Remembrances & Prayers for Ron Elly

The Reverend Ronald D. Elly passed away on Monday, June 27, 2016 — and that Friday there was a Celebration of Life service at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Lafayette. The service included verse, song and reflections.

Click on the name to read their remembrance of Ron Elly:
| Julie Shannon | Beth Baumgartner | Marie Baumgartner |
Rev. Don EllyRev. Jud DolphinRev. David Smook |
Rev. Kevin A. Bowers |

Julie Shannon, Ron’s daughter

Warm, caring eyes
A listening ear
No judgement, compassionate
Dedication, service to others
Great humor, lots of puns
Running events like the Blueberry Stomp!
Deep insight and the Search for God
Finding God’s Light in you.
I am, we are so very blessed and grateful to have you as our Father &
Grandfather. We love you and it is hard to find the words to articulate the depth of our love.
I have faint memory as a child, sitting with you in church and resting my head on your shoulders and you touching my hand affectionately.
Church, home, faith were all intertwined and infused with your presence –making us feel safe, protected, comforted, peaceful, relaxed, and loved!
I know parents are human and not perfect. I’m sure there are somethings we all wish we could “do over”. However, all these things,
events, ups and downs have shaped and molded me. I got what I needed. Your compassion, listening, love of reading books, poetry, running, fitness, helping and serving those in need, welcoming all, and humor have all influenced me. I look to all of these qualities and strive to have them in my life, in my actions, and being. Thank you.
I remember and loved the times we would shoot baskets, run, and at Synod School or other events-play volleyball and softball with you.
You taught and modeled the joy of sports.
I love that my hard work, accomplishments, performing made you proud and that you always supported me.
Your life’s work of counseling, pastoring, service (L.U.M.) Beacon Academy, being there for others, searching for your biological roots-have all made a huge impact on me, my family, your friends, and so many people. You help others know Christ by being a Light in the darkness. With so much gratitude and so much love. You are a blessing. I love you.

I read this to my Dad in October and he asked for me to have at read at his service. I also added that, my Dad had a way of looking at you like you were the best, most amazing person around so much that you believed in yourself and you wanted to be that person he saw in you. I hope I can do the same for others in my life.** I have been truly blessed to have Ron Elly as my Dad.

Beth Baumgartner, Ron’s daughter

Finding words to try to encapsulate who my Dad was and who he was to me just seems so hollow and difficult.  Until this week I have never known a day without him in the world.

What I can say was- HE WAS ALWAYS THERE. Always.

If I needed him- if I needed solace or comfort- when I was younger, he tended boo boos- played tickle monster and danced with us. He was a fun guy and especially enjoyed people—all people.  His spirit could light up a room—family gatherings, retreats, church functions.  He was alive.  From his Tie Die shirts to his nose flute at Synod School (Which was totally embarrassing to me as a teenager) to his puns at which I groaned and which drove me crazy but is now to me is one of his most enduring qualities.

My dad taught me how to talk to and feel comfortable around men. This has been wonderful because I married and then have dated men that were my best friends first.  And I looked for this kind of man because of my dad.  I have had decent relationships with decent men because of the example of my emotional relationship with my dad.

As I got older, if I needed a listening ear- help working out a problem- he was right there.  I can remember many times I was upset and sobbed and sobbed.  He just held me reassured me and listened.  He really listened.  He offered advice when asked and was always gentle. Usually things like “be gentle with yourself.  You are OK and you are loved.”  This, I am learning, is what life is about. LOVE. Period. His love was ALWAYS unconditional.  His love was ALWAYS real. He was proud of me and cherished me. He told me this often.  He was one of my greatest cheerleaders.  For this I am most eternally grateful. I always knew where I stood with him. Just this week when I came into the room and barely being able to speak at all he said “I love you punkin,” Which he has called me occasionally- mostly when I was little. Those were his last words to me.

