When I started training for the Monument Avenue 10K last year with the team from Richmond’s First Baptist Church, I joked that there was “no pastor faster.” In our Sunday afternoon training sessions I would try to run fast enough to protect that reputation, but not so fast that I couldn’t discuss theology with my teammates (which I’m sure they appreciated). By the time race day came around I was running pretty well, and surprised myself with a time of 45:41.
Which means that I trained even harder this year, and began to get serious about that “no pastor faster” thing. “Honestly,” I thought, “is there another pastor out there running faster than 45:41?” But then I started running with Wallace Adams-Riley, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and it became evident that he was not only a few years younger than me, but also a good bit quicker. I justified it by telling myself that he wasn’t a “faster pastor,” he was a “faster rector” (which doesn’t even rhyme and therefore doesn’t qualify).
Wallace pushed me in our training runs, though, and when race day came around this year he ran with me and helped me maintain a brisk pace over the 6.2 mile course. I came across the finish line in 43:41—exactly two minutes faster than last year—and exulted in my victory. I couldn’t imagine that there was another pastor in Richmond who had run so well.
Until I saw the results in the paper the next day.
I was looking at the names of the top finishers in my age group when I saw a name I thought I recognized. Sure enough, there was David Benjamin, pastor of Winfree Memorial Baptist Church on Midlothian Turnpike. When I checked online I discovered that David is two years older than I am, but finished twenty-five places ahead of me in our age group, with a time of 39:59—nearly four minutes faster than my 43:41.
What could I do?
Sunday morning, before I went to church, I called David and left a message on his voicemail. “For more than a year now I’ve been telling people that there is no pastor faster than Jim Somerville, but that’s not true. You are the faster pastor, David Benjamin, and today I confer that title upon you. Congratulations!”
I meant it sincerely, and walked to church feeling better (a little stiff, but better). Honest admission, humble confession—these things are good for the soul. And I’m sure that in the years ahead, as I watch countless pastors, rectors, and imams stream past me in the Monument Avenue 10K, my body will breathe a little sigh of disappointment,
But my soul will be at peace.