Celebrating Rev. Richard Kozelka

A memorial service was held at First Church last May for Rev. Richard Kozelka, who served First Church  from 1974-1991.  Below, we are sharing the text of that service, as collected by Dick’s wife, Kathy Kolb.

Tim Harlow of the Star Tribune wrote: “The Rev. Richard Kozelka will be remembered at First Congregational Church in Minneapolis … for transforming the church near the University of Minnesota into a congregation that welcomes people of all races, cultures and sexual orientations.”





First Congregational Church, Minneapolis

May 21, 2010


Reverend Jane McBride

Grace and peace to you, sisters and brothers in Christ.

On behalf of myself and all the staff and members of First Church, it is a joy and privilege to welcome you here. We are glad to share with you this day of remembering and giving thanks for the life of Rev. Richard Kozelka.

I am inspired by Dick’s witness and work in this place, by his voice that so boldly proclaimed the Gospel of justice, peace and inclusivity. I am grounded by the values he embraced, and which continue to shape the life of this congregation so integrally. It is an honor for me to serve this community of faith knowing that I stand in the strength and integrity of Dick’s legacy.

I am grateful for this opportunity to come to know Dick more fully today, through the eyes of his beloved community of family and friends, colleagues, and those he served in ministry over so many years.

Opening Prayer

Dick Kozelka (read by Kathy Hansen)

God of every beginning and of every ending—
of happy beginnings and happy endings…
of unhappy beginnings and unhappy endings…
God, help us to remember how often
we have been sure about the wrong things:
We’ve been sure what the future would be—
but it wasn’t.
We’ve been sure that hurting would never end—
but it ended.
We’ve been sure about the way to live—
but truth asked us to learn again… and again.
You alone are sure.
You alone have all truth.
You alone set the way which is life.
Sometimes, O God, we perceive you high, exalted, majestic;
At other times, you seem nearer than breathing,
closer than speaking.
Sometimes you are like a familiar friend;
At other times, like a mystery we shall never figure out.
Sometimes our praying is like entering a comfortable place,
At other times, awkwardness and uncertainty
push serenity aside.
Sometimes words well up easily from the heart;
At other times, no words can speak
the depth of our feelings………..


from Markings

Dag Hammarskjold (read by Greg Hubinger)

July 19, 1961
Have mercy
Upon us.
Have mercy
Upon our efforts,
That we
Before Thee,
In love and in faith,
Righteousness and humility,
May follow Thee,
With self-denial, steadfastness, and courage.
And meet Thee
In the silence.
Give us
A pure heart
That we may see Thee,
A humble heart
That we may hear Thee,
A heart of love
That we may serve Thee,
A heart of faith
That we may live Thee,
Whom I do not know
But Whose I am.
Whom I do not comprehend
But Who hast dedicated me
To my fate.

From First Corinthians, Chapter 15

(read by Laurel Stiebler)

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

[T]hanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

From Second Corinthians, Chapters 4 and 5

(read by Laurel Stiebler)

We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.


A Meditation for the Celebration of Life for the Rev. Dick Kozelka

The Reverend Jim Nelson

In recent months I have been fed again by reading a number of Dick’s splendid sermons. Garrison Keillor once described worship in these words: “You sit quietly for quite a while until the coffee is done, and then you go and drink it.” Though coffee times here are always great, you and I know that worship with Dick was always infinitely more than just waiting for the coffee.

And in the folder of sermons and notes which Kathy Kolb shared with me, I also discovered a recipe for bread pudding. No explanation — just a recipe card in his handwriting. How deliciously earthy and sacramentally symbolic!

In this time of reflection I focus not so much on Dick as a person — that will come during the Remembrances. Rather, the focus now is on the faith — the faith as he wrestled with it, proclaimed it, lived it. Along with the sermons, I draw on memories, not of bread pudding but of the frequent “theology-with-pancakes breakfasts” he and I had over the years. So now, three dimensions of the faith important to Dick.

FIRST, IT IS A LIBERAL UNDERSTANDING OF FAITH. Always “faith seeking understanding.” Always bringing our minds into the sanctuary and not checking them at the door. Always a matter of asking the right questions more than knowing the right answers. As the Apostle Paul said (in words Dick chose for this service): “We have this treasure in clay jars….” Or in the traditional translation, “in earthen vessels.”

