My Friend Larry Sherman

My friend, Larry Sherman

By Kevin Butcher

I met Larry in 2002, less than a year after being fired by a church I had served for 14 years…a church full of people I loved very much. My heart was broken and full of anger at the way the church had, in the end, treated my family…and full of shame concerning my own inadequacies as a man and pastor. Larry was recommended to me by a mutual friend because Larry was a leader in a worldwide community of believers called the Evangelical Covenant…and because my friend knew Larry had the heart of Jesus.

Over pancakes one morning, Larry listened as I poured out my story of pain and anger, shame and grief and as I shed bitter tears that literally dripped onto my syrupy plate.

He listened as I berated others and berated myself and asked frustrated, cosmic questions about whether there was any truly safe place on the planet where you could be a human being and grow and even make mistakes and yet follow Jesus together in authentic, repentant, forgiving and ever deepening community. He listened patiently and I remember feeling in my gut, “this guy doesn’t know me…but he cares about me – not as a commodity to be used or recruited for his group but as a wounded man and brother.” He didn’t need to say it. If the love and acceptance is real, it’s cool if you say it and often helps the healing if you say it but you don’t really need to say it because the other person just knows.

Finally, I was done. And Larry simply looked at me and said something like, “You’ve been through a rough time. You’re owning and working on your stuff. And you’re working on forgiving others their stuff. God is with you and you’re going to be all right.” And I can’t be sure because there was so much going on in those days…but I think it was at that moment – over pancakes with a brother I had never met in my life – that I began to believe it. God was with me and I was going to be all right.

Over the next 10 years, Larry partnered with me and the other leaders of Hope Community Church [my new community of believers] – and he taught us and consulted with us and counseled us and talked with us on the phone…and more than anything else, he believed in us. He helped Hope find its way into the Evangelical Covenant family and mentored me in the ordination process and was there for the hugs and high-fives and picture taking in Estes Park in 2005 when I became an official covenant pastor. He introduced Carla and me to his best friend and life-partner, Debbie…and the four of us ate together and went to shows together and laughed and prayed about all kinds of stuff and often told beautiful, life-giving stories about our kids and yeah, sometimes even cried together over those same kids. Larry treated us like we were family. And every couple months, Larry would call and ask if I wanted to hang out – and I always got the feeling he wasn’t calling just to do his job with the Covenant but because he really wanted to be with me as a man and brother. Larry Sherman, indeed, was my friend.

And yesterday, May 7, 2013, my friend Larry went to be with Jesus.

Larry, I miss you, man. Thanks for loving me and accepting me when I couldn’t love and accept myself. Thanks for not trying to be a star…but following Jesus and taking time to wash feet – my feet, Carla’s feet, the feet of the leaders of Hope Community Church, the feet of many, many leaders and people in the body of Christ both in and outside of the Covenant. Thanks for deeply loving your wife Debbie and your kids and grandkids in a way that models Jesus to us all. I will never forget you, Larry. Thanks for choosing to be my friend. And I will see you again soon, my dear brother…in glory.