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  • Writer's pictureSt. Matthews

What can happen in 20 years? More stories than we can count.

Celebrating with stories of joy and faith that Rev. Rob Merola has brought to so many here at Saint Matthew's and in the community over the last 20 years.

From Jodie Leach:

Dear Rob,

Oh Gosh! One paragraph to share one story! Miriam asked me to share an anecdote as you begin your sabbatical and 20th year anniversary. So many stories over ten years of building a church community and strengthening the love of God! What a trip down memory lane!

I considered sharing about sermons that were memorable, especially ones with object points like mousetraps, volcanoes, water guns, and the one about the jar with three large eggs. These eggs represented God, health and family. Rob then added pebbles, sand and water to fill the jar showing how to keep things balanced without overflowing.

Then I listed all the leadership fun times…sitting at a park bench at Algonkian Park and dreaming about a yearly day of fun with the congregation and how that became reality. Vestry retreats, Willow Creek trips, mentoring seminarians, reviewing Sunday School curriculum and so many more meetings and discussions. Stretching my skills with vision, mission and strategic plans!

I thought about all the youth events: CreationFest, Mission trips to Montana seeing stars and canoeing down river. The cliffs of Belize and climbing on the second story of the school to take a group photo and fireworks in NYC. Renting a big coach bus for the trip to Hershey Park, sending the teens to a concert with Weird Al Yankovich, and creating Mission Possible for the younger youth to bridge their connection to mission work.

Avalanche Ranch VBS
Avalanche Ranch VBS - 2007

VBS!!! What a vision you had to create another dream world for children. A new adventure for kids who might only come to church a few times a year or never to find a connection with God. Adventures with volcanoes, holding Pandamania at Rolling Ridge Elementary while the parish hall was built. Hanging an airplane in the “new” parish hall, so very many decorating ideas, and so many costumes (remember when you dressed like….a mad scientist, an alligator, and many other crazy characters)! And after VBS, kids would drive by and say I remember what fun we had with songs, games, and Bible stories, I want to go to THAT church!

You were always there to listen and help our family grow in faith and share that faith with others.

So, most of all I remember your love of nature and enjoying fun adventures! Thanks for making so many memories so special over the years!

Sending you much love and hoping the adventures on your sabbatical bring much joy!

Jodie Leach
Jodie Leach

From Alex Leach:

My favorite memory of Fr. Rob is the glowing joy he would radiate. When I was at St. Matthew's, I was in the youth group.

Belize Mission Trip - 2008
Belize Mission Trip - 2008

I remember on Mission Trips, and times spent together at the church, that Rob would exude this sense of joy about life and the world. Whether that came out through cliff jumping in Belize, hanging lizards from his ears, by creating a big production out of VBS, or by his calm demeanor of cheerfulness he would bring to youth group and youth events. It is that spiritual rootedness in joy that I try to emulate every time I preside at Eucharist and share in the life of the congregations I now serve.

Alex Leach
Alex Leach

From Maria Palmer:

Firecrackers in fish tanks, suspended bowling balls, mousetrap mania and shattered teacups are just a few of the memorable themes used in Rob’s sermons over the years. One message that has stuck with me was from the spring of 2007. Rob’s daughter Christine was about to graduate from high school (as was my son Chris) and he preached a sermon about her graduating and the changes that would bring. After fourteen years the particulars have faded but the essence of Rob’s message remains: raise your child in such a way that they will be confident enough to face the challenges of life and love them in such a way that they will always want to return home and spend time with their parents. As a mom who was struggling with the idea of her firstborn leaving the nest that was just what I needed to hear.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Rob! Thanks for the many memorable moments and the guidance you have given over the years.

VBS Awesome Adventure
Maria, Chris & Emily Palmer

From Dick Almarode:

Rob 2012 Fishing
Rob 2012 Fishing

Personally I believe that given the description of being genuine is one of the most integrative compliments one can receive. That said, it is the word I use to describe Rob. I met Rob at another parishioners house with the other members of the Search Committee for our first interview. He interviewed well and seemed to be our kind of Priest. At the end of the interview he called my name and asked me to kneel on the floor. Then he had everyone lay hands on me and said a wonderful prayer for my terminally ill daughter, my family, and me. Needless to say this left quite a first impression on me "and then some"!!

For 20 years Rob has not wavered in his faith and compassion he demonstrated that night.

...............he also likes to fish.............

Dick Almarode 2012 Fishing
Dick Almarode 2012 Fishing

From Trevor Black:

It’s pretty amazing that I get to tell people I meet that I once dressed my pastor up as a penguin and shot him with a paintball gun…and also he was my boss.

Episcobowl 2016
Rob the Penguin - Episcobowl 2016

Too many stories I could tell about Fr. Rob sound entirely far-fetched. Responses to these stories usually sound something like “how big was the pool of goop?” or “you guys exploded what?” It’s amazing to think that the young people I worked with will have Fr. Rob as the image that comes to to mind when thinking of a church leader. Donut communion or Zorb soccer — Rob’s fanatical joy is boundless and beautiful.

Trevor Black
Trevor Black at Episcobowl 2016

From Lisa Lintelman:

Belize HS Mission Trips, you would’ve thought Rob was one of the kids. Incorrigible is the word that comes to mind. Rob was not exactly the voice of reason all the time, but rather the voice of, “Go for it!” Granted one of the local kids told us jumping from 20 feet above a nearby river (that might’ve had piranhas in it!)

Belize Mission trip
Belize Mission trip

was safe as he was speaking from experience. It was when Rob and one of the teens were trying to catch an iguana in the town where we were staying. Running headlong across a street, up a tree, down the tree, across the street, and horrifyingly, swishing around in a filthy canal that had been witnessed, on occasion, being used as a latrine! I thought for sure we’d be returning the two of them home with hepatitis. Needless to say, traveling with Rob, God love him, is not for the faint of heart!

2019 Shrinemont Retreat
Vickie Nelson, Lisa Lintelman, Linda Merola, Rob Merola, Maria Palmer

Have an story about Father Rob you'd like to share?

Join us Sunday, July 11th as we celebrate his faithful service to Saint Matthew's AND send him and Linda off on their sabbatical.

Can't make it Sunday? Share your story in the comments below!

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