My son Pete was the first Grandchild.  Dad wasn’t really quite sure about being old enough to be a Grandpa—although he really didn’t have a choice because I was having a baby with which he finally came to terms. When we asked, he took his Grandpa role seriously coming to our apartment once a week during lunch and having special Grandpa-time with Pete-Reading books, playing, swinging.  It continued after Marie was born as Pete needed that consistency.

I remember him singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot.  I remember there was a verse that said “If you get to heaven before I do… just cut a hole and pull me through.”  I really did feel that way because I couldn’t imagine the world without my dad.  It seems so surreal right now.  I know I will grieve however I grieve as this kind of huge loss is new to me.  I can hear him saying “take it easy on yourself Punkin. You are ok.  You will be ok. Just do your best.”  He was there when I breathed my first breath and I had the gift of being present for him when he breathed his last. Thank you Dad.  I love you so very much and always will.

Marie Baumgartner, Ron’s granddaughter

Ronald Duncan Elly was the wisest yet the funniest person I have ever come to known. Even when his life seemed to be staring back at him with pain and wondering if this would be his last day on this earth, he still seemed so brave. I’ve only seen him cry two times in my 17 years of living. The first time we were out to eat at his favorite chain, Olive Garden. And by we I mean my entire crazy yet fun family. About the week before this family gathering he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the toughest and meanest type of bone marrow cancer. The average life span is five years. So we were holding this family gathering in hopes to cheer him up. And before we all dug in to our entrées he gave a little sentimental speech talking about how much he loved all of us, and he started crying. And my little 13-year-old self went over and gave him a hug. The second time was not too long ago, He was in the hospital, and my mom called my brother and I and told us we needed to come, he’s not doing too well. They thought he was dying. It was so bad that my aunt from Oregon flew in. My brother and I drove three hours in the middle of the night to go say goodbye to him. That was one of the hardest car rides I ever had to make. I cried. A lot. Once we arrived at two o’clock in the morning everyone was there. Both of my aunts, two of my cousins, one of my uncles, and two of my great aunts. Plus, my mom and grandma. We were all there, waiting for the light to come and for him to leave this earth that he left a mark on. He left his mark on and that is something we will never forget. While we were all gathered around in his hospital room reflecting on moments we’ve shared with him, sharing funny stories, and showing him how great of an impact he had on all of our lives, plus many more he started crying. I also saw my 12 and 14-year-old cousins start crying, we were all hugging and crying, talking and laughing. And that light never came. That two A.M hospital room party somehow cheered him up and the next day he was moved out of the ICU, it was like a miracle, how he was so close to death, yet having all of us together made him turn around and live longer. Even up until his last day, he was strong, and still kept a smile on his face. He wasn’t him the last days he lived, he was a shell of himself, a shell of the guy we’ve all come to know and love. I have lots of great memories of my grandpa, like every grandchild does, most of them are fun and happy, and with Ron as my grandpa, all of them are fun and happy. I will never forget his love for puns and tie dye, hence why all of his family are wearing tie dye today. I remember about a year ago I started making tie dye shirts, and it soon became a passion of mine to make and wear tie dye, just like him. I remember he would always say “Greetings from the interior” after every burp. When I went to see him in hospice, after my mom gave him a sip of water he burped, and I recited that line right back to him and he smiled, even when he was in so much pain, unable to talk he still smiled. And his smile could light up an entire room, it was like an unspoken rule, whenever Ron smiled, you smiled. That’s just how it was. I remember last year I went with him to Earl Park to watch him preach. It was so great being able to see the person I admire most see what he was born to do, that just inspired me more. I remember he would always come to our birthday parties no matter how kiddish or how he was feeling, he was always there. I really connected with him this past year because I was diagnosed with a chronic migraine, and he had chronic pain, so we kind of understood each other, I could tell him anything and I knew he wouldn’t tell anyone. He was and will forever be my favorite person, and since my grandpa loved puns, I’ll end it with one. This is for you Gramps — Two antennae were on a roof, they fell in love and got married. The service wasn’t great but the reception was excellent.

