Dori Hundley Deitrich — 1986-2014

This morning I had the honor and the dismay to preside over Dori Deitrich’s funeral. I met Dori when I became her youth minister at Trinity Hill UMC. Though they weren’t together yet, her husband, Matt, was also in that youth group. We’re not supposed to play favorites in ministry, but theirs were the two pictures that hung on our refrigerator for ten years. Over that time, they went from being special youth to dear friends.

I’m using this space to share my sermon from Dori’s funeral, especially as I know so many people wished they could make it and weren’t able. To Dori’s family and friends––may the God of peace comfort you, bless you, and keep you.

Matt and Dori celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary last Friday and re-watched their wedding video. Matt asked that we use the same passages in today’s ceremony that they used five years ago –– Philippians 2:1-5 and Colossians 3:12-17.


Five years ago, as we were preparing for a wedding, Matt and Dori sent me those passages you just heard from Philippians and Colossians. Listen to some of those words again: “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience … Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts… Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…” 

I sent a message back and said, “Well these are interesting. Not the typical wedding passages. It’s not, ‘Love is patient, love is kind.’ It’s not, ‘Husbands, love your wives; wives respect your husbands.’ Why’d you pick these?”

And their response was, “Yeah, we weren’t looking for something about marriage, specifically. We picked these because they’re how we want to live our lives. This is the beginning of doing that together.”

For us who knew Dori, I think we can celebrate just how much those passages fit—that they weren’t just nice things to have read at a wedding. They were a real description of the kind of person God gave us in Dori—clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

I want to share with you three specific memories I’ll always hold dear about Dori.

The first is just her smile…

Over these last few days, I’ve started to realize just how much there is in a smile. If you haven’t yet, you should scroll through Dori’s Facebook page to see all the pictures people have posted. And you’ll just keep noticing her smile. I think that constant smile represented so much about Dori. Can I show you my favorite of the pictures I’ve seen?

Photo courtesy of Nina & West photography:

Photo courtesy of Nina & Wes photography:

Somehow, that simple picture captures so much—so much about what I keep hearing about Dori from so many of you—about the way she just took in each moment, about how she always wanted to be sure everyone was happy and having a good time and getting along. About that magnetic, joyful personality. I’ve asked several of you already what you’ll remember, and I keep hearing you say you’ll remember her smile. I don’t think that’s just about the smile. I think you’ve said that because you saw a bit of her heart in it. You saw some of the character of God in it—a genuine compassion and joy.

Now, I’ve been told we’re not supposed to make instant saints out of people at their funerals. We don’t need to paint overly rosy pictures of people. And Claire, Dori’s mom, was reminding me yesterday that it took some time and growth. There was a time Dori was really questioning whether she was cut out to be a “pastor’s wife.” But then Claire talked about how Dori just flourished—how she kept growing into this wonderful woman of God. She attributed a lot of that to Matt. And she noted that a lot of it was by the grace of God––the way you could see that God’s grace transformed Dori over time.

The second memory I’ll always keep about Dori is about her with kids. Dori and Matt were our go-to babysitters for years. I still remember the first times they baby-sat when there were three, and then when there were four. Matt came in wide-eyed, and Dori would come in and say, “We can do this!” I’ll remember our words on our adoption recommendation for them: “There is no other couple we have wanted to see become parents as much as these two.” And I’ll remember the sudden, shocking messages Dori sent us: “We’re on our way to Alabama to get our new baby boy.” We couldn’t believe how quickly it all happened. Later, Dori would call it a miracle—an act of God to allow them to get Carter before her cancer was discovered.

And that’s the third memory I know I’ll keep—is about how Dori handled her sickness…

That passage about letting the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, and about having gratitude in your hearts, seems so fitting. Matt was remarking the other day about how her concern, even in sickness, was never about herself. There was plenty of opportunity for “why me, why now,” and it never came. Even when some of the rest of us weren’t ready to concede that we could lose her, she was saying, “Why are we so afraid of dying? Don’t we believe we’re with Jesus when we die?” Even when things were looking progressively worse, she was still posting Scriptures like, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” All the way to the end, the peace of Christ seemed to rule in her heart. Even as her body got weaker, it just seemed like her spirit got stronger.

As I’ve heard several of you talk about Dori for the last few days, I’ve realized that we all saw different sides, we all got different glimpses. But we all seemed to know the same Dori. I’m thankful for that.

