Friday, May 15, 2009

Remembering Rene

As my graduation from seminary was drawing near as well as my wedding, I was desperate to find employment. Ron had one more year of seminary to go and I needed to find something to generate income. As we were to be ordained in the West Ohio Conference, we were waiting until Ron was finished with seminary to pursue that course.

In my job search, Al Fisher (Duke Endowment, Rural Church) suggested that I talk to Rene Bideaux. Rene was serving Orange UMC in Chapel Hill. At that time, the church was just finishing a building project, having added a fellowhship hall. The membership was about 500 and Rene was the only clergy person on staff, in fact, he was the only staff besides the PreSchool Director and the secretary. Rene was looking for a new church secretary.

That was the position for which I applied. A seminary educated 25 year old and I was a church secretary! But, most church secretaries don't have the privilege of leading worship every Sunday morning, teaching 2 year old Sunday school and doing all that secretarial stuff! I was blessed that Rene allowed me to participate in the full life of the church as more than just a secretary.

Rene was generous that way. Rene always treated clergy staff as colleagues.

Ron and I left North Carolina after that year and went to West Ohio. But, I kept in close contact with Rene and when we returned to North Carolina, I am certain it was because of Rene that we were appointed in Chapel Hill. Ron to Univeristy UMC as an Associate and myself as Minister of Visitation at Orange UMC. How often does a secretary get to come back to the church as a Minister?! I served for a year in that capacity and then as Associate Pastor.

When I returned to Orange after only two years away, the membership was well up beyond 700, but more than that, the constituency was over 1,000! Rene's leadership was key to that!

Rene taught me a lot about leading a congregation in those years. In all honesty, Rene was not the best preacher that I have ever heard, but he had so much wisdom to share, that I could listen to him for hours! I do remember sermons that he preached--not for any dramatic presentation, but for the content. It was as if God had spoken to Rene and Rene was repeating what had been revealed to him. As many church members said, "I could just sit at his feet and absorb what he says."

Rene had a leadership style that encouraged lay involvement. He wasn't threatened by gifted lay persons actually leading committees. One of the things that he did was to encourage committee chairs to turn their committees into mini-communities--places where people gained a sense of belonging and purpose. Rene's "direction" of committees was actually by meeting with the "big" committe chairs (Ad Board, COM, Finance, SPRC) and doing spiritual direction with them.

Orange was the only church which I have served where the entire Ad Board (over 40 people)spent over 5 minutes in silent prayer--seeking God's will and discerning what direction God was leading the church! That was because of Rene's leadership.

Rene had a sense of humor. Here's a piece of advice he gave about attending Annual Conference: Never sit in the same seat --then people can't tell if you are skipping. Also, always make certain that you see your DS at least once so that he/she knows you were there.

Rene was humble and gracious even though he had served widely within the Methodist Church including the top national mission post. He was always seeking to see others just as God would see them and to love them as God would.

After his retirement, and our move to Alabama, we did not see Rene and Becky as much. I am not a good correspondent and neglected to write much. But I have to say that I have often thought of them. The years that I spent working with Rene have formed the shape of my ministry. He often handed me materials or said things to me that pushed me in new directions. Many times, in ministry, I have thought to myself, "What would Rene say about this?"

I was blessed to have served with Rene--to have sat at his feet and absorbed the wisdom he gave. He took enough interest in me to prod me and push me to be a better pastor and simply a better child of God and I am deeply grateful for that.

I give thanks for the life and ministry of Rene O. Bideaux, friend, mentor and spiritual father.

Rev. Renè O. Bideaux
Asheville, NC – The Reverend Renè O. Bideaux, 77, of Asheville, died Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at Memorial Campus of Mission Hospitals.A native of Meadville, PA, he was a son of the late Marjorie Whitely and Charles Orville Bideaux. He was also preceded in death by his son, Charles, who died April 4, 2009.
Renè came to North Carolina to study forestry at N.C. State University. After two years working in forestry, he felt called into the ministry, began seminary studies at Duke University and was ordained into the United Methodist Church. During his 38 years in ministry Renè and Rebecca served as missionaries in Costa Rica for five years; he held pastorates in North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island and was District Superintendent in Connecticut and Massachusetts. He was Director of the Hinton Rural Life Center in Hayesville, N.C. before serving seven years as Associate General Secretary of the National Division of the General Board of Global Ministries. His final pastoral ap-pointment was in Chapel Hill, N.C. before retiring to Lake Junaluska January 1, 1994.
Following his retirement, Renè devoted ten years to the Academy for Spiritual Formation of The Upper Room. His collection, "A Book of Personal Prayer" was published in 1997. From 2004 to 2009 he served as chaplain at the Brooks Howell Home in Asheville.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Rebecca Edge Bideaux; two daughters, Elise Beckstett and Debbie Gibbs; a sister, Alicia Weiland and four granddaughters, Alexandra, Jessica, Brittney and Elise.A memorial service will be held at 3:00 PM Sunday, May 17, 2009 at Biltmore United Methodist Church.In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Hinton Rural Life Center, 2330 Hinton Center Road, Hayesville, NC 28904 or Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian is assisting the family.

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