Rev. Donald R. Elly, M. Div., Ron’s identical twin brother

What was it like growing up as Ron’s twin brother?

The first thought that came to mind would be what my adoptive mother, Dorethea(Dot) Elly might have said, “It was punishing” because when my adoptive dad, Robert(Bob) Elly and the two of us go to joking we could keep the puns flowing for a long…long…long time. She often commented, as well, that having twins was “double trouble.”  And it could be for what one of us couldn’t think of, the other would.

Secondly, like a number of twin’s experience there was a built in competition that could get intense at times. In our circumstance, being together from birth to five and moving from State institutions to foster homes was truly a grace thing that helped us to survive the traumatic first five years from 1941-1946.  Ron, I know, felt protective of me and as the oldest (by ONLY 15 MINUTES).  He also took advantage of that.  According to Mom Brown (our foster Mom from 3 and half to five) I was Ron’s first experience in leading a cooperative endeavor.  With Ron riding in our little red wagon, I was the horse and he would urge me on by saying, “Don, you’re a good puller.”  There was the uniqueness of being a twin.   We were mirror twins with Ron being right handed (and not in his “right mind”) and I being “left handed (and in my “right mind).   We loved playing tricks using our gift to confuse the Scouts in identification games like capture the flag or kick the can.  This worked really well till the scouts decided that all you had to use in our case was the last name.   We, lots of reasons, were close, but distant due to geography.  In the last 10 years or so we became very close – our professions leading to do identical work but in different contexts. Both of us were pastors ultimately of small churches.  We were both counselors with Ron operating a Pastoral counseling center and me working in the Clinical and hospital context.   In the past several years we would talk weekly about the development of sermons and sharing faith in prayers and similar reading and sermon reflections.   I will miss Ron in this regard for his way with words and his expression of faith.

Thirdly, a little known fact:  We grew up in a neighborhood with 5 sets of identical twins:  One of those pairs was Linda and Therlou Wilson whose grandparents lived next door to us on 29th Street in Birmingham, Alabama.   “Must have been in the water.”   Being a twin was companionship, competition, a source of creativity and automatic community.  We were exposed in our earliest years to Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian faith communities.  These along with our parents and the bond with one another made up for developmental gaps we might have experienced.

Finally let me close with a few thoughts about Ron’s uniqueness as a brother on his faith journey and why I am proud of him.  Ron’s journey with cancer was highlighted by his courage, good humor even when he felt lousy and in pain.  His love of people came through.  He learned the names of his caregivers at IU, Arnett hospital, or at the skilled care facilities in which he found himself.  On June 13th after intense conversation and with the support of Ellen, Ron chooses to live life as fully as possible for a long as possible.  Since his cancer has progressed beyond the point of further treatment.  During these last days (three weeks) he as comforted greatly by his faith strengthened by his family’s prayers, scripture readings, poems, sharing of memories, laughter and singing.   Our time with Ron while tinged with great sadness and anticipatory grief will always be remembered as a time when the love of God made known in Jesus Christ bound us together in a manner stronger than any glue in the world.  THANK YOU, RON, FOR BEING MY UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTER AND MY BROTHER.   You lived out Mary Oliver’s poem, “When Death comes,” New and Selected poems, vol. 1 with the courage and faith you asked for when you made the decision at the hospital to come back to the Springs of Lafayette for long term care and Hospice.

When death comes/like the hungry bear in autumn; / when death comes and Takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me,/snaps the purse shut;/ when death comes/ like the measles-pox; when death comes/ like an iceberg between the / shoulder blades, I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: What is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness? And therefore I look upon everything/ as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,/and I look upon time as no more/ than an idea,/ and I consider eternity as  another/ possibility, And I think of each flower,/as common/as a field daisy, and as singular,/and each name a comfortable/music to the mouth,/tending, as all music does , toward silence,  and each body a lion of courage,/and something /precious to the earth.  When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder/if I have made of my life something particular and real./I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,/or full of argument. I don’t’ want to end up simple having visited this world.


