KOH2RVA: Day 283

Al AstleAl Astle will be 97 on August 30, but he’s still so cool that when he walks past you can feel a breeze. I’ve heard him play the vibraphone. Think Lionel Hampton or some of the other jazz legends of his era. The man can groove.

At least, the man could groove.

I’m not sure Al plays the vibraphone anymore, but this much he does: Sunday after Sunday, when he is able, he sits on a stool in the East Balcony and welcomes the people who come to church. His son, Chris, often sends me updates on his dad, and he sent this picture in an email titled “Father’s Day, Part I.” Chris says, “Here is Papa Al as he passes out the bulletins before the service at First Baptist Richmond.” I don’t know about you, but if I were coming to church on a Sunday morning, tired and a little bit grumpy, the sight of Al sitting on his stool would cheer me up. It might even bring heaven a little closer to earth.

If that’s all Al did it would be enough, but if tradition holds I will also see Al at Community Missions this morning, sitting in a chair behind a table helping our homeless neighbors check their bags so they can take showers and receive other services. I filled in for Al one Wednesday recently when he was in the hospital and gained even more respect for who he is and what he does.

There must be a thousand ways to bring heaven to earth. Al Astle, at age 96, is practicing at least two of them, and maybe more.

If I close my eyes I can almost hear his vibraphone.

3 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 283

  1. It is a blessing to be greeted by Al Astle when we arrive for the 11:00 service on Sundays. He always has a smile and a firm handshake for you as you enter the sanctuary. When Al was out recently due to ill health, he was missed. When he felt better and was able to come back to church, it was good to see him at his customary post in the east balcony. Best wishes to Al and his family.

  2. Al is also a group leader in the Gold Band Sunday school class, and he does not miss a week calling all the members of his group, then reporting on them to the class on Sunday morning. If he discovers someone ill or in the hospital, he calls me, as president of the class, so that I will know about the member. Al is indeed a blessing and when he says, “God bless you”, you know he means and indeed God will truly bless!

  3. Thank you so much for featuring my “Papa!” (my grandfather, my twins’ GREAT-grandfather!) From your insightful description, I can tell that you understand what an incredible blessing he is to us, and to others.

    Thanks so much for this…posting a link to my Facebook page to share with friends and family outside of RVA.

    Blessings to you and yours!

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