Across the Pastor’s Desk: A pilgrimage to Cooperstown

Published 8:00 pm Friday, August 19, 2022

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Across the Pastor’s Desk by Don Malinsky

This vision began when my wife Barb and I visited Cooperstown for the first time. I took in the obvious site, the Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF), and then proceeded to wander around town. In my walking, I came upon a site I didn’t plan to visit. It was the United Methodist Church of Cooperstown. The doors were open, I walked in, looked around, and my heart was strangely warmed (maybe it was the chili I had for lunch). I picked up their bulletin and said to myself,” Someday I’m going to preach in this sanctuary!”

Don Malinsky

Fast forward to 2022. The year began wondrously. On Friday, New Year’s Eve, I officiated a beautiful celebration of life for an unforgettable resident. On Saturday, New Year’s Day, a rare baptism of a resident’s great-grandson at St. John’s new Fountain Lake chapel, and on Sunday I served Holy Communion at both campus chapels. I called the weekend a chaplain’s trifecta. A great start for the near year.

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The great start was short-lived. On Friday, Jan. 7, at 6:50 p.m. I received a traffic citation and lost my driving privileges. My third and last brother-in-law on my side of the family received a cancer diagnosis that ultimately takes his life within months. St. John’s names a new administrator, and all the while COVID continues to distract all phases of care center operations and beyond. 2022 is not looking too positive for this “Pollyanna” chaplain.

In my email, I read a notice from my United Methodist newsletter. The Lilly Corporation was offering a well-being grant to any pastor of the Minnesota/Dakota United Methodist Conference. A grant that would provide some compensation for a worthy, health, well-being cause, event or item, even hiking boots, stated the notice.

I thought, “I’m going to apply for this grant, why not, what do I have to lose besides Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat going into the HOF, this is the year to go for it!”

I submitted my well-being adventure to Cooperstown, complete with leading Sunday worship at the UMC I visited 12 years ago.

Miracle upon miracle, my application was approved. Thank you UMC!

Immediately I snail-mailed my credentials, plan, July time window and motives to the current pastor of Cooperstown UMC. Weeks went by, no reply. Finally I emailed the pastor, and that same day I got a reply. Explanation for delay. I didn’t include my email address. No matter, he couldn’t help me because he was retiring in June, but he did forward the request to the staff-parish chair, and she approves. I will be the guest preacher at Cooperstown UMC on July 24. The wheels are now in motion. The 12 year vision is coming into focus!

“… remember the words of Jesus. It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35.

That vision exceeded my grandest expectations. Little did I know the faith adventure would surpass the baseball adventure, although in reality, the two are intertwined. And that was affirmed with my Sunday morning message recalling my humbling first experience with Rod Carew at the Twins training camp — getting verbally shot down by Rod trying to get his autograph and adapting my approach by giving Rod a compliment which led him to come to me to talk, not about baseball, but life … (if you want to hear the whole message, it’s on youtube/CooperstownUMC July 24). In essence, my message conveyed the importance of giving over getting. A lesson we all need to review and put into action. It led me to conclude my “baseball faith message” with this gem: we should rename Target Field to Targive Field. Get it?

 Yes, Cooperstown 2022 was an “over-the-top” well-being adventure, and I thank my family for letting me go. I witnessed my childhood heroes Tony Olivia and Kim Kaat and even David Ortiz receiving their just dues will never be forgotten in my mind. Their God-based appreciation of their gifts/talents, communicated in their acceptance speeches, will never be forgotten in my heart.

2022 remains hopeful when we include God in the equation, and perhaps if we revisit/reword the famous ’60s JFK quote to read: “Ask not what you can GET from your country, but instead ask what you can GIVE to your country and God’s world.

Let’s all get to work  and serve, reminding ourselves who gave us the gifts/talents to do so.

Don Malinsky is chplain at St. John’s Lutheran Community.