I have an image of Ron as vibrant an alive.  We are at Pastor’s school sitting together in one of the classes learning or sharing with friends and colleagues we have both gotten to know.  When that picture slides across my mind I find great comfort.    Then there is a final picture and thought that gives me even more comfort.  It is the picture of God in Genesis 2, kneeling down and forming all of us of the clay of the earth, creating us for relationship.  God is breathing into the human intimately and tenderly the breath of life, with it comes the personality and energy and passion that gives life its greatest meaning.   Now what happens after death?  The energy of Ron, my brother goes back into the universe and his spirit and breath is recycled through us (Science believes that we are all breathing the same air that was breathed by Plato and the ancients and so Ron’s breath is recycled through us as we continue to live.  SO TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND IMAGINE FOR A MOMENT THAT RON ‘S BREATH IS FILLING YOU WITH ENERGY, PURPOSE AND PASSION.    Now watch out comes strange things can happen:

  • You might find yourself filled with the energy of compassion to serve others.
  • You might find yourself filled with the energy to relate to others – no matter how different –and out of casual conversation you might end up with a friend for life.
  • You might find yourself—God forbid—breaking out with a smile and laughter and thinking of a pun and find the world a brighter place.
  • Or finally you might find yourself loving, hoping and working with God as a co-partner in creating a better world…

If that happens you will have caught the vision of Ron and been filled with his spirit and strengthened to live fully as his breath continues to recycled, we continue to breath in the breath of God and know love at its fullest.

Rev. Jud Dolphin, former LUM executive director

Thank you Ellen for inviting me to be a part of celebrating the life of Ron Elly…my colleague in ministry and friend. Our lives intertwined through our work with the Lafayette Urban Ministry and our friendship grew over the years.   During my last extended stay in Lafayette, we began having regular coffees together.  No agenda – just a little reminiscing, laughter and friendship.

On Monday the phone rings.  There’s no premonition of the news it would convey.  Rev. Ron Elly died.  A wave of sadness slides thru my soul.  “Oh no,” I mutter or something like that.  I knew he had been battling cancer, but still the news hits me hard.

Memories flood my consciousness.   “Oh Ron, you’re a good one. You made such a big difference.”  For some reason, I find my thoughts returning to a bible verse from the prophet Micah.

What does the Lord require, but to do justice,  love kindness and walk humbly with God.

I first met Ron on the pages of the Green Book as I was interviewing with LUM.  For those who may not know, the Green Book was a strategic report on the Lafayette Urban Ministry prepared by  Dr. Jim Davidson, a sociologist of religion from Purdue University in collaboration with Ron Elly, Tom Hull, Don Nead and a host of others from the staff and board of LUM.    Dr. Davidson analyzed strengths and weaknesses and importantly saw great opportunities for LUM.

Oh yes, It was called the green book not because of some deeper metaphorical meaning, but simply because its cover was green.

I learned about Rev. Ronald Elly on those pages…recruited by Presbytery from Seminary in Louisville Kentucky to Hope Chapel – a small Presbyterian congregation on the south side of Lafayette.  Here lived some of Lafayette’s poorest families and most marginalized people.

The year was 1967.  It was an activist time.  Churches were beginning to realize that they would have to see beyond their stained glassed windows and get involved in their communities.  It was a time to connect with the marginalized.  It was a time to correct racial injustices.  The government was launching a War on Poverty.  The times they were a changing and social justice was in the air.

Ron saw an opportunity at Hope Chapel.  He felt that it was well positioned for renewal as a Servant Church – loving neighbors and doing justice in the world.

Unfortunately, leaders at this congregation did not share his passion for a servant church.  They wanted to recapture a more traditional model for church life.  One that served their own members and not so much the community.  They balked at Rev Elly’s ideas…unfortunately.