To be a liberal Christian — a clay jar, earthen vessel Christian — means modesty about our faith claims. In this place that he sometimes fondly called “The First Congregational Church of Dinkytown,” he was keenly aware that nearby was a university full of scholarship, and he discovered from the scholars who sat in these pews that when they spoke about their fields of study, they typically spoke without dogmatism, but rather with modesty about their conclusions. It was a good reminder that, in the words of E.B. White, it is always wise to talk about truth with a small “t”.

To be a liberal, earthen vessel Christian is to believe that on most issues of life there is more than one right answer — which should be a great relief for recovering perfectionists. It is to know that the treasure can never be captured once and for all in any cultural form, creed, or doctrine — even in scripture — for God does not choose angels, but finite, limited human beings as vehicles of her revelation.

Because we have this treasure in earthen vessels, the Christian faith must be inclusive. The spirit that dwelt in Jesus of Nazareth is the Spirit of extravagant welcome transcending our limits and differences. That is why not only Christian proclamation, but also Christian community must be inclusive — and Dick worked hard to make it so — to make the church inclusive for persons of every color, and for women as clergy, and for lesbians and gay men, and for those who found patriotism not only in allegiance, but also at times as members of the loyal opposition.

In short, to be a liberal, earthen vessel Christian is to know that while we have radiant glimpses of revelation, there is still much mystery. And that is a gift.

Which speaks to SECOND theme, though first in order of importance: In the apostle’s words, “this extraordinary (transcendent) power belongs to God, and does not come from us…..” In Dick’s translation, GOD ALONE IS STILL OUR GOD.

Our friend was, as you know, a peerless collector of quotations. Here are a few of his about God:

Alice Walker, in The Color Purple: “When I heard that God was supposed to be white and male, I lost interest.”

C. S. Lewis: “What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know God is good.’ Have they never been to a dentist?”

Howard Thurman: “The will of God is what I find when I am most myself…. when I get down to the deepest things in me.”

Dick helped us to see the Ultimate Mystery in a Hebrew rabbi named Jesus — a story of incarnation, God taking on the reality of human life in all of its grandeur and dust. And a story of never-ending incarnation. For behind every soup kitchen and every symphony, behind every syllabus and every skyscraper, and — yes, even in the state where I now live, hovering over the Arizona desert heat where the undocumented still die daily, where we now hear more loudly the sounds of racist fear and the urgent cries for justice…… behind all of these fragile structures of our humanity, there is a Holy Presence, a cosmic mystery of Love, yearning to be embodied in our common life.

Ingmar Bergman likened getting older to climbing a mountain. You climb from ledge to ledge, and the higher you get, the more tired and breathless you become — but your view keeps getting better.

As Dick coped with illnesses later in life, he became more tired and breathless. His physical eyesight grew dim. But his view of God if anything got better. And, splendid preacher though he was, he knew with Kurt Vonnegut the truth that “People do not go to church to hear preaching, anyway, but to daydream about God.” In a multitude of ways, Dick helped us daydream about God.

THE APOSTLE CONCLUDES (and I come now to the THIRD dimension of Dick’s faith), “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…. So we do not lose heart…. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Dick and I shared pancakes, theology, and also The Twelve Steps in our breakfasts. He was open to the world about his commitment to a Twelve-Step Program. While my own problem led me to A.A., his was a different program. But we were both brought into recovery by the experience of death in the midst of life. And we both knew that the recovery question was “Now, can there be life in the midst of death?” It is the question for this moment. Beyond the jarring reality of physical death and the aching loss of physical presence of a beloved, what say our dreams about God?

The Greek philosophers dreamt of the immortality of the soul, while Hebrew and Christian traditions dreamt of the resurrection of the body. The liberal spirit says that there may be truth in both. The poet sums up both images: “Death shall have no dominion.” Yes, precisely because God has dominion, death shall have no dominion.

Immortality. What God has created and called good God will not allow to be destroyed. So, Kathy, we know there is something enduring, yes eternal about the soul mates we have lost. Since God has dominion, death shall have no dominion.

We also dream of resurrection of the body. This seems more puzzling, more problematic. For here our words of faith press beyond any literal meanings into the realm of mystery. But we are inescapably drawn to bodily imagery, for those we have loved and lost were never wispy, ethereal spirits, but fully body people.

