Rev. James Long
Minister of Pastoral Care

When Dr. Richard Wing departs as Senior Minister of First Community Church, I will have worked with him for exactly 23 years.

He hired me as an intern while I was completing seminary. I remember seeing him at the Annual Meeting soon after he arrived. I was on the Governing Board at the time. He asked me what my plans were. I said I needed to do my field education, probably at a much smaller church since I had only belonged to two larger churches, First Community and National Presbyterian Church when I was working as a lawyer in Washington, D.C. He said I should do my field education at our church, where he assured me I could learn all I needed.

He later made me an Associate Minister, preaching the sermon at my ordination and installation.

For much of the time, my office has been just down the hall from him and he is the person for whom I have worked the longest in my professional career. I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated my association with Dick these many years.

On a personal level, he was an excellent mentor. He was very helpful to me at a difficult time early in my ministry when I needed to rethink commitments and priorities as we seriously pursued our ministry and the church’s mission together. He ultimately urged me towards pastoral care and has always affirmed pastoral ministry in our church.

I am grateful to Dick for his willingness to call me to a position serving in my home church. I am aware that this could have been difficult for him if things had not worked out, given that my relationship to the church goes back to my grandparents on both sides of my family. Not every senior minister would have made this choice. He generously said that not everyone could serve their home church, but he thought I could do so and gave me the opportunity.

It has been a blessing in my life to serve our church with him, not that it was always easy for him.

I remember early in my tenure that we had switched to our summer worship schedule. I was supposed to be the liturgist at the North Campus one Sunday morning. I was at home and my wife Clare, who is the more detail oriented of the two of us, asked me if I needed to be at church. I rather condescendingly replied that if she would read the church news, she would know the summer worship schedule. It seems that I was the one who had not read the news.

When I arrived to fulfill my duties, I knew something was amiss when I saw all the cars in the parking lot. I went in, put on my robe and walked into the service, thinking I was soon to be a “former” associate minister at the church. Dick had already performed all my duties, including a wonderful extemporaneous pastoral prayer. I knew it was wonderful because someone asked him for a copy, but he humorously replied that “it’s gone!” He was calm and good natured about the whole thing.

Indeed, it has been a great joy working with him. I can say without hesitation that Dick’s leadership at the church has been crucial for us as a community of faith. He has been very steady and consistent in the pursuit of our mission in the midst of the many challenges we face. He has done so with dedication and a joyful spirit.

He and Shirley have been good friends and I am sincerely grateful for their time serving our church and community.

I wish them all of God’s blessings in the future years.