Or was it fortunately.  God does work in mysterious ways.  Sure there were plenty of false starts, disappointments, conflicts and heart aches.  We can only imagine the anxiety that Ron and Ellen must have felt as Hope Chapel back tracked.

But amazingly Rev Elly didn’t loose hope.  Something new was beginning to happen in Lafayette and Ron’s ministry was at the heart of it.   I’m not sure he realized it at the time,  but looking back we see it clearly.

Ron was brilliant in his ability to gather people together.  He was always out in the community.  First through the NDP (Neighborhood Development Project) he reached out to Presbyterians and then to Methodists and quickly to a broader ecumenical circle.  He had a knack for identifying people with a social justice gene and then he got them involved.   All of us,  where would we be if not for Rev Elly’s ministry?  We have lots to be grateful for and so much to celebrate.

By 1971, the idea for a Lafayette Urban Ministry was taking shape.  More people got involved.  Seven churches became charter members.  And in January of 1972, it became official when Dee Tritschler moved and Les Gaylor seconded a motion to create the Lafayette Urban Ministry and call Rev Ronald Elly as LUM’s Pastor Director.

It was exciting times.  Work with youth as well as a transportation program expanded.  A Centralized Emergency Fund was created to help with emergency needs.  Work on racial justice took off through an Integrated Hands Program.  A Hispanic community festival was organized thanks to LUM securing additional church funds.  Participation as well as budgets increased.  More than 20 congregations were discovering new ways to do Church.

But Ron was not to remain Pastor Director.  He sensed a calling to a more personal ministry of pastoral counseling.  Soon hundreds of people were able to sort out troubling issues because of Ron’s guidance.  Imagine the renewal in their lives and the difference Ron’s pastoral counseling ministry made.  Many recall his deep concern and wonderful kindness to this day.

Still Ron Elly is and always will be the birthing parent of the Lafayette Urban Ministry.

Among his many gifts, he gave us vision.  He taught us that through persistence, prayer and faith, many good things are possible.  We can see beyond stained glass windows or self-obsessive lives.  Ron’s vision gave us hope and has already changed Lafayette.

It’s true…isn’t it?

Because of his vision, we catch glimpses of a servant church.  Now churches, secular organizations and all people of good will are regularly engaged with the poor and embracing the marginalized.  They walk for hunger.  They counsel at an immigration clinic.  They volunteer at the homeless shelter.  They support the Food Finders Food Bank and give away bags of groceries.  They write letter to legislators pleading for a social safety net.  They work on community task forces.  They give to the Good Samaritan Fund.  And more…

It’s like we are echoing the words of the prophet Micah – Do justice; Love kindness; Walk humbly with God.

Indeed, Ron, we recognize what you have accomplished among us.  You leave a living legacy and we are most grateful.  We thank God for all blessings… And today, we, especially, thank God for you. Amen

Jane Smith, Ruling Elder, Earl Park Presbyterian Church

Rev. David Smook, Presbytery of Wabash Valley Moderator

RON ELLY – FRIEND, MENTOR, CONFIDANT AND COLLEAGUE — I bring the most heartfelt prayers and thoughts from the Presbytery of Wabash Valley for the years of service and God’s work in the Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of Wabash Valley by The Rev. Ronald D. Elly. When I came to Indiana in 1973 Ron was one of the first people I saw as he chaired what we now call the Commission for Preparation for Ministry. Ron and his committee asked me questions of faith, vocation and calling as a newly seminary trained, green, naïve young man entering the world of church politics. He groomed me for the examination from the floor of the then newly formed Presbytery of Wabash Valley with its birthing pain. David McDonald was the first to be ordained in this new Presbytery and I was the third. It was the wisdom and guidance of Wayne Smith as moderator that guided on the floor, but it was Ron who prepared me. I will always be grateful. And so say the Church that Ron served so well, so long.

