Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Remembering Max

Max & I
Today I want to remember one of the most special men I have ever known.  I knew that I was going to write about someone who had been a spiritual influence and inspiration in my life as part of the Blog Challenge, and when I received word from my dear friend and former secretary boss Millie Simmons that my friend, pastor and mentor Max Rees had passed away I knew who I would write about.  I served under Max as Director of Youth & Christian Education at Springfield Friends Meeting from 1986-1994.  Max had a remarkable influence on so many, and today I remember the love and faith of his wife Avis, his children Bob, Barbara, Tom, Margaret, Rachel, Becky and Cathy and the impact they had on my life.  Some of this appeared previously on this blog under the title Influences: Max Rees.

When Marilyn and I arrived at SFM in 1986, Max Rees had already been there over 2o years.  The Meeting was coming out of a very difficult time.   Attendance was down, and so was enthusiasm.  But Max did not waiver in his faith in God or in the people of Springfield.  And his wife Avis was just as strong.  Both of them were of great encouragement to Marilyn and I, and we worked as a team to help bring Springfield back.

Max had a classic preacher's voice and total command of a pulpit.  My dear friend Patsy Hill once told me that "when Max doesn't preach it's like a PTA meeting instead of church."  Unfortunately, she said that right after I had filled in for him! (HA!)  He visited the area hospitals every day; he visited people in their homes on a regular basis as well.  I not only worked along side him for those 8 years, but Marilyn and I lived across the street from them during that time as well.  He and Avis called the police and kept our home from being robbed one Christmas Eve.  He had a great sense of humor.  I remember one morning, after he had been in a very difficult discussion with one of his daughters, sitting across from him as he looked at me with a straight face and said, "Carl, women are not our kind of people."  He had a witty comment for most every occasion, but was never silly.  And perhaps most importantly, he trusted me with guiding his grandchildren by encouraging their participation in our youth ministry.  Jon, Stacy, Laurie, Mike, Beth, Ben, Jill, Allison, Mary, Erin, Will and David were the heart of our student ministry, and I love them all.  He welcomed us into his home from the very beginning, and his family became our family.  To read more about that you can visit another vintage post, Sunday Dinner.  

That is not to say that Max & Avis were perfect.  They had been there a very long time and had many preconceived notions of how everything should be done. They were in bed by "Quaker Midnight" (10pm) and up before the sun.  Avis never threw anything away, so we had Sunday School materials dating back to the Ice Age!  Max often disappeared in the afternoons to go feed his cows.  These were minor flaws.  The fact is, they gave their lives each and every day to serve the people of Springfield, and in doing so set a standard for me to live up to.  Through blessed times and struggles their faith did not waiver, and their love for God, for each other, for their family and for their "flock" never changed.  They were indeed the "First Family" of Springfield.

The late Rich Mullins wrote a song about his family in 1989 called First Family, from his album Never Picture Perfect.  In the early 90's I rewrote part of it to fit the Rees family, planning to sing it when Max retired.  He was still going strong when I left in 1994, so I never performed it.  But I would like to share the words now.  They don't all fit perfectly- and some of it is how I imagine things might have been- but they express how I see Max and Avis...

Those folks they were always the first family to arrive
with 9 people jammed into a car that seated 5
With one bathroom to bathe and shave in eight of 'em stood in line
There was no hot water for laundry, but they all did just fine

Talk about your miracles, talk about your faith
Max, he could make things grow out of Indiana clay
and Avis could make a gourmet meal out of homemade bread and beans
They worked to give faith hands and feet, and somehow gave it wings

I can still hear Max fussing, he's working late on on the farm
the cows are out of the fence again and the tractor just won't start
and Avis is doing laundry, I can see it waving on the line
They just counted on Jesus through the pain and strain of hard times

Talk about your miracles, talk about your faith
Max, he could make things grow out of Carolina clay
and Avis could make a gourmet meal out of pecan pie and beans
They worked to give faith hands and feet, and somehow gave it wings

Somehow they raised 7 children, and you know that some things went wrong
but the pain didn't leave them crippled, and the scars just made them strong
Never picture perfect, just a preacher man and his wife
who somehow knew the value of hard work, good love and real life

Talk about your miracles, talk about your faith...

Max has now joined the "great cloud of witnesses" I heard him preach about so often.  He will be missed by his 7 children who called him Daddy; by his over 20 grandchildren who called him Papa; and by hundreds of friends who knew who him simply as Max.  His life inspired me to want to be more like Jesus by being more like him.  There is no higher compliment.  My prayers are with the family- we love and miss you all.

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous10/26/2011

    Sounds like a wonderful man and a great pastor. I am sure he will be missed. ~ Christ Cooper

  2. You are so right, Chris. But he left a legacy in his family that must be experienced to be believed. So he's not really gone...

  3. Thanks for a great tribute to a man who was a mentor, a friend and a leader by example.

  4. Thank you Sandra- so good to hear from you. Marilyn and I have so many fond memories of you and our Springfield family.

  5. Beautiful tribute, Carl.

  6. Will Swaim10/27/2011

    And that, is just how it was... I have very fond memories of Max and the love and respect and kindness he had shown me over the course of my life. Be it in good times or bad, he was there, like a good friend would be. I know he was the preacher, but he was so much more than that. If you wanted to laugh it was ok, if you needed to cry he was the shoulder so many would turn to, and without fail, he was always there... Wonderful tribute, Carl and thank you for sharing it with us all.

  7. Thanks Will. Max's impact on our lives will continue to be felt for many years to come.


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