It is that way we remember them. We remember the familiar tilt of the head, the feel of their touch, the characteristic quirks in their humor, the passion of their commitments. We think we still remember that wonderfully familiar scent on a piece of clothing still in the closet. The radio is on, and we are jarred by notes of a song they loved, and startled when we come upon small treasures of theirs we hadn’t seen for some time. Once more we are blind-sided by pangs of loss. So it is with grief, and it must be so, for they were so flesh-and-blood real to us in all of their particularity. Our beloveds. Our lovers. But with them we also remember one, the prophet from Nazareth, who was called “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” one whose triumph over death came through his utter vulnerability, his radical faithfulness, his transparency to the Beyond in our midst. We remember one who forever altered the meanings of both God and of death for us. What once seemed unique to him only, we now see as a gift to us all — resurrection has entered into our very being. We have glimpsed that the divine and the human are not as separate as we once thought.

In a moment we shall hear Dick’s choice of music — honoring his family’s heritage — by the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. As Kathy has said to me, it is strong music for a strong man, a somewhat lengthy piece in memory of one who did not want things to come to an end too quickly. So let us use this great music to meditate on our tears, our laughter, the gifts of life we shall forever remember and treasure.

And let us also meditate on a faith revealed in one who confidently said, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And let us remember how in this beloved place we have proclaimed again and again, “Christ is risen.” “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”



Kathy Kolb

Dick loved music, and he chose the music for this service, except for the first hymn. I thought it would be appropriate to sing one that he and David Cicchese wrote together for this congregation, just as we decided to use some of Dick’s own prayers. (He was too modest to have suggested that himself.) For the first hymn, he had chosen the old classic “Our God, our Help in Ages Past,” and we did sing that one in September in Hammond. It turned out to be a good thing, because Dick’s twin brother Bob, by the serendipity of twins, took the theme of his remarks from the words of that hymn. I’m telling you this because Dick’s nephew Tom will be reading Bob’s words in place of Bob, who was unable to be here this time.

The service in Hammond was the dress rehearsal for this one. This is the service that Dick planned, in the beautiful church he called home for his last thirty-five years, led by the friends he chose to participate. When I got in touch with each of them, I discovered that he had never actually consulted them; he obviously just assumed they would rise to the occasion, as they so magnificently have. Thank you all, especially Jim Nelson who spoke so eloquently just now, and who made the detailed arrangements for this service with loving, painstaking competence.

Dick had expected that Daryl Anderson would be doing the music. Obviously, Daryl is not, but he and Jennifer came all the way from Colorado to be here. Jennifer is the one who created the lovely stained glass window of Tower Hill on the cover of your program. (You’re supposed to notice the tennis court where Dick and Bob learned to play tennis.) Daryl is the one who, as music minister for this Church, first thundered out the Smetana in honor of Dick’s Czech heritage at the last service before Dick’s sabbatical in Canterbury, England. It’s a piano arrangement from the orchestral suite, Má Vlast (My Country), and in case you’re wondering, Višeherad, the name of the part you heard, refers to the great tenth-century castle on the hill in Prague overlooking the river. Smetana and Dvořak are both buried there. Dick would have known all that from a trip he took to Prague after his retirement, if not sooner. I had to look it up.

Apart from Lauri and Cynthia, who have come to the rescue for the music, there are two people Dick never dreamed would be part of this service when he planned it some twenty years ago. The first is your new minister, the Reverend Jane McBride. There could be no more fitting person to represent and continue Dick’s forward-looking ministry. I take it as an auspicious coincidence that Jane’s installation is happening this very Sunday.

The second person Dick would never have expected to be a part of this service when he first planned it is me. Dick and I had known each other for perhaps four or five years at the time—we met in the Tuesday noon Al-Anon group over on campus—but we were worlds apart, or so we thought, and it was another four or five years before that changed. If I’ve chosen to speak at this service it’s mainly because I feel the need to testify to the miraculous, once-unimaginable privilege I now have of standing here where Dick so often stood, and to confirm that I somehow belong. I’m well aware that it was his wife Judy who shared his pastorate at this church for seventeen years and who by all accounts, as Dick would have been the first to acknowledge, did a beautiful job of it.

For so many reasons, this service could easily have happened without me. For so many reasons, Dick and I could easily have lacked the courage to take the step we took fourteen years ago next Friday, May 28th (it was a Tuesday that year), when we decided that we were meant to be together. Now it takes my breath away to think I might not have had that courage, and that I might have missed so much happiness, so many new friends, such a wonderful new family. I thank my old friends, some of whom are here today, for helping me to find that courage.

The other thing I feel needs my testimony here is the hard part of Dick’s and my life together. I don’t need to recount our litany of woe during the last years—we sometimes felt we understood the story of Job better than we would have liked—but I’ve culled for this occasion a handful of the lessons that emerged from our ordeal.

