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Tribute to Pastor John Ashbrook

The following is a guest post, written by my friend Christy Scheiderer. Christy is married to Josh Scheiderer, my close friend and the pastor of Bible Community Church in Mentor, Ohio, the church where John Ashbrook spent most of his life. She has a unique perspective on Pastor Ashbrook, who is most commonly known for his fundamentalist stand, but who also had a gentle side that those who didn’t personally interact with him may not have known. Christy captured his generous, witty spirit well. I share this with her permission.

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Taken at Bible Community Church by Christy Scheiderer

In the Summer of 2005, I flew a great distance to be at the funeral of a man who was very dear to me. That man was my Grandfather. He was a retired Pastor of many years, and I had, since birth been very close to him. Today, very much like then, I am flying a great distance to attend the funeral of another man, who likewise was very dear to me: Pastor Ashbrook.

Though I had known Pastor Ashbrook a relatively short 3 ½ years, I cherish the dear memories I have of him. These memories have washed over me the past 3 days, and it is with sincere pleasure I share them.

The house was still in moving boxes, children were running around in pajamas, and I think breakfast dishes were certainly still in the sink when he knocked on the door. We had just moved to Mentor, OH, and though Josh had not come to Mentor yet to assume the pastorate of Bible Community Church due to an obligation which kept him in DC for another week, the kids and I had moved in to start the school-year on-time. He came with something in hand, and said, “Good Morning, Mrs. Scheiderer.” He had something he wanted to share with me. He was brief, polite and unassuming. He would not come in, but he brought something he thought I would enjoy reading as I had time. It was a copy of the OBF Visitor, an article he had written in memory of his wife, Virginia. He also brought me tomatoes. The tomatoes were a help for dinner, the article was for the rest of my life. And that was the beginning.

We liked to talk. He had good advice about gardening, which I needed in our first year of gardening. “Those broccoli plants will feed your family the rest of the Summer.” And they did. “Just pick those green tomatoes and lay them in the Sun. I eat on them till Thanksgiving.” And we did. “I just mix a bunch of lettuce seed in one row and when I harvest it, that’s a mixed salad.” And it was.

He also had the quick wit I’m used to. We usually greeted each other smiling and left one another laughing. I never walked away from a conversation from him until I had been so satisfied. I can still see him peering at me with a lowered eye, and a hesitant jaw-line as if to say, “I’m not sure if I should say this.” And then, he would go on till we were both laughing. One of the funnier things he told me as we chatted one day about his week, “It seems I keep my social calendar full with Doctor appointments. I should have had enough sense to have chosen women Doctors!”

I loved the home-grown produce and was very thankful for it, so it was not uncommon during the first two years we were at BCC, to hear the doorbell ring and see that Pastor had come by with a bag of produce. When there were no goodies to share from his garden, I would share goodies from our kitchen. He fancied soup and bread packaged for him by many ladies in our church. He firmly believed that pumpkins were for carving Jack-O-Lanterns. He cared not for squash (unless it was disguised!) He grew peaches that impressed this southern girl. And, he really enjoyed pie!

I already miss his singing. After hearing from Mr. Banfield’s brother that he used to sing regularly in a quartet with Pastor Ashbrook, I thought I almost had him talked into singing in a small ensemble with me this Fall, but he kept putting me off. His last words about it were, “I’m not saying, “Yes.” To which I piped, “And you haven’t said, No.” To this he smiled. I was sure he would, but he later told Josh he never intended to. He got me again! When I sat behind him at church, he would turn around at the end of the service and say, “I thought that was you.” He thought singing should be done loudly and with heart. One day we will sing praises together that neither of us have known before.

He knew the right way to do things and helped you do them correctly. When my children were around, he would patiently talk to them and expect them to speak back to him in a good voice and looking him in the eyes. I’m thankful for that expectation, and for his patience with me as I corrected them when that was not their demeanor. I thought I’d invite him for tea one day, but wanted to give him some options of days he could come When I called and asked him which days worked for him, he replied they were all open. “Okay, which day would you like to come?” I inquired. “Well, you are the hostess, which day would you like me to come?” was his simple refrain. Phone conversations with him were short, and I can’t say that I remember him using the word “Goodbye”. He usually ended with, “Alright.”

My children loved his preaching in Chapel. They liked his illustrations the best. The last time we visited with him, I shared that with him, but that they usually didn’t know what point he was trying to make with the illustration. He grinned, and said, “Well, I don’t know that I can remember either!”

One day that he visited, he gave me a chopping block he had made. It will always sit on the counter by the stove. Another day, he brought me some plates and mugs that he thought matched my kitchen. They do.

These memories and words will probably not be able to communicate the whole of my feelings about Pastor Ashbrook, but suffice it to say that I just loved him. I appreciated the way he welcomed me here. I feel honored to have shared a friendship with him.

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue, lies silent in the grave, then in a sweeter, nobler song, I’ll sing His power to Save. I look forward to that day!

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