Retired pastor shares messages of renewal
Area minister offers lessons about life during pandemic’s second Easter
The Rev. Gordon Reif shares thoughts about life and words of wisdom with various friends, family members and neighbors.
Reif, 90, neatly writes his musings on paper. He collects a page or two at a time, makes copies and distributes them to fellow residents of Smith Crossing senior living community in Orland Park.
“It’s a continuation of things I’ve been doing,” Reif said. “I’ve been ordained for 66 years.”
The retired Presbyterian minister served at churches in Chicago Heights, Orland Park, Homewood, Palos Park and elsewhere. He and his wife, Peggy, have been married for 66 years and raised four children.
“The people who live here are the primary source where I share, but I send them to a few relatives,” Reif said.
Their children and grandchildren are scattered across the country.
“They hear from me now and again,” he said.
Reif calls his collections, “Rev Sez.” His ruminations hint at the experience of someone who wrote sermons for many years. He writes about how people live, how they treat one another and how they should act.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020 his periodical missives have often explored the theme of gratitude.
“I think we’re more serious about life than maybe we were,” Reif said. “I think we’re more serious about our blessings, we’re more serious about needs, we’re more serious about how we can make a good difference if we work at it and try hard.”
Reif said he believes the pandemic has changed nearly everyone.
“I personally don’t think most people who have lived through the pandemic will ever be exactly the same,” he said. “I think almost always where we’re different, it will be for the better.”
One lesson is that many will discover they took people and things for granted, he said.
“I think we’re going to realize that all the things that we have can be taken away from us,” Reif said. “This is a shocker.”
He related his own experience at Smith Crossing, where he and Peggy have lived for the past five years.
“We can’t go down and eat in the dining room at any time,” he said. “We can’t just leave our apartments without masks on. Limitations have been developed because of the pandemic that we never thought would happen.”
The pandemic has caused social activities in the community to be curtailed. Reif said after a yearlong hiatus, he is now able to resume hosting twice monthly group talks called Challenge Discussions. The
He shared several pages of Rev Sez messages. The newsletters are headlined with a statement followed by several numbered examples.
“Some things we all need: Making sure we are all always happy about the things that should make us happy and sad about the things that should make us sad, and live each day accordingly,” he wrote.
“It takes a lot more than a moment or a day: To really care about the well-being of those who are less fortunate,” Reif wrote.
“Don’t ever forget to remember: Just because we can’t do it all does not give us a good reason to refuse to do what we can,” he wrote in Rev Sez.
“Some things we should not believe in: The sad and bad things that happen to people are things people bring upon themselves,” he wrote.
If he was younger, perhaps Reif would publish his thoughts on an internet blog or Twitter or share them via email, but he prefers print. Lately he has drawn inspiration from comic strip panels in daily newspapers and used their messages as themes.
topic of the most recent dialogue was “Getting along with difficult people.”
With the approach of Easter, Reif has reflected on parallels between
Reif devoted his career as a minister to helping people celebrate milestones and get through tough times. As a preacher, he pondered life’s difficult questions and shared what he learned. He is humbly quick to admit, however, that he doesn’t know all the answers to life’s mysteries.
The pandemic has taken loved ones and deprived people of shared experiences. If the tremendous loss of human life and immense scale of suffering teaches people one thing, it is to be grateful for what we have, Reif said.
“I think our No. 1 responsibility and privilege is to share the things we’ve learned and the realization they can be taken away from us,” he said.
Life is precious and fleeting, he said, and that which brings joy and happiness today can disappear tomorrow.
“That was one of our missions, to never forgot how fortunate and blessed we are, and how limited our ownership is and to live our days that way,” Reif said.
the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines and the spirit of renewal and springtime. He modestly professes that his writings are not all that profound, but mere observances of the everyday.
Readers throughout the south and southwest suburbs may have encountered Reif during his years of service. He was ordained in 1955, he said, and his first assignment was in Mediapolis, Iowa.
He quickly and precisely recalled years served in Iron River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and in Fairbury, Illinois, near Bloomington. Beginning in 1968, he served 30 years at First Presbyterian Church of Chicago Heights.
After “retiring” from Chicago Heights in 1998, he served two years at First Presbyterian Church of Homewood, nine years at Peace Memorial Church in Palos Park and eight years at Presbyterian Church in Orland Park.
Reif said he enjoys continuing his calling and meeting other residents at Smith Crossing.
“There are a lot of friendly people here, he said. “All of them I’d like to get to know better than I do know them. That’s what will happen as time goes by.”