Bishop Thomas Bickerton consecrates the bread during a Sept. 7 Communion service with the General Commission on UM Men
NASHVILLE, Tenn.––“Did you ever have something planned that you changed at the last minute?” Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas Bickerton, vice president of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, asked the 20-member board at the closing service of the Sept. 5-7 meeting.
The bishop subsequently told the commission about a phone call he received from Brian May, a member of a West Virginia youth group Bickerton served 31 years ago.
Brian said his dad, Bill, was dying of leukemia and he wanted to speak with the bishop.
Bickerton recalled Bill as a difficult man who would frequently spit out expletives and occasionally storm out of meetings when things didn’t go his way. He would later ring the doorbell of the Bickerton parsonage at inconvenient times to say, “I screwed up.” Bickerton and Bill would then take walks in the woods and pray together.
The bishop also recalled that Bill recovered a pulpit Bible while a work team was engaged in recovery efforts following a 1985 flood. While working in a church, Bill found the Bible had fallen between timbers and miraculously it was the only thing in the rubble that was absolutely dry. Bill said it was a sign the congregation would rebuild.
When the congregation did rebuild the church, they asked Bill to lay the Bible on the new pulpit. That invitation was transformational for Bill.
Brian put his dad on the phone and Bickerton again prayed with Bill.
“That phone call changed my speech,” said the bishop. “It’s the little things that matter. There is nothing more important than to pray with a dying man.
“We don’t have to like everyone,” said Bickerton. “I didn’t always like Bill, but Scripture is clear: we are always to love one another and to forgive one another.”
Following the meditation, Bickerton led a service of Holy Communion.