While visiting General Conference, Upper New York Annual Conference Benefits Officer/Director of HR Vicki Putney took advantage of her time in Tampa, Fla., to visit with the oldest member of the Upper New York Annual Conference, the Rev. John W. Annas.
He and his wife, Lenore – they were married when he was 103 – live in a complex in Leesburg, Fla. Rev. Annas was quick to note that she took a real leap of faith to marry him at such an advanced age.
When asked if he is able to maintain a daily habit of reading the Bible, Rev. Annas responded that Lenore Annas reads to him. With the extreme magnification he needs, it takes half an hour to read just one chapter himself. Lenore Annas is so vital to his well-being, he said, and he is thankful for her companionship.
Rev. Annas is a poet, and uses his computer (equipped with a magnifier) to record his poems. He happily recites his poems from memory.
This past Presidents Day, Rev. Annas recited from memory an act from a play about Abraham Lincoln, a piece that takes almost half an hour. He is scheduled to do so again in the near future. Those recitals likely warrant a good afternoon nap afterwards!
The couple has compiled a collection of his Christmas poems into a booklet that they had printed to give as gifts. The dedication reads: "This publication is dedicated to my wife, Lenore, without whose help these poems would not appear in print ... and whose daily life manifests the Spirit of Christmas."
Rev. Annas was interested in the progress of the new conference; he and Lenore use their computers to keep up with email. He shared that he prays for Bishop Marcus Matthews.
Rev. Annas has lived 40 years in retirement, and said he is very grateful for the life and support that has been provided by The United Methodist Church; truly appreciating his health insurance and Conference pension benefit.
When asked about his fondest memories of ministry in Upstate New York, Rev. Annas, after contemplating just a moment, talked about his ministry at First United Methodist Church in Buffalo.
The church had added a gymnasium, and one day, five young men appeared and said they wanted to join the church. Rev Annas told them he realized they wanted to play in the gym. He made them a deal: If they took a prep course, in six months, they could decide if they wanted to join the church; in the meantime, he and they (he joined them in their games) would play (in the gym).
On a Sunday many months later, the church welcomed 31 new members, including these five young men.
Rev. Annas reminisced about how the members of Buffalo First often had two working adults in their families and a keen desire to start children's ministries. They stepped out in faith and hired Bethany King as the children's director.
After the war, members of his church rallied around the Religion and Labor Foundation; he was friends with some of the very prominent members of that movement. But that foundation, later, stopped calling meetings because they felt they had been infiltrated with people who had ulterior motives in opposition to the principles and mission of the Foundation. He chuckled at the recollection of these exciting times.
As they all stood together before leaving for a walk around the grounds, Rev. Annas offered a prayer, for Putney, for Bishop Matthews to have the empowering wisdom for his work; for General Conference and for the Kingdom of God.
Vicki Putney is benefits officer/director of Human Resources for the Upper New York Annual Conference.