So often the final (mortal) judgement or arm chair quarterback evaluation for people and the measure of another person’s life, always take place at their funeral. What a person did, how they touched people’s lives, and what they left behind. I’ve been to a my fair share of funerals and I don’t think any two have ever had services or lives have even come close to each other. So for for me each one has been totally distinct and often had a great take-a-way.
This one for me was a definite one-of-a-kind and one that will long remain with me. I was privileged and fortunate enough to meet Elgin Rintoul some thirty-three years ago. It was 1978 and I was a student at Fanshawe College in London ON., taking Radio Broadcasting, while my brother was taking law at the University of Western Ontario. His bride to be Margaret (Peggy), also a law student dad was Elgin who was a long-time minister for the Unitied Church of Canada. The family was about to make one of many moves from Dresden, a small town in South-western Ontario of around two thousand people famous for being the home of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to yet another small town named Belmont with even a smaller population. Being a young guy who knew how to drive a truck I was happily conscripted to help with the move.
So there I was moving this family of two teenage girls (Peggy’s sisters), a dog, and a house full of stuff that only a Minister travelling from town to town is bound to accumulate. Although I had been versed on the law of the harvest, “you reap what you sew”, from my own Uncle Victor, yet another minister, my mom’s older brother I had no way of knowing it was to apply here so well over the next 33 years.
Only a few years later my first gift was to be returned by the kindness and thoughtfulness of Elgin in presiding over my own mother’s funeral. Only four months after that my second gift would arrive when Elgin presided over my own wedding to my wife Debby. My wife and I were privileged to attend several of his sermons at the Belmont United Church and I can say with certainty that each and everyone had a simple but applicable message where you could manifest the best lessons of Christianity into everyday applications, and there was lots to think about and always considered that my third gift, given in many doses.
During Elgin’s holiday time, those few weeks off from working mostly a 7 day a week job, he managed to build of couple of log cabins with family members. the one at lake Kapicog my our family enjoyed many times for many years, including being the location of my eldest daughter Dawn’s engagement. So there was the fourth gift that I received from Elgin which likely he never gave any thought to. You see, some of the best gifts are simply ripples that get enjoyed in countless ways and are never known to the sender or the receiver, but isn’t it fun when you can connect the dots? Ah but there was a fifth gift to come. So as I thought about those gifts during Elgin’s funeral, I also thought about his long and distinguished career.
Elgin had served in more than nine communities and nine different congregations over his 40 years as a Unitied Church Minister. Because of my long association with the United Church and having travelled from church to church with Rev. Victor Wallgren (my Uncle) I have a very good idea of what that meant. Next to a dairy farmer who works 365 days a year, a Minister likely works almost as many consecutive days. Sermons, and the writing of them really become only a small portion of their vocation as holding meetings, doing weddings, baptisms and of course funerals are added to by visiting congregation members in hospitals, going to church picnics and serving the community in 101 other roles to make a long work week very long. Their job is never done and like the on-call surgeon they are only ever one phone call away from bouncing out of bed on a moments notice.
In today’s hectic world going weekly to a local church and participating in their many activities is often in decline. Many people today will never really understand the sense of community that is created in this or for that matter most religious places of worship. . The “small town minister” as Elgin was often called really helped the health of a community where, like the old Michael Landon TV series Little House On The Prairie or the Walton’s, everyone really did know everyone else’s name but more importantly responded to their needs.
So it was this leadership that Elgin willingly took on for forty years. It was this leadership that saw him play recitals with his family in the local nursing home. No unrealistic expectations were had by this man, just move forward and administer God’s word and work was it. As I thought to myself, if I was to do a Eulogy, I would appoint myself as Class Valedictorian; Class of Elgin. The class of thousands of lives who were married by, were part of a church youth group or in countless other ways were touched and impacted by Elgin. In my eulogy I would include this simple poem, which represents Elgin’s approach to life so well.
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
~ John Wesley
How could you possibly sum it up any better. In fact the writer, John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist Church in the United States, and ironically spent part of his ministerial life going from town to town around New England by horse. Ironic because Elgin Rintoul was also known as a Saddle Preacher in Northern Alberta for several years before his United Ministry job in Ontario. It’s hard to imagine going from place to place continually and in some cases going miles just to find a couple of farmers and their families. For more on his experience click on this link, “The Last of the Saddlebag Preachers: Thoughts and Recollections of Rev. Elgin RIntoul.
So at the funeral, I had many thoughts about this man as the his daughter Peggy eloquently retold both the chronology of his career including being a school teacher for five years, but mostly focused on the human side of Elgin’s life. There were different accounts of a minister playing a violin, learning to play the tuba, and finding different ways to explore opportunities to share ideas and life and above all contribute making the community a better place to live for his congregation and residence. For me the poignant point was that last visit to the coffin by his three daughters Peggy, Ruth and Jean and wife Mary of 61 years. How do you say goodbye after 61 years? If ever there was a profession that was a family affair it is certainly being in the family of clergy where you are catipulted into 1,001 different scenarios of participating in community life with everything from Church Bakes Sales to helping out with Sunday School. Yes another great legacy of this man was three healthy families living a good prosperous life.
“I’ve learned in life the thing you use to think matter in the end don’t matter,
and the things you think didn’t matter, really do matter!”
~ Elgin Rintoul
A Positive Life, Measured and Mastered
Very few people can say they touched thousands of lives. Elgin was one of the relative few who did! But why is it, our appreciation for a man seems to grow ten fold once he’s gone? I am once again reminded that we need to appreciate people more when they are still here with us. Elgin was a simple man, who knew his purpose and lot in life in a world where very few do. He spent his whole life making the lives of others better and I am just one of the countless recipients. What a blessed gift to cherish and live up to. That was my fifth gift.
Victor Sinclair PI/PMI Founder