Anyone who brought along a hankie to wipe away the tears never had a chance to use it. The Rev. Jim Manley's celebration on retiring from Foothills Congregational Church in Los Altos after 10-plus years, was singing, eating good food, more singing and dancing in the parish hall.
Ruth Polata, paying tribute to Manley after a short plea to "Bless our friend and bless our food," said, "He has been our lead minister for 10 years, and he's a thoughtful, caring, bouncy music maker and spiritual leader."
As associate minister, Manley's last service at Foothills Congregational Church in a pastoral role was Jan. 10. In late January he will travel to visit relatives in Nova Scotia and Virginia.
During Manley's pastoral tenure, he performed 68 marriages. Then, two years ago, he and the associate minister changed roles and Manley became the associate to allow him more time for his musical ministry.
"Once I let go, it means I will not return to perform a wedding, lead a memorial, or give counsel about church matters or personnel," Manley said. "I might show up sometimes at worship, and I might eventually sit in the congregation at an occasional wedding or memorial, but that's it."
As a parting gift and highlight of the celebration, Brian Fant prepared a video tape that covered Manley's tenure at Foothills Congregational Church.
"I am not a member of the church, but Jim married me, and I was very impressed with his songs. Along with other church members, we organized his high points with the congregation and created a video tape for him and his wife, Judy," Fant said.
Seven of Manley's nationally published songs, including, "Spirit of Gentleness," "Breaking of the Bread" and "A Circle of Friends," were background music for the tape. The overflow of people in the Parish Hall all sang along with the video tape.
Guy Farthing, a long-time friend and church member, said Manley's songs are emotional and relate to life today.
"Most of the songs you sing in church today are more than 200 years old. Jim's songs give you a lift, make sense and make you feel good."
Billy Waller, a Los Altos resident and church member, said Manley has special talents that he puts to good music. We really appreciate his music, and we will miss Jim.
"He is a great minister and a great person," said Ann Jones, a church member and choir singer. "I enjoy his sermons because he incorporates intellectual tidbits in each of his sermons."
The future includes a trip to Australia. Bruce Cann, a Los Altos friend, will accompany him. The United Church of Australia is publishing Manley's song, "Take Off Your Shoes," with some appropriate lyrics from the congregation.
"Jim is the most concerned person you can come across. He always has other people in mind. His ability to adapt to cover any situation, whether it be a funeral or a wedding is outstanding. He brings out any event with love and compassion." Cann said.
Manley's wife Judy, a teacher at Oak School, said the Foothills Congregational experience was a wonderful 10 years of their lives. She appreciates the opportunity to stay here in the area and continue teaching.
Manley looks forward to writing more songs and hymns. He also will try to compile a book of Charlie, Rhea and Little Red stories. Foothills Congregational gave Manley a playground of ideas for his songs. He has his memories on tape and the night's celebration will provide more thoughts to put down on musical notes.
"Each new face who walks through that door tonight reminds me of a shard of life I had with them," Manley said. "It's a sad, but very enjoyable time."