It was a late Sunday night in March 2007 and we were hungry. The youth group and adult leaders from Albany First Christian Church had just spent six hours touring around New Orleans. We were driving back to McComb, Miss.,
where we would spend the next five days doing post-Hurricane Katrina fix-up projects. All we could think of north of Lake Pontchartrain was food, so we pulled off the freeway when we saw a golden arch.
I heard familiar whistling while waiting in the long line at McDonald’s. Turning around, I saw one of our leaders, Paul Pritchard, rag in hand, cleaning a counter and whistling a tune. He spent 10 minutes cleaning every counter and a few of the tables in that restaurant. I’m sure if he had a few more minutes, he would have swashed the toilets, too. As we left, the young McDonald’s staff thanked him for his volunteer service.
Paul likes to clean thing and fix things, so serving as our church custodian for more than a decade proved to be a perfect fit. I called him the singing janitor. Others referred to him as the minister of maintenance. Like everything he does, he was helpful, friendly, generous and funny.
So it was no wonder that nearly 200 people turned out last Sunday after church for Paul’s retirement party, featuring one of his favorite foods, pancakes. He wasn’t honored just for his stint as custodian or the many other jobs he held over the years. It was Thanksgiving a few days early, an occasion where we got to say thanks to this likable, outgoing guy who has given so much to his church and community.
His good friend Art Morgan of Corvallis reminded us that Paul was an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister and served in various capacities early in his career at Corvallis First Christian Church and Albany First Christian. For more than 30 years, Art and Paul have been the ministers of Moment Ministries, aimed at people not connected with churches. Paul has conducted countless weddings, funeral and baptisms in those years, singing at many of them. For his service, Paul received an Honored Minister pin Sunday.
Paul’s greatest gift is his voice. He and his wife, Mary, have sung in the First Christian choir for years, and Paul has led the choir from time to time. He is a member of the Corvallis Repertory Singers and sings at events around the mid-valley, frequently featured with singer Gale Hazel.
At the end of Sunday’s party, Paul said a few words then concluded with a beautiful rendition of one of his favorite songs, “Sail On.” It featured in the video below, with Paul’s friend Gary Ruppert accompanying him on piano.