The Rev. Dr. Richard Arlan Selleck, born in Breckenridge, Michigan on December 21, 1929, died peacefully of natural causes, on December 29th, 2020, at the Clark Community Home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a week and a day after his 91st birthday.
As a young man, Richard moved from Breckenridge, with his parents, to Lansing and attended Everett High School. After graduation, he entered business with his father, managing the family painting business. There he met Marion Dadd, the woman he would marry, and while still living in Lansing they began a family. During this time Richard felt a call to Christian ministry. He made the decision to leave the family business and pursue his call. In 1955 he was appointed to a student charge at the Ogdensburg Methodist Church on the Old Mission Peninsula, north of Traverse City. This location would become part of his life, and the lives of his family, in ways no one would have guessed.
While he served and grew this small church, he commuted weekly to Michigan State University. Upon completion of his undergraduate degree in Psychology he entered his graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He took another student appointment at Westside Methodist Church in Patterson, New Jersey, while he completed his studies across the Hudson River.
Upon graduation he moved he and his family back to Michigan, receiving his ordination as an Elder in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church, in the West Michigan Conference. In 1963 he accepted his first full time appointment to Oakdale United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids. It was while at this church that he began to curate his deep conviction for equality and justice for all persons. He was an active supporter of Father James Grappi and leaned into Father Grappi’s efforts for open housing and equal opportunities in the civil rights work of that era. This conviction of advancing race relations would stay with him, and greatly influence his ministry and appointments for the balance of his career in the church.
In 1966, he moved his family to his second appointment to Rockford United Methodist Church, in Rockford, Michigan. He grew that congregation and continued to provide leadership and vision for civil rights as a fit and just expression of the Christian faith. His next appointment was to Temple United Methodist Church in Muskegon Heights, Michigan in 1970. Here he was able to fully manifest his vision for a church deeply engaged with the community for the betterment of all. He began a program named Mission to Area People, or as it was known then and still is today, MAP. The program brought hope, assistance, training, and growth to the neighborhoods around the church and to the church itself.
In 1977, he was appointed as the District Superintendent to the Kalamazoo District of the West Michigan Conference, a position he held for 6 years, and he was subsequently appointed to serve as the Conference Council Director in 1983. During this time he was awarded an honorary Doctorate, from Adrian College, for his work in church leadership and civil rights. His next appointment was as pastor to Christ United Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan in 1987. In all these appointments he provided a level of advanced leadership in administration, a deep transformative faith rooted in justice and outreach, and a sharp mind and powerful delivery in his pulpit preaching.
While serving at Christ UMC, he became enamored of the notion that experienced pastors approaching retirement should give serious consideration to moving to smaller congregations. This would allow pastors to slow down in a way that dignified their age and ability while offering churches highly experienced leadership. In 1992, as he was considering a final move before retirement, he chose to follow his conscience. He asked for, and accepted, an appointment to a small two-church location, Sand Lake and South Ensley United Methodist Churches. He learned that experience and practiced ability does indeed have a marvelous impact on small churches that were more used to students and inexperienced pastors. He also learned that the workload is a function of the pastor’s energy and passion for Christ and does not necessarily lessen simply because the membership is smaller. This last appointment was very good with one exception, his beloved wife Marion, of 49 years, passed away with breast cancer in 1995. In 1996, Richard, as planned, advanced to retired status in the United Methodist Church.
During his first student appointment, back in 1958, he and his wife, Marion, purchased a small lot on the Old Mission Peninsula, on the shore of the west Grand Traverse Bay. Together, with the help of various others over the years, they built a small cottage there. For more than 40 years, it served as a getaway for family gatherings, vacations, and a place for Church retreats. That place, its endless shoreline, cherry orchards, and small-town pace, would become the soul-home for all the Sellecks who had grown up in an itinerant system that kept them moving from church to church. This cottage was also to serve as Richard and Marion’s retirement home and he worked ceaselessly to craft the perfect place where they could grow old together. However, after his wife’s death, just a few days after her 65th birthday, he didn’t have the heart or the will to keep it going. He sold the family homestead and moved to Norton Shores, Michigan.
Reconnecting to his former pastorate at Temple United Methodist Church, but now as a lay person, he became reconnected with the woman who would become his second wife: Eloise (Banta). They married and lived for many years at their home on Mona Lake in Norton Shores.
In 2014 they moved together into an apartment at Clark Home in Grand Rapids. While there he served in several different positions on the Residents Council, including as Trustee Chair and Chairman of the Council. In his later years, he reluctantly began to yield leadership positions to those who still had capacity and ability to serve. He gave more and more attention to his wife and her health, which became his sole passion in his last years.
Richard is survived by his wife, Eloise (Banta) Selleck, and his three sons and their spouses, David and Anne Selleck of Grand Haven, MI; Michael and Christine Selleck of Atlanta, GA; and Gerald and Claudia Selleck of Grand Rapids, MI; as well as many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Richard A. Selleck will long be remembered for his deep Christian faith that remained steadfast and true to his last day. He was a champion of civil rights and carried a vision in his heart of equality that he worked tirelessly to make manifest and tangible wherever he served. He was a leaders leader, helping others, laity and clergy, to hone their God breathed gifts and graces for the betterment of God’s kingdom. He believed the church belonged to and was best served by an active, trained, and supported laity, and his legacy in this model of ministry lives on in each of his church appointments.
In addition to his labors in the church, he also enjoyed riding his beloved cherry red Honda Gold Wing motorcycle, following Michigan State sports teams, Muskegon Big Reds football, and the comings and goings of his sons, their families, and their children. He was an avid fisherman, always seeking northern pike, perch, and walleye, throughout the Great Lakes. He was blessed with wit, humor, a quick smile, and a creative and curious nature. He never stopped reading and learning because that meant he could continue teaching and leading.
He has gone on to his heavenly reward, likely organized a meeting by now, brewing coffee and asking for directions to the best donut shop on that side of the pearly gates. We, his progeny and extended family, are now responsible and committed to continuing his legacy of humble service and bold faith, rooted in God’s love, after the example of Jesus Christ, and under the full guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit…and imbibing rich hot coffee, and excellent donuts.
We his sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and his beloved wife, will long remember his capacity for love of God, family, and living life creatively and fully. He will be missed, but we celebrate his home-going and his well-earned place in God’s heavenly kingdom.
Due to COVID-19, services are pending and will be updated on the Pederson Funeral Home website when finalized. Online condolence can be shared by visiting the tribute wall at the funeral home website.