Now, how about Ron Elly? He was a friend, a mentor, a confidant and a colleague with whom I could share the depth of my heart and soul. There are not many people about whom I can say that. In spite of all that we loved each other as brothers. The year was 1963 and I was entering Maryville College in Blount County, Tennessee. Fumbling around the campus like a lost sheep 900 miles from home and needing a friend. There I ran into Ron Elly, senior and BMOC who pointed this freshman in the right direction and he has been doing that ever since.

Imagine my joy at finding Ron as guide once again entering the Presbytery and just a short ride from my church in Deer Creek. The years brought many opportunities to find real friendship. Ron, Fred and I would meet weekly at a little Mexican restaurant and talk about whatever came to mind. The most recent upheaval in our churches, health, politics and lots and lots of religion. I was in hog heaven!

During a divorce it was Ron who counseled me and my first wife through a painful time, which ended in mutual support and care between she and I because of the guidance of Ron, once again. Ron was always just a phone call away, even after the terrible threesome broke up with Fred moving to Tennessee and my move from Deer Creek after 30+ years.

And how about Synod School? Those were the days my friends! I took the famous Sex class with Ron and Ellen, who didn’t want that course? I think it filled up about the fastest of any offered at Synod School that year. And the talent show with Beth’s and Laura’s singing and Julie’s dancing the nose flute choir, what a hoot! Ron was quite a good basketball player and I remember the old guys taking on the young ones with surprised looks at the moves of this old man, Ron, what was he 50 or so, as he picked and rolled with a body on them to boot. Oh yeah! Singing in the Hub, worship and hours and hours of talk and laughter. Oh Ron how much fun! Thank you.

Ann Smith Williams and I were driving home from a meeting in Champagne, IL when she mentioned there were getting ready to go on their second mission trip to Juarez, MX and would I be interested in talking to the Deer Creek people about it. Would I ever! So we got together with Bethany, and a bunch of other people and took a bus from here down to Ciudad Juarez to build houses. Imagine 72 hours straight in a bus with 40 other people and Ron Elly punning the whole way. No escape, nowhere to hide, mile after groaning mile! At first I tried to banter with Ron in puns, but no way, he left me in the dust until all I could do was groan and bear it. You really get to know people after working in the dust and sweat of the high desert of Mexico and then ride all the way home. Boy did we stink! Thank you Ron for punning with the best of ‘em.

Ann and Ron got together to trap me on another occasion. The pastor at Faith Church in Kokomo, Mark Morrison, had badgered me for a year about going to a thing called The Great Banquet. I didn’t want anything to do with it. Sounded like a cult to me. Then he told me Ron Elly was on the team, well if Ron was on board with it, count me in. So, with some trepidation, but trust in Ron, I went. Thank you Ron for a wonderful Christian experience. Ann even talked me into being the next head spiritual director and with Ron there to guide, count me in. We would stand in the back, join raised hands, and sing our hearts out. Thank you Ron!

I, we will miss you, my friend. But, the love and care you showed will continue through all of us who knew you and so it will continue from generation to generation as we will carry what you gave to us. Down the line your name may not be remembered but who you were, who you are will touch lives in ways no one knows. Thank you God for our brother, Ron.

Rev. Kevin A. Bowers, Pastor, Bethany Presbyterian Church

Ron Elly wore a lot of hats. Not literally though there was that rainbow colored wig I saw him wear on a couple of occasions. I mean he had a lot of different roles he played. Husband to Ellen, Brother to Don, Father to Beth, Julie, and Laura, Grandfather, counselor, pastor, social change agent, and Presbyter just to name a few. So we have quite a number of people here today to share memories of Ron, from the perspective of these different contexts and I invite them to come forward now one by one to share.

