Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Shepastor: "A Fitting Tribute From a Wife for Her Husband..."

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life. Proverbs 31: 11-12, English Standard Version

In 2006 three churches in our American Baptist region called new pastors…
Lakewood Baptist Church, Covenant Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland. We (the three pastors) called ourselves the “Three Musketeers.” The pastor of First Baptist, The Rev. Martin Rolfs Massaglia became my “Big Brother,” and I became, “Li’l Sis.”
For several years we worked together closely as officers of the Cleveland Baptist Association. During some of those long intense board meetings, Martin would hold his cell phone under the table and nudge me to look…he’d have pictures of his beautiful grandchildren to show off. We’d both laugh and struggle through the rest of the meeting!

Martin was dear to me for many reasons. He was kind, compassionate, level headed and a family man. He always made it clear that Thursdays were off limits for meetings. Thursday was “Family Day.” He loved his family dearly. His wife Kay was the apple of his eye.
He proudly talked about her gifts of banner making and her creativity in making delicious vegan meals, snacks and deserts!

Martin, however, would not be long for this world. He carried in his body a rare disease that eventually claimed his earthly life. Our beloved friend and brother, however, will never be forgotten. In tribute to the beauty of his life, his loving wife, Kay Rolfs Massaglia transformed biting grief into stunning tapestry that commemorates the life and legacy of her husband. Below are the words used to explain the symbolism of a banner she created in honor of Martin…

Words for Plaque for Banner for Martin

The banner displayed is created and sewn to honor Martin Louis Rolfs Massaglia for his 8 years of service to this church as Senior Pastor from 2006-2014. The design and assembly was done by Textile Artist, Kay Rolfs Massaglia for her husband. The women of this church helped her to sew on the pieces. It was dedicated on the occasion of The Festival of the Arts, November 22nd, 2015. It is hung here in the Tower, so it can be seen as one leaves the sanctuary. After all, it is the benediction, chosen from Romans 15:13, with which Martin ended each service during his 33 years of Pastorate.

During these 33 years, every sermon Martin preached had to pass the “So What?” question, and this banner did too. What follows is the answer to that question, as interpreted by the artist. The sun in the upper left hand corner represents God. Inside that sun is another sun in red. Why? On the sidewalk outside the church between the Tower and the Main Entrance to the Sanctuary, is a crack. Intrigued by this crack for many years, Kay decided to use it to symbolize FBCGC. It represents how God takes our brokenness and shows us a way to healing and peace. We come here: to be inspired, to listen, to be encouraged, taught, empowered, stretched, supported, validated, educated, challenged, to laugh, to learn what community is about. Obviously this becomes possible as we know ourselves and the love of God better.

As we experience these blessings, it is suggested that we become the bridge to the neighborhoods. This is noted by a bridge to the city of Cleveland which represents all neighborhoods near and far. We bring with us: our voice, our energy, our wisdom, our generosity, our peace, our kindness, our truth, our skills, our enthusiasm, our resources, our leadings, our leadership, our power, even our brokenness, but mostly God’s love. In fact, in the sharing of the Great Good News, as Martin so frequently called God’s Message, we develop even more of the qualities learned in this Holy Place called FBCGC. We cross that bridge not only to share, but to receive, to learn, and to invite. In fact we come to know God and who we are in God as we share the Message.

Another symbol is the vertical panels in the background. Although we have had 24 Senior Pastors since 1833, we have had 8 in this church building. Therefore the 8 panels which grace the background in subtle different colors and fabrics represent all Senior Pastors at this church. Fall colors were chosen for the leaves on the trees because that was hands down Martin’s favorite season, and one other fun fact is that the banner contains fabric from 3 items of Martin’s clothing, 2 sweaters and a pair of pants. See if you can find them!

So there you have it! What the banner means. It was made with love and devotion to Martin and to God by many hands, and will be a symbol for years to come, not only of his ministry here but his desires for FBCGC. Now it is up to you to keep the bridge full and busy as you carry on in God’s name.

Thank you Kay for sharing your beautiful gifts with us!

Post a comment or send me an email at
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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