God’s gift of friendship

By on February 22, 2017

I really like being a Lutheran pastor.

Pastor Jeffery Goodman

Pastor Jeffrey Goodman Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church 

When I first considered going into the ordained ministry my pastor said to me, “Jeff, if you can do anything else you should do that.” He said that because in order to be a faithful and effective pastor, one has to give their life to this kind of work.

Halfway will not cut it.

I have many colleagues in the ministry who do give it their all and I enjoy listening to their to experiences. More often than not, I am amazed at their abilities and compassion for those whom our Lord Christ loves.

I want to tell you about one of those faithful men in the ordained  ministry, my friend and brother in Christ Father, John McLoughlin.

Father McLoughlin serves over at Our Mother of Perpetual

Help parish here in Ephrata.

OMPH is a Redemptorist parish that recently celebrated its 100th anniversary here in the Ephrata area.

Even though we are friends, Father McLoughlin and I are very different men: he is a Roman Catholic and I am a Lutheran.

He is a Roman Catholic priest with all that entails and I am a family man with a wife and children.

"Father John" McLoughlin, OMPH Pastor, is a larger-than-life character who loves to interact with students, faculty, and parishioners. Father John (above) dressed as a pirate at "Treasure Island" fundraiser in 2015. (Photo by Patrick Burns)

“Father John” McLoughlin, OMPH Pastor, is a larger-than-life character who loves to interact with students, faculty, and parishioners. Father John (above) dressed as a pirate at “Treasure Island” fundraiser in 2015. (Photo by Patrick Burns)

He serves a large parish with thousands of members and I serve a small parish that numbers in the low hundreds.

Father John McLoughlin saying mass at Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Ephrata

Father John McLoughlin saying mass at Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Ephrata

He hails from the New York City area and I am from New Holland.

He roots for Notre Dame football (of course!) and I root for Navy Football (which beat Notre Dame this year!).

Yet, with all those differences,

I know John to be my brother in Christ and my very good friend.

As busy as John is (he could use a few assistants), he always has time for me and not just for me only, but it seems anyone he encounters. He makes time for people no matter who they are (just as our Lord Christ did/does). When he meets you, you sense immediately his easy-going nature and joy in the Faith.

Father John McLoughlin, above, speaks during "Blue Mass," which honors local first responders and recognizes those who lost their lives while serving communities across Pennsylvania. OMPH has held the service since 2009.

Father John McLoughlin, above, speaks during “Blue Mass,” which honors local first responders and recognizes those who lost their lives while serving communities across Pennsylvania. OMPH has held the service since 2009.

Recently, I have been brought into a closer relationship with John by serving alongside of him as chaplain to the Ephrata Police Department. We work together to ensure that one of us is available to serve the officers of the department, as well as those in the community in times of difficulty.

John, of course, has had experience as a police chaplain for many years, starting first in Baltimore and then moving here to Ephrata, and he has been a great resource for me in getting started.

Through this and in other places, I look forward to seeing our friendship grow. Because the fact is this: having a friend like Father McLoughlin makes me a better pastor and person by reminding me to be more open and joyful in the Faith.

Friends do that. They model for us what we hope to be more like. In this way, they help smooth out our rough edges and show us different ways of thinking or seeing things. Truly friendship is a gift and a calling from God.

So, give thanks to God for your friends. I don’t think we can ever have enough. If you don’t have any friends, cross the threshold of nearly any church in this town and there you will find friends you haven’t met yet.

Pastors need friends, too, and one of mine is Father John McLoughlin. I thank God for him and God’s good gift of friendship.

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Social media editor and staff writer for Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express.

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