A good and godly spiritual father of mine passed this morning. The thoughts and good wishes of so many of his spiritual children have been flooding the internet already, and I wish to add my remembrances to the growing chorus.
My parents and I met Pastor James M. Riccitelli at a moment of deep spiritual crisis, when the church that we had been attending gave my parents an ultimatum that drove them out of the fellowship. It was unfortunately not a new experience for us. I was in college at the time, and by then, my family and I had been a part of not less than 10 different churches. But this loss felt different than the others. I remember that I had a key to this church because I had become a member of her, not merely adhering to my parent’s wishes. When it was clear that we were not going to be able to go back, I looked with weariness toward the next fellowship of believers in Christ. What would they be like? Would we be welcome with all our brokenness and failed dreams?
That’s when the kind, warm face of Pastor Jim came to our living room to reassure us of God’s love and his church’s particular support for Christians like us, those who have felt abandoned, for whatever reason, by the church they have left. His Berean Fellowship of the Church in Toledo possessed a committee whose purpose was reaching reconciliation between former members and the churches they had left, following the biblical model of reconciliation found in Matthew 18:15-20. It was a great balm to our soul to know that the church we had come to cared about the one we had left and was not out simply to steal sheep from other pastures.
My parents continued on for many years under Pastor Jim’s spiritual direction until he retired from ministry and eventually landed in Florida. But even from that remote land of rest and comfort, he still sent letters as recent as last fall, telling my folks news and reassuring them of his love and God’s love for them.
Memory eternal, dear good and faithful shepherd of your far flung flock. May Christ our true God, through the prayers of holy Apostle Paul whose words you rightly divided from your pulpit, give rest to your soul in a place of light, a place of pasture, from whence all sickness, sorrow, and sighing have fled away. And may He who rose from the dead grant you to share is His resurrection.
James (Pastor Jim) Riccitelli, age 89, of Ft Myers, FL and formerly of Toledo, OH went to be with his Lord and Savior on Saturday January 28, 2017. He was born in Elizabeth, NJ and attended Nyack College before becoming a missionary in Burkina Faso, Africa where he and his wife Ruth served for 16 years. Jim was the founding pastor of The Berean Fellowship and served in that position for 28 years until his retirement. Beginning in 1967, he produced radio programs for WPOS-FM, which he continued producing even after his retirement to Florida in 2009. He has written and published three books: Sing a New Song, When Music Divides the Church; You May Now Kiss the Bride; and Authenticate Your Faith, Here’s How and Why.
He is survived by Ruth (Windisch), his wife of 69 years, his children Kevin (Terrie), Karis (Bob), Karen (Mac), Keith (Nancy), and Kenda (Terry), 12 grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.
There will be a Celebration of Life gathering at CrossPoint Community Church (Formerly Berean Fellowship) in Toledo on February 19th at 2 p.m. to rejoice in his many years of faithful service to his Heavenly Father. (Directions: http://icrosspoint.com/directions/)