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A prophetic leader retires
January 27, 2015

By Lee Blons | Last Sunday Jim Gertmenian, the senior minister at Plymouth Church, preached his last sermon there before his retirement from active ministry. (He is pictured, right, speaking at our Ending Homelessness Together lunch last November.) I was honored to have been asked to share some thoughts about the years of prophetic, courageous and inclusive leadership that Jim has provided to Beacon and the broader community in his commitment to end homelessness.

Jim’s prophetic leadership is grounded in his deep faith and powerful speaking. What some may not know is that Jim was deeply touched by volunteering at Simpson Housing shelter some 15 years ago and came away with a righteous anger, concluding that the inequity existing on our street corners was unconscionable. He gave voice to a vision that would not accept the world as it is but the world as it should be.

Jim transformed that anger and exhibited courageous leadership by taking this prophetic voice out of the pulpit and into the community as he and members of his congregation took risks to create Lydia Apartments despite external opposition and against the odds. He held the belief that if we invested in hope and healing, we could make a difference in the lives of those who were otherwise marginalized. Furthermore, this idea has extended in our own lives and community as those involved have come to believe that we all share a single path to the “beloved community.”

Jim embodies inclusive leadership.  Jim has welcomed everyone to the movement to end homelessness.  He could have stood as a single courageous pastor alone on the mountaintop crying out his vision for a new world. Instead, he invited many to take this journey with him. He lifted up the leaders here as the seeds of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative were planted. He welcomed me as a co-leader with him. I have always felt appreciated and supported in my leadership.  

And then, he not only welcomed but championed our decision to build a collaborative of congregations – including changing our name to Beacon. He welcomed the participation and leadership of other congregations.

And as you know, Jim believes deeply in building interfaith relationships. He lifts up the value and appreciation of congregations and clergy of all faiths and sees the community that we can build by coming together. 

Jim will be missed at Plymouth Church, at Beacon and in the broader community. But I believe and I know that Jim believes that our true legacy is that which lives on through those that follow.

So it is fitting that we recognize his legacy of prophetic, courageous and inclusive leadership through the Gertmenian Leadership Award to be presented to clergy that pick up the torch that has shone so bright in his hands. More information will be forthcoming about the award, but for now it's enough to say it will honor those attributes and values Jim has embodied and generously shared.

Lee Blons
Lee is Beacon's executive director.