As you can no doubt tell when memorializing a man like Ron Elly there is a lot to be said. I know a lot has been said already and I will try to not be too repetitive and take too long but there are some things that bear repeating and things yet to be said of Ron. Again there is love of family. Wife, brother, sisters and brothers in law, children, and grandchildren whom Ron loved so much and who loved him in return. There is the 31 years of counseling. There is the formation of such groups and organizations as LASSO the Lafayette Adoption Search Support Organization and Lafayette Urban Ministry and the other community agencies he served such as Beacon Academy. A runner and a basketball player. A dancer. A purveyor of puns. He was a listening ear, a kind heart, a gentle soul. A deep thinker, a book enthusiast, a lover of music and one who appreciated the beauty of God’s creation. He was the kind of person who could get excited about a sunset, be a father figure to a child that was not biologically his own, and play a mean nose flute. He was the kind of person who often reminded people “Be gentle with yourself you are loved”

There are so many things to say about Ron Elly that we don’t have time to say them all here today. So I am not going to share but a little more of Ron’s story. Besides even though I have known Ron for 12 years most of the memories shared today aren’t mine. They are yours. So I call on you to remember what Ron’s life meant to you. Remember some special moment you shared with him perhaps marveling at some spectacular bit of nature. Remember his dedication to and love for his family. Remember his service to his community, especially the least and most vulnerable among us. Remember his love of running and basketball.

You know Ron fought his illness valiantly for years now. He made it to the point of being able to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary right here in this sanctuary just a couple weeks ago. It was right after that anniversary party that his health diminished even more, he was hospitalized, and decided the fight was over and went into hospice care. But even then he hung in there a little while longer, longer than anticipated. The family surrounded Ron saying their goodbyes a process that went on for days. But those days were a precious gift as they gave the family a time to bond in a way they had not had a chance to bond before.

Ron’s daughter Laura shared with me we all got there Monday morning and he was still with us. Dad it’s ok we said. We talked and sang and were exhausted from just sitting there. Laura took the opportunity to read to Ron a sermon she had recently preached in which she shared a part of Ron’s story he had given her permission to share. I want to share a few snippets of that sermon with you now.

“A curious part of my Dad’s story has to do with the image of a “little white church in a clearing,” one of the only memories he had of the years before his adoption. The image would come to him as he grew, but he wasn’t sure whether the church was real. At midlife, he reunited with the Browns, a foster-family in which he had lived from age 3 to 5.

Mrs. Brown brought out some photos to share, and the photo at the top of the stack showed the very church my Dad remembered. The church was a real place where my father had been welcomed and loved as God’s child. Alongside his deep childhood grief, in the mystery of memory and grace, my Dad also carried that congregation’s recognition of his true identity, a balm against the wound of abandonment. What a testimony to Christ’s presence in the church! Perhaps it is then no surprise that Dad grew up to minister in small, rural churches, co-creating with God and his sibling Christians sanctuaries where all of God’s children would find shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship.

Laura got to the end of the sermon and Ellen said something to the effect of “I think he knows he can go now because he knows he has passed his story on to you and you know it well enough to pass it on to your children who will pass it on.” Just a moment later Ron took his last breath.

Remember Ron’s story, remember what his life meant to you and in that way he will live on in those memories. Let your memories of Ron stir you to do more and be more and in so doing his legacy will continue.

But as Christians we clam more than that. We claim eternity for Ron Elly because he was a person of faith. So there is one more thing to remember about Ron, the faith that he had.  A significant part of Ron’s story was his adoption into the Elly family but a more important part of Ron’s story was his other adoption, the one Paul spoke of in the passage from Romans we read earlier where he says that we are adopted into God’s family and are now heirs with Christ.

Going back to the sermon Laura read to Ron she says “we are adopted into God’s family; as Christ’s adopted sisters and brothers, we are brothers and sisters to one another. Identity and belonging for us are no longer determined by the definitions of our culture or even our family of origin; our primary identity is that of God’s child, our primary belonging is to God’s household.” To which I say Amen.

