I recently attended a celebration of life service for Rev. William O. Smith.
Rev. Smith had been a part of our family even before we became a family. He founded the church my in-laws attended. He baptized my wife, Susan, as a baby. He performed the wedding for Susan and me more than 33 years ago. He baptized both of our sons as infants. He performed the wedding for our oldest son and his wife. He baptized my niece and was scheduled to perform her wedding next month. He performed the marriage for my aunt and uncle. He baptized our two granddaughters. He attended countless other family gatherings, celebrations and events.
He was also active in the community, serving as the chairman of LEAP (Leadership Education for the Advancement of Phoenix) Commission and was instrumental in establishing the first Martin Luther King Day breakfast in Phoenix. Rev. Smith founded the North Phoenix Corporate Ministry, comprised of six churches and two synagogues, with the vision and purpose to literally and symbolically unite different local faiths to work toward the common good of the community. He also founded A Stepping Stone Foundation to create success through pre-school education for children and families with limited opportunities.
Some 10 years ago, toward the end of Rev. Smith’s days as the minister at Shadow Rock, the second church he founded, they began videotaping his sermons. His final sermon at the church was about creation, separation by choice and by God’s choice, celebrating what we’ve had and will have, and how we can all work to make the world a better place.
I was not there to see his last sermon in person. But I was there when they played the tape of it at his own celebration of life service.
I can only assume he planned it that way. Rev. Smith got to preach at his own funeral – and the messaging was spot-on.