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Retiring minister knew love and loss

For the past 45 years the Rev. Richard B. Ribble has worked in the ministry, from New York to Georgia and different areas of Japan.

For 41 of those years he served as a full-time pastor. But on Sunday, Ribble, 66, will preach his last sermon as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Crystal River. He is retiring from the role of a full-time minister . His plans include serving part-time as a chaplain with Hospice of Citrus County.

"In some respects I am looking forward to retirement and I feel that my chaplain job will ease the adjustment. What I will miss the most is the pulpit and the time spent relating to people. I am sure I will be preaching in the pulpit here and there, but it is not the same as preaching to your own congregation," he said.

"For me the ministry has always been very happy. I have never really had an unhappy church. I have always enjoyed being a pastor; it has been very fulfilling for me."

Ribble said that throughout his years of ministry there is one verse in the Bible that has been his "life verse", which is Philippians 1:21: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

During the past 10 years at First Presbyterian he has seen his congregation grow from about 180 members to about 430. The church also built a new sanctuary during Ribble's ministry.

Ribble, who attended Maryville College in Tennessee and Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., met his wife at Princeton, where they married in the seminary chapel.

During the years ahead they served in churches from New York to Georgia. One of Ribble's favorite ministries was the opportunity he was given to teach English in a Presbyterian college in Japan, where he and his family lived for several years.

Throughout the early years of his marriage, Ribble said he and his wife were blessed with four children. But two of their young children died within two years of each other from cystic fibrosis, which he said is a disease that is hereditary in certain families.

It was this part of his life that Ribble said helped to shape his ministry.

"That has been used so much in our lives. For example, at that time in New Jersey, we had four families in our church that lost children. We just feel that the Lord has used this in our lives as an avenue of ministry to help people deal with grief and loss. Losing a child is a hurt that always stays with you, but you have to go on," he said.

"One of the biggest blessings we learned through losing our children was to live one day at a time. Also, as Christians, we believe that death is just a gateway to life in heaven and we are looking forward to one day being with our children again," he said.

Aside from learning to relate to other cultures and dealing with grief and loss, Ribble said one of the most important principles he has learned while serving in the ministry for more than four decades is to, "Love people in spite of their faults," he said.

First Presbyterian will hold a retirement party for Ribble at 3 p.m. Sunday at the church. For more information, call 795-2259.

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