So it is not possible to celebrate the life of Ron Elly without celebrating his adoption into the family of God and the faith he had. Faith lived out in community was important to him. His faith life led him to discern a call to ordained ministry and as you know he served the church in many ways for many years living his calling as a minister of word and sacrament, living into his adoption into the family of God, and proclaiming the faith that was instilled in him. All of those things Ron did, all the social change he instigated and brought about was informed by his faith. What we ought to remember when we recall the life of Ron Elly is a life of service in thanksgiving to his risen Lord. While I personally will miss Ron, as I know all of us here today will; I draw comfort from knowing that his baptism is complete, his faith assured and that he is in God’s very presence now and some day we will be reunited with him

So today for Ron and for each of us we uphold the truths proclaimed in the passages of scripture we read earlier. We give thanks for a God who is there to be our help in times of trouble.  In God’s care we have nothing to fear not even death itself.  We give thanks for a God who loves us so much as to adopt us into God’s family and open the way to salvation.  We claim this truth for Ron today that through Christ’s death and resurrection he has gained salvation.  We give thanks for a God who has redeemed us. “I have called you by name, you are mine.” says God.

So it is that we gather here today to claim these truths for Ron even as we claim them for ourselves.  God loves us so much that God seeks us out, pursues us to the ends of the earth, and is willing to die so that we might live through his death and resurrection, so that nothing ever again, not sin, not even death will be able to separate us from the Love of God.  With confidence we can boldly proclaim the sure and certain hope of resurrection with Christ and claim that Ron is now a full participant in this promise not so much because of what Ron did. Ron did a lot but he wasn’t perfect, he had shortcomings, he too fell short of the glory of God at times. We don’t need to go into detail but we know it is true. But we can still uphold the promise of redemption for Ron not because of what he did but because of what God has done through our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen

What is left now to do is to say Good Bye.  To say good-bye to our friend Ron.  And though we claim the hope of the resurrection and the comfort that it brings we still mourn.  We still grieve the loss of him and will continue to do so for quite some time.  So I pray that as we continue to mourn that we would stand with one another.   Part of standing together will include phone calls, visits, and meals shared in the days, weeks and months to come. Part of standing together will include sharing our memories of our friend Ron and sharing and clinging to the faith that he had. Part of standing together will include a time of visiting with family in the gathering area and a luncheon in the fellowship hall to which you are all invited immediately following this service of worship. But for now may God be our strength and our comfort to help each of us find a way to say good-bye until we meet again.  As we go out to face this day and the days ahead may the love of God the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and always. Amen.

Joe Micon, LUM executive director
“LUM has been part of the fabric of our community for so long I think it is hard to conceive of a time that churches were not working so closely together. Ron was the visionary, the first, the one with the special gifts to pull people and churches together to form LUM. Everything that has followed is built upon the foundation that he laid in the 60’s and 70’s. It would be hard to imagine our community without the good work accomplished everyday by Lafayette Urban Ministry. Ron Elly has left us an incredible legacy.”

James Davidson, retired Purdue professor
“Ron Elly was a very righteous man, in the best sense of the word. He understood his faith in ways that called him to gather others around him to do big work that one person, one pastor, one congregation couldn’t get done alone. Maybe better, he understood how to get people to go along, because he could convince them that they wanted to be involved, not because they had to. Not everyone knows Ron. But they know LUM, And if they know LUM, they hear the echoes of Ron Elly’s name.”

Thomas Hull, former president of Lafayette Urban Ministry
“Ron and I go back a long way; to the days when he was the pastor at Hope Chapel. It was in this era that he became the founding director of Lafayette Urban Ministry. Early on, my wife Peggy was active with arts and crafts programs for local children. Over these many years Ron was a good and faithful friend. He officiated at my daughter’s wedding; and recently Ron, Don Nead and Ann Pellegrino led my wife’s memorial service.”

Read more about Ron Elly:

  • Remembrances & Prayers for Ron Elly, click HERE
  • Ron Elly—His Impact on LUM, click HERE
  • Remembering Legacy and the Lafayette Urban Ministry by Jud Dolphin, click HERE
  • Ron Elly’s Obituary, HERE
  • Ron Elly was an ecumenical game changer by Dave Bangert, Journal & Courier (June 29, 2016), click HERE

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