Saturday, June 17, 2006
Steamboat Springs It was an Easter Sunday sunrise service at the top of Thunderhead, and the sun came up over Mount Werner, shining light on the faces of churchgoers who were singing an Easter hymn.
It's a moment Larry Oman counts as one of his most memorable.
"It was pretty spectacular," said Oman, the retiring pastor at Steamboat Springs' United Methodist Church.
Oman will take that, and many other memories, with him when he retires July 1 from his 10-year stint as the church's leader.
Gill Ramirez, chairman of the staff parish, said he will miss Oman for his personality and his leadership.
"It's very hard to put into words, but he's kind and real and has a quiet strength about him," Ramirez said. "He could have long ago retired, but he's shown strength week in and week out. He's an incredible example of how to deal with incredible hardship."
Oman was diagnosed with colon cancer in February 200l, after which he underwent surgery and six months of chemotherapy. The cancer went into remission for three years until a tumor was discovered on his liver in May 2005.
"His recent struggles lately never affected how he did his work and how he approached things in his church life or personal life," associate Pastor Tim Selby said. "He has never been anything but committed to our church and our community by helping meet people's needs in his 10 years."
Oman's influence in the community and his church runs deep.
"I was part of a group that helped start Habitat for Humanity in Routt County," Oman said. "Now we've built houses for five families, and I have served as the president of the board of directors for five years."
During Oman's time as pastor, he refurbished the sanctuary, added offices to the church and was instrumental in its blossoming membership.
"There are so many members. It's like a big family that Larry has developed here," Ramirez said.
For three years, members of the United Methodist Church went with Oman on mission trips to the Dominican Republic, where they built a school and a church that served as the mother church for 12 other places of worship.
"We would go out and help with repair projects at those chapels and Bible schools," Oman said. "Those trips were special."
But he didn't have to leave city limits to be part of special moments.
Oman said he'll miss performing baptisms, weddings and funerals.
"I will miss just being able to celebrate special occasions with families," Oman said. "And both of my daughters had their weddings in the church, and my grandson was baptized here."
Some of Oman's other favorite moments include the time he sang "There's a Hole in my Bucket," a la Harry Belafonte, during a talent show for the fellowship. He also remembers the service he gave after Sept. 11, 2001.
"It was one of those times that the church was filled to overflowing," Oman said. "I think people needed to have that sense of hope, a sense of grace and needed to know where God was in all of this."
It was just one of the countless times Oman has been there for people when they needed him.
"Being a pastor is not just about Sunday morning," Oman said. "It's a lot of administrative work as well as preparing for worship and leading worship, giving pastoral care, visiting people in the hospital, responding to deaths in the family and pastoral counseling -- any crisis."
Oman and his wife, Martha, had careers they loved. Martha was a library media specialist at Steamboat Springs High School. She recently retired. She said she is excited about the time they will have to spend with their family.
"We will be more available to our (four) kids and can go visit them when we want to," Martha said.
They plan to be with their grandson in Seattle for his second birthday, and they will take a train trip across Canada this summer.
"We would also love to travel Europe and see other parts of the world that we haven't had a chance to see yet," Martha said.
The Omans plan to continue to make Steamboat their home, and Larry said he is happy Mattias Krier will be the new pastor.
"I've known Matt over the years, and he's a really good pastor," Oman said. "I'm really pleased that he is coming here. He has a lot of background in spiritual formation, which is something I'd like to see developed more. He's a good pastor for that emphasis."
Thanks to Oman's leadership and dedication, Ramirez said, Krier will take over a healthy, strong church.
"He's leaving a church that he helped build, and he's leaving it in great shape with a commitment to a strong community with a strong family sense, and it's growing and will continue to flourish," Ramirez said.