For twenty years I’ve been mentored in the Christian life by Don Hutchinson. During this time I’ve had the great privilege of being Don’s pastor.
Don is a gentle soul who has been a prophetic voice for the full inclusion of our gay sisters and brothers into the life of the church and as full citizens in society.
Don and his life partner Lee Swantek worked to bring down walls of division and prejudice within the church and wider community. Don and Lee were the ‘go to guys’ within the congregation and wider community when anyone had a need. They regularly volunteered to drive people to medical appointments in Salem and Portland. Through their generosity of spirit they showed us what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Don and Lee were committed spouses for 42 years until Lee’s death from cancer several years ago. The depth of their love was evident during Lee’s long illness. When Lee died, his funeral was held at First Baptist McMinnville, Oregon and it was my honor to officiate. Don was surrounded in love by the congregation. Because Don and Lee taught us well, we their church were not closeted in our grief. We were able to fully honor Lee and Don as a couple, as one of our own.
Said Don: “Our goal was to wear down people with kindness. To wear down people’s resistance and fear. To show that we are simply normal people like everyone else with the same needs and dreams as anyone else. God made each of us the way we are, some of us are gay and some are straight. Each one of us is perfect.”
Since Lee’s passing, Don who is nearing 80, continues his gentle and persistent witness. He understands that by helping to take down walls, he is freeing us all.
To Don, I say: “Thanks to you and Lee for teaching me how to be a better pastor and follower of Jesus. Thank you for expanding the hearts and minds of so many of us at First Baptist and in the wider community. The good you and Lee have done will live on in each life you have touched.”
For Don and Lee, I echo the words of scripture: ‘Well done good and faithful servants, well done.’