And so we come here and we give thanks to God. We thank God that in each person we catch a glimpse of the image of God—and we’ve seen at least a glimpse of God’s joy and delight through Dori. We thank God that the gospel isn’t just about what happens after we die. It’s about what happens while we live, too. It’s about how, by the grace of God, he turns us into compassionate, humble, gentle people. People of peace. People who persevere in difficult times.

We thank God, too, that the gospel is about what happens after we die. For those who receive Christ, for those who believe in his name, he gives us the right to become children of God. We hate death, but it doesn’t have the final word. We thank God because Jesus says, “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me… Because I live, you will live too… Don’t be troubled or afraid.” Claire told me last night that Dori had said to her, “I’m not going to live afraid.” And she didn’t. She didn’t need to. We have a God who tells us not to be troubled or afraid, and she trusted him.

This is why, even though we come and mourn today, we can go from here in hope, too. Because we come knowing that we entrust Dori into the hands of God, who can be trusted.

One Invitation.

Two people who became some of my closest friends in high school were invited to a youth camp one summer and decided to come. They thought it would be fun but weren’t into the religious stuff––so they made a deal before coming: “We’re not going to ‘get saved.'” Well, on the last night, they “got saved.” Sometimes those last-night camp commitments don’t travel back home well. These did. Those friends went from ordinary teenagers to extraordinary models of virtue and grace. God’s work in them was clear. 17 years later, it still is.

One of the most important mentors in my life––the one who was bold enough to tell me when I was 16 that I was doing the wrong thing if I didn’t go into pastoral ministry––recently chronicled his “conversion chain.” It lists 23 people/groups. None of them are pastors. They’re mostly friends, colleagues, and others he respected. I wonder where would be if it weren’t for those 23.

I had a college roommate who became a Christian after a friend sent him one of those Christian chain emails (yes, you read that right) and asked him to consider it. God changed his life, and he was a model of devout faith to me through college.

Another dear friend was invited to a Young Life camp and came to faith during that week. He is one of the most thoughtful, sincere, and talented people I know, and God is using him in some pretty spectacular ways (as in––he writes a pastoral column with a readership of a quarter million on a slow week).

Several other friends––too many to count––have less exact and profound stories. For many, they already called themselves Christians, but it didn’t mean much. Then someone invited them into a setting that helped them experience the depth and richness of the Christian faith. They stopped being Christians in name only and became real, full-fledged, transformed followers of Christ.

These are just a few that stand out in the moment. God’s grace has transformed them. And what a celebration to know they’ll be there at that great heavenly banquet!

I hear an occasional story about someone who hit rock bottom, or just sensed that something was missing, and began to consider Christianity on their own. But the much more common story begins with someone who wasn’t really looking––they were just invited and accepted the invitation. Sometimes it was the first invitation, sometimes it was the 23rd.

Is there someone you could call, or email, or text message today and give a simple invitation? That person doesn’t have to be a staunch atheist, or the most immoral person you know. Most of my friends above wouldn’t have fit that.

What if you invited that person to come to a church service with you on Sunday?

What if that simple invitation marked a turning point in someone’s life? What if it changed eternity?

One person. One invitation. When I think about the people above, I wonder why I so rarely extend an invitation.

Priorities for organizing a weekly schedule [Pastoral Letters]

In July, I’ll be returning from a sabbatical year to be the lead pastor of the Offerings Community at First UMC in Lexington. I’m sharing some pastoral letters with them in advance of that return. Though some notes here are specific to that congregation, the letters are a broad attempt to share a pastoral theology.
Credit for original photo to

Credit for original photo to

In two years’ time, the lead pastor position in Offerings has moved from 1/4-time to 3/4-time. I’m thrilled about this and what it can mean for our community.

I’ve thought and prayed a lot about how we need to use this position most faithfully. What does our community need most from the lead pastor? And what are the best contributions I can make?

How we spend our time says a lot about our values, so I’m sharing this as a way of showing you my values. I also think it’s important for you to know what I’m doing with the time you’ve given me.

Though no single week will look exactly like this, here’s a general sketch of how I plan to spend my time:

1 – Preaching and Writing
In my first letter, I said the gospel is the primary thing that motivates everything I do in ministry. I think preaching and writing are our best broad opportunities to proclaim the gospel.

Several people have told me they think one of the greatest strengths of Offerings is faithful preaching. We need to continue that. I want to invest the time to do it well.

