REV. RANDY DALES AND WIFE LYNN enjoyed the public celebration of his ministry in Cate Park last Sunday, June 24. Dales has been pastor of All Saints’ Church for 34 years. He preached his last sermon that morning. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
June 28, 2012WOLFEBORO — Allan Bailey had volunteered to make a few remarks about his friend the Rev. Randy Dales from the Wolfeboro Community Bandstand in Cate Park on Sunday afternoon. And standing before the crowd of well-wishers assembled in the waterfront park to honor Dales' 34 years of community-minded ministry, he made good on his promise, but it wasn't easy for him to keep his emotions in check.
Admitting that he wasn't a steady churchgoer himself, he said that he slipped into the packed All Saints' Episcopal Church to hear Dales' last sermon from the pulpit. It was an emotional day for the congregation. From Bailey's perspective as a long time friend and community member, Dales "has been a gift to us. I can't remember any one having such an impact on our community as Randy Dales."
He described the church's commitment to social outreach with its involvement in activities such as the L.I.F.E. Ministries Food Pantry, Caregivers, Hospice, and the long-established Lord and Tailor Thrift Shop, all of which came about during Dales' tenure, and related personal experiences in which Dales provided consistent balm.
"We bless you, just as you have blessed us," he finished.
Well wishers mingled under the shade of the trees along the waterfront park to chat, share reminiscences and listen to the Moose Mountain Jazz Band as they enjoyed Bailey's ice cream set out for all to enjoy.
Parishioner David Olson recollected that Dales christened his son 40 years ago, and his wife Susan, a member of the church vestry, commented on the beauty of the lunch presented following Dales' final service that morning. 220 people were served lunch under a tent in the courtyard.
"What a legacy," she mused, remembering the years gone by. "All those little things [he did] added up to big things."
" He energized others in town to participate in social outreach," offered congregant Louise Graham.
Lee White, the man in charge of the search for a new minister, said, "It's going to be a real challenge to replace Randy, but we can't look for another Randy…We have to spend time defining what we want for the future. It's a process that will take a lot of time and thought.
"We're lucky that the majority of the people have the same mind set who agree that we have to walk the talk and give back to the community and people in need. We're not just church goers, we're church doers."
Dales, looking at the crowd in the park, said that the church wanted the public to have the opportunity to enjoy the day and share mutual connections. "This is a very moving expression from a community and church I've been a part of for more than three decades. That's a little daunting to think about."
As he stood with his wife, Lynn, at his side, a woman walked over to him and thrust her hand out. As he took it, she said, " I want to thank you for your church policy of leaving your church open 24 hours a day. When I was homeless, I slept there with my dog. It was a God send."
Dales responded that the policy has been controversial at times, for the church has experienced occasional vandalism, but he stands by it.
"There were no domestic violence shelters available," said the woman, "and there was a waiting list for housing."
When Dales asked if she was still in need she replied, "No. I met some good people during that time. Doors opened for me. I found a place to live. Thank you."