Item 1: I was by far the younger of the two of us, but I was the one who nearly died first. Dick got me to the hospital in the nick of time—this was in the second year after we moved to Louisiana—and nursed me to recovery from a dangerous cancer. There’s a moral in that, I think.

Item 2: When Dick started going downhill from symptoms of what was eventually diagnosed as Parkinson’s, I often had occasion to recall the words of my wise friend Charlotte Anderson. One of the reasons I hesitated and feared starting a life with Dick was precisely that I might end up having to take care of him. And Charlotte said to me: “If that happens, you may want to care for Dick.” How could I ever have imagined otherwise?

Item 3: The problem, it turned out, was not that I didn’t want to care for Dick, but that Dick didn’t want to be cared for.

He hated being dependent, and “ungainly,” as he put it, and unrecognizable as the person he had always been. He was the one who had always been the care-giver. I sometimes reminded myself that I wouldn’t want to trade places, but that if the tables were turned, Dick would have done as much for me, and more.

I recall one poignant episode in his last year when he cried out, over and over: “I don’t know who I am anymore.” After awhile, I was able to reassure him that although he might not recognize his outward self, his questioning of identity expressed the very essence of the philosopher he had always been.

Item 4: When things are going well, when you’re blissful, your character flaws seem mysteriously to disappear. When things get rough, they come galloping right back. I became very “directive,” as Dick tactfully put it (everyone else just calls me “bossy”). We often became “testy”—his word, again—though fortunately not at the same time. We found ourselves having to apologize to each other about once a day.

Item 5: Finally, there’s no getting through what we did without a huge amount of help. I learned to ask for it, and it came, more and more of it, as needed. We had exceptional medical care from a doctor who was a good friend, who came regularly to the house, and who accepted phone calls night and day. We had the support of two supremely kind and competent African-American women, two cousins, and eventually several more of their family. We also had a warm family of friends at the Hammond Unitarian Church. Our friendships deepened. Our own relationship deepened until the very end.

The brain tumor that came out of nowhere last summer seemed the final blow. But it turned out to be in some ways a blessing. It was painless, and the finality of it kept us focused, calmed us, erased our testiness, and gave us both a great deal of peace.

And so my original, ultimate fear has come to pass, and I have lost Dick. But I find that’s the wrong way to put it: Dick is still with me, all the time. I miss his physical presence terribly, but I haven’t “lost” him—I am finding him again, more every day, as the bike-riding, tennis-playing, gently wise-cracking, broadly smiling, music-, poetry-, philosophy- and history-loving man I knew. I continue to grow and learn through him, and I expect others of you are finding this, too. The difference is: now it’s up to us to embody what we admired and miss about him.


Bob Kozelka (read by Tom Kozelka)

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away;

They fly forgotten as a dream which dies at opening day.

Dick will not be “forgotten as a dream,” not by any of us here and certainly not by those he baptized and married and tended to in churches in Wisconsin, in Colorado, and (particularly) in Minnesota. He will also be remembered by some people who have never met him: the people who, on being told that I am an identical twin, say, “Gee, we thought one of you was enough.”

But Dick’s congregations would know better. I wish that many of you here could have known Dick in his salad days, when he was one of the best preachers of our generation as well as a caring and helping pastor. I remember a man in one of his churches saying to me, “The thing about Dick is that he speaks in complete sentences—sensible sentences.”

I’d like to think that the latter part was due to his training in mathematics. He was always ahead of me, not only in being born but in all of the classes we took together. This included Differential Equations, in which he got (as usual) the highest grade in the class. But after the final exam he told me, “I don’t understand this stuff anymore.” And he went into philosophy and on to Yale Divinity School.*

Unlike many Yale grads (Bill Coffin comes to mind), Dick was not an “activist” minister but an available minister, sharing the joys and (more often) the sorrows of his people, thereby becoming a member of hundreds of extended families. That is why he will be remembered in those families, and why my friends were wrong: In the past two weeks I have learned for sure that one of me is NOT enough.

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,

Be Thou our guard while troubles last and our eternal home.

*Bob went on to graduate school in mathematics at Harvard and a distinguished career as professor.-KK


Burt Sundquist

I’m Burt Sundquist. My wife Marcia and I are longtime members of First Church and longtime friends of Dick’s. One remembrance I have of Dick is that he was an open and affirming person both in principle and in practice.

