An Amazing Teacher, Leader, and Servant   Leave a comment

My nursery school teacher, one of the wonderful leaders God has put in my life, someone who touched literally thousands of lives, died in November at the age of 87. I had the privilege of being asked to speak last weekend at her memorial service; here’s the tribute I gave:

Like many people here today, I was a student of Trinity Presbyterian Nursery School in my early years; and like, I suspect, everyone here, I have been a lifelong student of Rosemary Smith.

Rosemary was one of the first people from whom I learned about God’s love for me and for everyone, and it’s possible she may have been the first person to explicitly articulate the concept to me at age 3. Like my family, she showed that love in her behavior at least as much as she told of it in the simple stories and songs she taught to her young students. She was full of that love, in an abundant and infectious way.

Our family’s contact with Rosemary only increased after my and my brother’s preschool years, and she and her late husband Jim became regular guests at our home, considered friends by every generation in our family, including both of my grandmothers, and my brother’s three children, who have had a chance to meet Rosemary on several occasions and develop relationships with her.

I worked for Rosemary at Trinity Nursery School one summer during college, and in my 20’s I was a member of many teams that she led at the church to plan Family Camp or Vacation Bible School. Two years ago I got to introduce her to my wife (then my fiancée), and tell her about my new life in the Brotherhood. Through every one of these eras, Rosemary has had love-filled, age-appropriate lessons for me, sometimes spoken explicitly, sometimes expressed in her behavior. My brother often speaks of the parenting advice she has continued to give him as recently as this summer. How many nursery school teachers are still in their students’ lives 40 years later?

She was always so positive and upbeat. She would acknowledge when things weren’t as she might like them, but never in an angry or bitter way; she just worked with whatever situation she was given. And above all, she lifted up the needs of children.

Rosemary was a teacher not only to the children who went through the nursery school she founded and ran for decades, but to the adults of all ages who knew her. We have all learned from her in her many roles in the Church and in the community. Teachers she hired, and parents of her students learned from her—and some of those parents and teachers had been her students a generation earlier. Her fellow parishioners at Trinity got to learn from her in her role as an incredible lay leader in the Church.

As the quintessential teacher, she had a lesson—or a dozen—for everyone she encountered. She taught everyone because that was what she did: it was her holy vocation. Her lessons, in my experience, were completely free of any sense of superiority or judgment: she taught not because she had any sense of being better than you, but simply because she had wisdom and experience that she thought would be helpful. Wisdom and experience that were her particular gifts from God. Wisdom and experience that would make you a better you, and the world a better world. Lessons shared with God’s love, in hopes of making the world better reflect that love.

Likewise, I can’t think of anything Rosemary did for her own glory. Rosemary may have run the nursery school, the Vacation Bible School, or whatever given ministry; but it was always God’s ministry—Rosemary was the servant leader.

I hope that all of us will continue to learn from the lesson that her life was: to use the gifts that each of us has received from God in the way that God has ordained—a way that shows God’s love and brings God glory.

Posted 21 December 2016 by Br. Scott Michael Pomerenk, BSG in Uncategorized

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