A harmless, bullish sort of man, I have come to love and appreciate our Director of Place-bound Member Care, my friend Robert “Bob” Merkley. I have never met anyone with as much self-less care, devotion, and love his or her church as Bob has for First Christian Church.
It’s as if Bob is permanently and perpetually attempting to repay an unnoticed, unaccounted for debt of support this church lavished upon him in his adolescence. Through family circumstances beyond his control and rough relations with his classmates, Bob found a home here at First Christian Church. Marian Stoner and Ray Jennings, along with others who have left our midst, exampled Christ to Bob, and there is no doubt their influence continues to live in Bob’s loving actions today.
Bob is the Great-Grandson of a former Des Moines Police Chief and a 4th generation member of First Christian Church. His first recollection of this church is seeing our bell tower, as he and his family traveled from home to church, east on University Avenue. One of his favorite, formative memories was a special Episcopal Folk Mass the High School Youth planed and led shortly after Dr. Carl Staplin arrived as our Organist.
In 1968, Bob graduated from Roosevelt High School. Enrolling in Central College in Pella, Iowa, four years later Bob graduated with a degree in theater. Then in pursuit of a Master of Divinity degree, he attended Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky; however, short of completing the requirements Bob returned home to once again find wholehearted embrace and affirmation of character with our congregation. In 1979, Bob married Ann, and they have three children, all raised and are current members of First Christian Church.
Bob’s first sermon from our pulpit was in between his first and second year at Lexington, in the summer of 1973. “I have always felt called, but to what?” Bob recently said to me. Of course, as Christ followers we are all called to imitate Christ, and in words and deeds live out the Good News of Jesus the Christ. Nonetheless, there are some people, men and women, who know an interior call. Something beyond the general: “Come and follow me.” Sometime more Peter-like: “Feed my sheep” – or we could say, “Serve my Church.”
Discerning a call to ministry is not something to be considered lightly or unadvisedly, but reverently and deliberately. Coming to the point of accepting a call to ministry could take months, years, even decades. Most recently Bob has found clarity in his calling; saying, “I have a call to proclaim – in my living I proclaim that God is in my life and is in the world.”
It is our pleasure to once again welcome Robert “Bob” Merkley to the pulpit of First Christian Church this Sunday, May 31, 2015!