Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pastor and Mrs. Draayer to head for retirement in California

An aspect of growing up that was denied to his children is a primary motivation for the early retirement of Rev. Leon Draayer as pastor of The First Reformed Church of Baldwin and as a "minister of word and sacrament" in the Reformed Church in America.

"I would have liked to stay longer [at The First Reformed Church]," said Pastor Draayer, "except for the age factor and the family factor having stayed back in California. I could have easily served until I was 65 except I have two grandchildren and I need to be the grandparent to my grandchildren that my grandparents were to me." He added that because of the five different churches he served during his ministry and the moving that entailed, his children never had the experience of growing up with their grandparents nearby.

"My main reason for quitting and going back [to California] is to be a grandpa to my grandkids," said Pastor Draayer.

Pastor Draayer and his wife, Marion, will load up a truck on May 23 and make the journey to Mira Loma, California, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. Their last Sunday at First Reformed Church is May 18.

The Draayers are moving to Country Village, a 115 acre complex with 96 units. Each unit has four apartments on a single level.

The best feature of Country Village is its location just a few miles from each of the Draayers' daughters, Heidi, Andrea and Leah-and their grandkids.

"We're basically going back to where we came from," said Pastor Draayer, adding that they won't be able to attend the church he served there because it no longer exists. Instead, he said, the couple will probably attend a Presbyterian church in Riverside, which has a bell choir. Marion has been a member of Zion Lutheran's bell choir for the last six years and would like to continue that activity.

The Draayers' daughter, Andrea, is getting married soon after they return to California. Pastor Draayer said he will think about getting a job, perhaps with Forest Lawn Mortuaries helping people plan their services. "I feel that's somewhere within my experience and giftedness."

Pastor Draayer said that some things stand out in his mind about his service in Baldwin. "God blessed me with a great and loving congregation and I am thankful for the six and one-half years here."

As everyone who knows Pastor Draayer is aware, he is not a fan of winter. "I won't miss the cold weather and salt," he noted.

But he will fondly remember his time in Baldwin, he said. Several events stand out for him. First, the 100th year anniversary of the First Reformed Church during which the congregation met the goal of giving $100,000 over-and-above the church's budget, and it was all given away to a variety of causes. "I didn't believe it was possible, even though it was my idea," said Pastor Draayer, "but we gave $103,000-that was just amazing.

"I think what I've appreciated about this congregation is they love the preaching of the Word, and I love to preach it. They are very attentive people. I always thought they were listening and they simply love the Word. I believe that they accepted Marion and me. We have felt loved, we'll leave a lot of good friends. We'll miss them."

Pastor Draayer also noted the church's family night suppers, especially the home cooking, and the fact ("something I had nothing to do with") that First Reformed has sent 16 people into the pastoral ministry and one into mission service. "Which for a church of this size, I think is pretty amazing."

Pastor Draayer's successor has already been chosen and he will be coming into a good congregation. "For my successor this will be a great place to start and to learn how to do ministry."

Pastor Draayer said he has enjoyed his floor level, center court seat at B-W basketball games with Carley Lokken and Pete Vrieze. He enjoyed his membership in the "Table of Knowledge" men's coffee group. Also, he said, the local pastoral group is a strength. Not all churches belong, he said, "but of the six that do, there is a real sense of Christian brotherhood and collegiality. I've been a part of a ministerial association before but never to this degree where we can really work together. The pastors genuinely have a good time together. We like each other and we support each other. It's pretty special."

He also said that he has some regrets from his time in Baldwin. "I wish I could have grown the church more than what I did." He added another regret was that he did not become more involved in community events sooner and he did not volunteer for more things.