LIMA — For 28 years, the Rev. Doug Adams has presided over Easter services at South Side Christian Church. But even as be preaches his last today, they are not the ones to stand out the most.
Instead, Adams thinks of those more difficult Sundays: those following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, the local police shooting death of a woman, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“I think the services I enjoy preaching the most are the ones we are not really prepared for, when things happen in the community that we need to address,” he said. “I think preaching is reacting to the situation of the day. You have to preach where people are at and help them deal with those emotions in those situations.”
For years, Adams has preached on these tough topics and worked in the Lima community to help his church and community heal. On May 26, he will preach his last sermon at South Side, ending 28 years at the church and 35 in ministry.
Adams and his wife, Linda, a teacher at Bath Elementary School, will stay in Lima, where Adams said he will play a little more golf, be seen more often out singing and playing guitar, and just relaxing more.
“Every day I come to work thinking about this congregation and what their needs are. I haven’t spent too much time thinking about myself,” he said. “You care about a congregation. You get to know them. You are with them at their worst and their best. It takes an emotional toll. I think for me it is just time to lay it down and let somebody else who is younger, stronger and brighter come in and take my place.”
South Side will first hire an interim pastor, who will lead the church through its search for a new pastor.
Jim Ottarson came to South Side 20 years ago after meeting Adams at an Aids Task Force meeting.
“I was just very impressed with his attitude toward people. He just a had a lot of compassion for people,” Ottarson said. “I think he will do anything, anytime, anywhere for the people at our church. Just his ability to meet people’s needs and the love he shares with them.”
A native of Cincinnati, Adams spent four years at a church in Dayton before South Side approached him about coming to Lima. The church had a good reputation, Adams said, and was doing good things. He came and passed up other opportunities over the years.
“I decided I was not done here,” he said. “There was always something coming up that I wanted to make sure was finished, or some event I thought was important.”
The church then was located on the corner of Kibby Street and Central Avenue near downtown Lima. In 1997, work began on a new, much larger facility off Eastown Road. Adams calls the building and move into it his biggest accomplishment.
Crediting South Side with being community minded before he arrived, Adams immersed himself in the community. He served on the Veterans Memorial Civic Center board, various community committees set up by Lima Mayor David Berger and volunteered for 24 years as an on-call chaplain at Lima Memorial Health System. An avid golfer, he also served as tour director for the Futures Tour for a few years.
Adams is a member of a clergy group in Allen County that meets monthly, and he has often collaborated with area ministers. The church partners with others to help homeless families through the Family Promise program.
“I think the church’s presence in the community is important,” he said. “You have to look at the church as being very holistic. You work with the people and they are in the community. It is important for us to be a part of that community and to lend our leadership where we think it is appropriate.”
South Side hosted a community service the evening of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Adams and other pastors began talking early in the day about how they could help their community. By noon, the service was planned.
“Having people home alone watching the television, we didn’t think was helping, so we thought we would bring them together. … That was an important moment in the community,” Adams said.
When asked about his involvement in the community, Adams quickly brings up music. His guitar is just a reach away from his office desk at South Side. He continues today what he started in college in the 1970s: playing '60s folk music at area coffee houses and sometimes at other community events.
“It is out of character for what a minister is supposed to be and some people really didn’t like it, but it is something that I enjoy and it helps me forget about the stress of the week,” said Adams, who doesn’t usually play at church but will today with children during the sunrise service.
Adams and the Rev. David Harris, of Trinity United Methodist Church, have been known to play some old Woody Guthrie music together. Harris called his friend a great partner in music ministry.
“One of the things that impresses me about Doug is that for him, the Gospel is not a theoretical thing, it is a practical thing and he has ways of making that apply to regular life,” he said. “I think that is a gift, but it is also a necessity.”
Adams will preach three services today, bringing his Holy Week total to seven. He’ll preach of being “in the character of Christ,” and going that extra mile for others. He’ll tell his congregation that they have moments of resurrection in their own lives when “we realize how important we are to the whole body of Christ and we can make contributions.”
The Easter message doesn’t change much, Adams said, with little ways to treat it much differently from one year to the next. But this year will be different. Adams admits it will be hard not to think about and get caught up in it being his last Easter at South Side.
“One of the hardest things for me is not to remind myself that I am leaving,” he said. “To keep on doing what I am doing up until May 26, and even that Sunday to preach a normal service and then just give the Benediction and leave.”