The following is a true story relating to the time when Marcia was Parish Administrator during Dick Kozelka’s tenure. I quote Marcia:

While Dick was out of the office one day, a telephone call came and a man’s voice inquired, “Is First Church a liberal church?” I said: “Yes, we are so regarded.” Then he inquired, “Is First Church a very liberal church?” I hesitated but said, “Yes, I would say it is. Why do you ask?” He followed by saying that he and his fiancé were looking for a church and minister where they could be married. “You see,” he said, “my fiancé and I are cross-dressers.” “I think you will need to speak to our minister,” I said. When Dick returned several hours later, I tried to recall just how the young man described himself. I said, “A man called who wanted to know if he and his fiancé could be married in this church. He said they were transgressors.” Dick, being an insightful man, laughed and said, “I think he must have said they were cross-dressers.”

Later after Dick met with the couple, he said, “Even though they have an unusual life style, they are genuine in their beliefs and I agreed to conduct the ceremony.” Dick was open-minded about other philosophies and practices, and this was one example.

A second remembrance I have is that Dick was a master of the English language. His sermons were always highly literate and he had an amazing list of quotes that he could pull up from his memory or his files. He was intimately familiar with the writings of W.H. Auden, E.B. White, and many other giants in the literary world, and he used that familiarity in very effective ways.

Third, and finally, Dick loved to get out-of-doors and canoe, bike, and cross-country ski. I have a vivid memory of the time when Dick was at our lake cabin and we had a fresh 3-4 inches of snow. As we were skiing across the lake on this beautiful day, I glanced over at Dick and he had an expression on his face of pure pleasure. I cherish that memory of Dick’s happiness with life, along with many other good memories.


Daryl Anderson

Dick was a good friend to all of us.

He was a GREAT friend to me.

His was a kind of friendship that changed my life. In one’s lifetime, one can count on one hand the friends who can do that.

Ours was a friendship that was both personal AND professional.

Our friendship was NOT the type:

–Where we’d sit down on Sunday and watch a Vikings game, or go deer hunting in the fall.

Ours was a friendship:

–Where we’d go canoeing on the St. Croix River;

–Where we’d walk from First Church to Dinkytown to have lunch and talk about everything under the sun, from politics and religion to personal ups and downs;

–Where we would go to dozens of restaurants around town for breakfast or lunch over the years and, yes, talk about everything under the sun;

–Where we would start up a men’s group at church which met at 7am and talked about the joys and concerns on the minds of a select and varied bunch of guys;

–Where Dick would graciously take care of our house and pets when Jennifer and I went out of town. Looking for a chance to take an invigorating walk in the neighborhood with our Bassett hound, he soon found that it was more like walking a pet rock. (And he didn’t complain about it—too much.)

Professionally, we were a great team! Prior to almost every service, we’d go over any changes before we’d (as Dick would put it) “suit up,” and would fine-tune our cues. With doing about 200 weddings and funerals together, I was starting to think that we could “take this show on the road.” This sort of “sync” doesn’t come by chance. It’s a melding of “kindred minds.” It’s a balance of two minds on the same page at the same time. This, sad to say, is rare.

I recall two weddings where Dick and I kept our cool and balance. One was what we called the “Hollywood wedding” where the whole nave was decked out in speakers, sound systems, and floodlights. It looked like First Church on steroids. We kept our cool. The other was a cross dress wedding where the women were wearing tuxedoes and the 6’8″ 300-pound guys were wearing wedding gowns. We kept our cool. (Some things you don’t forget!) Dick and I handled these weddings as if they were the most routine of weddings and thought of them as just “variations on a theme.”

I am proud to say that I am one of two people on the planet who made Dick laugh uncontrollably during a church service. Dick was announcing to the congregation that Jennifer and I got married the previous week. Whereupon I cranked up the organ and started playing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. The other person who accomplished this feat was at another of Dick’s churches where they put a pile of S & H Green Stamps in the offering plate.

In many of Dick’s letters over the years, he would often close with a quote. So, in Dick fashion, I close with a quote from Alexander Pope, where he said:

How often are we to die before we go quite off this stage?

In the death of every friend we lose a part of ourselves, and the best part.

I’ll miss you, Dick.


Laurel Stiebler

Dick Kozelka was a dog person. But it took a cat to get it started for me. After I announced my intention to join First Church in spring 1985, Dick came to my house to get more acquainted. We sat in my sunroom on kitchen chairs, because I had recently graduated from McCormick Seminary and had few household things. I did bring with me from Chicago a mother cat and four kittens, who always hid if someone came to the apartment. So, as Dick and I were talking, I saw a grey presence creep into the room, take stock for a few minutes, and then jump into Dick’s lap. It was quite a surprise for both of us, but as Nanner would prove several other times over his life, this cat was a good judge of character. I knew that an important friendship with Dick Kozelka had begun.

