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Holding fast to his calling

At 81, pastor planning to stay in the pulpit

At 81, pastor planning to stay in the pulpit

June 29, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Still going strong at 81, Pastor Robert Seek worked at Mack Trucks and Fairchild in Hagerstown and then at the General Motors plant in Martinsburg, W.Va. for many years.

"I retired from GM in 1988 but that was from my job," Seek said. "The ministry is a calling and I won't retire from my calling."

Sitting in the office of Cedar Lawn Missionary Church, Seek pointed to a plaque he recently received marking his 50 years at the helm of the church on West Washington Street.

The office wall also contains the words to "Peace Like a River," some of his original art work and a single musical note.

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But most prominently displayed is a sign that says, "Shhh ... God is Speaking." Through the years, Seek has been listening.

It was that calling, that devotion to his flock, that this man who came to Hagerstown so many years ago won't give up.

Born in Allentown, Pa., Seek graduated from Allentown High School in 1942. "One of my classmates was Lee Iacocca," Seek said, referring to the auto executive.

A lifeguard at the Allentown pool, Seek met his future wife, Dorothy Snyder, when she was 16.

Drafted in 1943 and sent to fight in Europe, he continued to keep up with Dorothy through letters and soon after his discharge, they were married on Feb. 14, 1948.

"In my church in Allentown, I was teaching an adult Bible class," Seek said.

But he felt an inadequacy that sent him off to college on the GI Bill. He earned a bachelor's degree in Bible at Fort Wayne Bible College in 1953.

Still, Seek said, he wasn't going to be a minister. "I was going to go into plumbing," he said.

That changed one Sunday when he went to preach at a church in Ohio. "After I had preached, they voted to take me as their pastor so I took it - I was there three years," Seek said.

In 1956, Seek's district superintendent told him about a church in Hagerstown.

"It was closer to Allentown and it was a new church," Seek said. "They wanted me after just one day in the pulpit."

That was 50 years ago and although there have been a lot of changes, Seek said he is proudest of what hasn't changed at Cedar Lawn Missionary Church.

"We have stayed with the Word," Seek said. "I tell people not to read so many books about the Book ... just read the Book."

Seeking truth

In search of the truth of the Bible, Seek has traveled six times to Israel.

He has been to Egypt, Jordan and went to France for the 50th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Normandy in World War II.

"I've met some of the big shots," Seek said.

Once he encountered Abba Eban, the late Israeli diplomat, during one of his trips to the Middle East.

"I introduced myself and he said he'd heard of Hagerstown," Seek said.

When he was in France for the D-Day ceremony, Seek found himself sitting near former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former French President Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996.

Seek is accomplished in the arts.

"I've been drawing since I was a small boy," Seek said. "I see a blank piece of paper and I see a picture on it."

Waitresses around the world have been the recipients of original Bob Seek art, all drawn on the backs of place mats and left for them to keep.

Seek has a lot of original poetry that he has written over the years. He describes his need to wax poetic as a self-image exercise.

And then there's music.

"Growing up we were so poor, there was only church music to hear," Seek said.

Unable to afford instruments, Seek managed to learn the harmonica and often plays during services at Cedar Lawn.

"I've had a couple of songs published over the years," he said.

The Seeks have two sons and a daughter and raised a foster daughter. There are nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

When he isn't busy with church business, Seek tries to find time to fish, sing, draw and hunt. A small garden also keeps him occupied from time to time.

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