of Shepherdstown.
Bill O’Brien is a Consciousness Coach in Shepherdstown. www.billobrienconsciousnesscoaching.com.