When Dick retired in 1991, he learned from his nephew Paul the Spanish term for a retired minister: “pastor jubilado.” Technically, a pensioned-off pastor. Images of cardigan sweaters, cups of tea, and quiet reading. Jubilado might mean retired in Spanish, but I recognized right away its shared Latin roots with the English words jubilant and jubilee. The latter, jubilee, suggests joyous celebrations and, from our biblical heritage, the notion of freedom and release. Clean slate, no debts. Move on.

Dick was no shrinking violet in retirement. I saw him as adventuresome and courageous. I took him to the airport for a bicycle trip to England. I dropped him off, he clad in journalist vest and broad-brimmed hat, to join Ed Martin and students from UTS on a study trip to Nicaragua. Another time, I dropped him off to go to Honduras to visit Paul. Then for another trip to visit Paul, this time to Brazil. Here he would face his biggest international challenge: dancing samba with intriguing Brazilian women while speaking Portuguese. (He had spent several quarters at the University in language study.)

And then Dick – smartly – married Kathy Kolb. And I – happily – received another priceless friendship.

My friendship with Dick was played out over restaurant tables. We broke bread in a variety of Twin Cities restaurants: Baker’s Square for breakfast, the White Lily (alas, no more) for lunch, W.H. Frost for a special occasion evening meal. Some meals were for planning Confirmation, which we co-taught in Dick’s last year at First Church. At others we pored over pages (lots of pages) to make choices for his second volume of original prayers. Sometimes it was a celebration of a birthday or a chance to commiserate. We could also just hang out, and our conversations would run the gamut from politics to Winnie the Pooh.

I witnessed Dick face his health challenges. From my vantage point, he did this, mostly, with equanimity. Or to use a favorite word of his – remember, I read ALL THOSE PRAYERS – poise. He had a strong marriage, connections with family, friends in many places, and a supportive community among the Spanish moss of Louisiana. This is a potent recipe for keeping a life of poise.

Three days before Dick died, I said good-bye to him on the phone. I lost my composure after the first sentence, moved through blubbering into weeping. It was a child-like moment, my litany of “thank you,” and “I’ll miss you,” and “I love you” over and over again. Kathy, who was holding the phone to Dick’s ear, said he was smiling.

The day after he died, I had a vision of Dick in a dream. He was standing tall and striding, unfettered and totally restored. And of course, he was smiling, just like in the picture in the worship bulletin. I saw my friend Dick as fully “pastor jubiloso,” jubilant. Fully moving into the ultimate Jubilee, the returning to God what is God’s. I know that faith was another of Dick’s dearest words, but for me, this vision gives me hope. Thanks, Dick, and I love you.

Closing prayer

Dick Kozelka, read by Jim Nelson

Great Shepherd of us all,
You keep covenant with your people
in every generation.
You are to us a sure guide and a strong refuge.
Surely you have led us, and comforted us,
and strengthened us;
You have restored our souls.
Your word in our hearts has been a melody now bold, now gentle, now a mighty chorus, now a faint echo.
But always your word within, and worship wells up.
We thank you for the treasures of memory,
by which the past directs the present,
and what we are is shaped by your spirit.
We praise you for the treasures of affection,
which brighten the commonplace
with flashing joy or glowing peace.
We bless you for the treasures of hope,
enriching every effort,
making bearable every frustration,
turning our hearts ever toward you
with whom all things are possible.
O God, we bring you in our prayers
all the hills and valleys of life,
the repeating rhythms of fullness and want,
of captivity and deliverance,
of sharing and solitude,
the journey of our lives.
As to the future, we don’t know what we shall see,
but we know where to look.
We don’t know where we shall be led,
but we know who will lead.
We don’t know what lies ahead,
but we know who is there before us.
And so we pray for what we do not yet know,
and we say:
“Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
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2 Responses to Celebrating Rev. Richard Kozelka

  1. Katherine Kolb says:

    It’s funny to see reprinted here a part of the obituary in the Strib that perpetuates an error: Dick’s ministry was not the second-longest at first church, but the longest, period. He was there seventeen years. Eric Nelson was there almost as long but not quite, as he wrote me at the time he resigned. I’m not sure how the mistake got started. Dick would have been amused.

  2. Jane McBride says:

    Oops! … glad to know the truth about that one : ) I just took that part of the quote out.