I love that we have a preaching team. It gives us a chance to hear a number of voices and perspectives. So my “preaching and writing” time will also include working with our other preachers––helping each other refine and improve our preaching.

I’ve also discovered what a great pastoral opportunity writing is. It affords a reach beyond what Sunday morning allows. It can focus on issues that wouldn’t be appropriate preaching topics, allows people to read in their own time, and can be passed on to other people.

In all, I plan to spend a little more than 1/4 of my time on preaching and writing. My best preaching requires about 15 hours of preparation—roughly what I’ve seen other preachers recommend. When I prepare less, it’s noticeable. For the weeks I’m not preaching, I’ll devote the extra time to writing and to working with our other preachers.

2 – Pastoral Visitation
Pastoral visitation is my best opportunity for deep connections. In that first letter, I also told you that I believe in you. Visiting with people is one of my best chances to invest in all of you.

I’m planning to meet individually with all of our leaders several times per year in addition to leadership team meetings. I also hope to visit each of you—as an individual or a family—once per year, preferably in your home. This category also includes visiting new guests, pastoral counseling, door-to-door visits in our neighborhood, and special need visits (people in the hospital, new babies, etc.)

Investments in these relationships are the best extension of myself—the best way to encourage and equip our leaders, and the best ways to make sure people are receiving good pastoral care and to encourage them to take next steps in discipleship. In all, I hope to spend about 1/4 of my time on pastoral visitation.

3 – Administration 
Again, in that first letter, I said I believed in the church—and specifically in First UMC. Because of that, I’ll make a priority for First UMC administrative, staff, and pastoral meetings. It’s important for Offerings to be well-represented in those meetings and well-connected to the larger church. And it’s important for us to make a good contribution to the big church’s direction.

We also have plenty of administrative needs for Offerings. I’ve loved being able to count on a weekly email this past year and plan to continue those, along with any other things we need to do to ensure good communication. Faithfulness in small things—quick responses to calls and emails and taking care of any paperwork—help keep everything moving smoothly. I want to take care of those well.

As we explore moving into a new location, the details associated with that will take a lot of extra attention to administrative details. In all, I expect our administrative needs to require about 1/4 of my time, and probably more than that at first.

4 – Connecting with area leaders (especially other church and nonprofit leaders), reading and research  
I plan to keep regular calendar space for meeting with area leaders. That’s an important investment in our community’s relationships to other churches and agencies. I also plan to set aside regular time for reading and research (you can always see what I’m reading on the right sidebar of my blog).

These are the extremely important but not at all urgent. No one will require them of me or immediately notice whether they’re happening or not. It’s a lot like exercise. If I skimp on it for a few weeks or months, people probably won’t notice a difference. But the results in a few years’ time will be drastically different.

For my effectiveness as a preacher, leader, and pastor, there will be major dividends or major holes in the years to come based on whether I’m diligent about these things. I think it’s crucial that I carve out and protect regular time for them.

I hope to spend about 1/4 of my time on this networking and continuing education. I also know, though, that these will be the first things to go when administrative and pastoral demands require more time. Because of that, I’ll be diligent about carving out and protecting regular time for these on my calendar and only back off them when another need is exceptionally important and urgent.

Modeling with my schedule
We’ve talked a lot in Offerings about our pastors’ lives reflecting our values. I think it’s important for me to do that with my schedule. Two specific ways that I’m trying to model important values with my schedule:

1 - I have a set number of hours that I plan to limit myself to each week except for in rare emergencies—emergency to be read as the kind of thing that happens once or twice a year, not every other week. At my family’s current stage, I don’t think I can stay healthy (physically, spiritually, and emotionally) and take care of my family if I exceed a certain number of hours.

There are always more things to be done. I would love to devote 30 hours per week to each item listed above. I want to do my best to name the most important things and always take care of them, but some things will inevitably go un-done. I’ll ask for your grace and help in those things.

I’ve seen a lot of people—pastors and other professionals—disregard health and family because there’s always more to do at work. I don’t want you to be one of those people, and I want to model a healthier way with my schedule.

2 – I don’t count my Sunday morning time or my time in a catechesis group, or things like personal devotional time, as “work time.” Those are things I expect all of us to do outside our jobs. I count them as something I do because I’m a Christian and part of the community, not because I’m on payroll.

I hope this helps. I think it’s important for you to know what I’m doing with the time you give me. And thank you for giving me the time to do these things!

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