The following was an article I wrote for The Clay City Times after Brother Rule’s last sermon Dec. 28, 1997, as the minister at First Presbyterian Church. I share in memory of all the good this man did for Powell Countians throughout his life:
After delivering 2,136 sermons at Stanton’s First Presbyterian Church, David Rule has preached his final message. Forty-two years of services ended on Dec. 28 as 180 people gathered at the church to hear Rule’s sermon “Farewell.”
“I felt it was time to step down,” said Rule. “My daughter, Esther, thought I should leave while people were still satisfied with me. My wife felt the same way.”
The service began as usual, with an opening hymn followed by a prayer. However, during an offering prayer, Elder Bill Orme thanked God for Rule’s many years of service, then the mood shifted towards emotional goodbyes.
“When Mr. Orme first mentioned Bro. Rule’s retirement, that’s when it really started to sink in that this was it,” said John Tipton. “That’s when the tears hit me, and it seemed everyone else was sniffling, too.”
Orme’s words were followed by a tribute from Chris Nolan, thanking Rule for always reaching out to his family. Following the speech, passages were read from the Old and New Testaments regarding farewell messages from leaders to their congregations. This led to Rule’s own farewell message to his church.
Rule pointed out that the word “farewell” could have three meanings: “this is it, it’s over;” “I wish you well;” and “Adieu,” meaning “To God.” For his congregation, Rule wanted his farewell to mean to go out and continue God’s work.
As Rule approached the end of his sermon, the congregation became hushed. Babies stopped crying, kids quit rustling and every person in the church listened carefully to every word. “Somewhere, sometime, the last sermon has to be preached,” Rule said somberly. “So let this be the place, and let this be the time for the preaching of the last sermon. God bless us everyone.”
Rule first contemplated retirement in June 1996 but soon backed out and selected 1997 as the probable year. In February, Rule announced his decision to the Presbyterian session, with June 30 as the target date.
“I was going to being building a home, but Harold Hurst told me I couldn’t get a home built by June,” said Rule. Rule thought if he waited until December, he could retire after exactly 42 years of service. “I like to have things in round figures.”
The date was once again pushed back, according to Rule, when his family suggested that it would be a shame to leave before Christmas.
“I made Dec. 31 the date, but if that happened, Presbyterian records would show that our church had no minister during 1997,” said Rule. He moved the date back one day, making his retirement effective Jan. 1, 1998. “This was to be the date,” said Rule. “I wasn’t going to back out of it again.”
And now the last sermon has been preached, but Rule won’t soon be forgotten by anyone at the Presbyterian Church. “I’m thankful he’s always been there for me,” said Della Abner. “It’s been a pleasure to worship with him. It makes me sad to have to give him up.”