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5 Things Mister Rogers' Pastor Wants Us to Learn about His Friend

  • Michael Foust ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor
5 Things Mister Rogers' Pastor Wants Us to Learn about His Friend
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood aired nationally on television from 1968 through 2001, and for many of those years Rev. George Wirth knew the star behind the famous show, Fred Rogers.

Wirth was a pastor within the Presbyterian Church (USA) when he met Rogers in 1983, and the two quickly became close friends. Wirth would visit the set to watch the filming. He and his wife went on trips with Rogers and his wife. And from 1990 until Rogers’ death in 2003, the two men talked on the phone every Saturday night at 9 o’clock.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (PG-13), a documentary about Rogers, opens in select theaters this weekend and will expand nationally over the next month.Crosswalk recently spoke with Wirth about his friend. Here are five things Wirth wants people to know and remember about Fred Rogers

Photo courtesy: Flickr.com

1. Mr. Rogers was the same person in private as in public.

1. Mr. Rogers was the same person in private as in public.

“That's not true of all people who are celebrities,” Wirth said. “But it sure was true of Mr. Rogers, and I was amazed at how he could communicate with so many millions of people on TV and yet at the same time communicate with just one person totally present, and he helped you feel like you were the only person on the planet while you were with him. That was a gift. He had a gift to be welcoming to people and to draw out the best from them. It was a gift that God gave to him.”

Photo courtesy: Facebook

2. Mr. Rogers really DID want to be peoples’ friend.

2. Mr. Rogers really DID want to be peoples’ friend.

In 1983 after a pastoral friend died, Wirth received a call from Rogers, who also knew the man who had passed.

“He said, ‘This is Fred Rogers. … It's obvious that you were close friends and that you are hurting and I wondered if you'd like to get together and just talk.’ The next day we met and we talked and we laughed and we cried for almost three hours over lunch and he said to me, ‘I know that you miss Bob a great deal -- you were close friends. But I think I could be your friend, too.’”
 

Photo courtesy: Facebook

3. Mr. Rogers considered the show a part of his ministry.

3. Mr. Rogers considered the show a part of his ministry.

A Presbyterian, Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained.

“He was already well known and on television when he decided to go to Pittsburgh Seminary and get his degree. He loved being involved with the seminary,” Wirth said. “… What he really wanted was to be ordained, so this could be his ministry. Mister Rogers Neighborhood, the specials that he made, the books that he wrote, that was all part of his ministry, not only to children but to adults all over the country. And that ordination as a Presbyterian minister meant a great deal to him.”
 

Photo courtesy: Facebook/Mr. Fred Rogers

4. Mr. Rogers would have been a great pastor.

4. Mr. Rogers would have been a great pastor.

“He was a good speaker,” Wirth said. “He gave about 70 commencement addresses for colleges and universities. So he could have been a preacher. He was also a caring and compassionate person, so he could have been a good pastor at church. No question about that. And he was a good teacher so he could have been a teaching minister. He could have been a great minister in a church, but thank God he was called to a wider audience and that was his calling -- to build a community, a neighborhood, of children and adults.”

Photo courtesy: Facebook/Fred Rogers' quotes

5. We could learn a lot from Mr. Rogers.

5. We could learn a lot from Mr. Rogers.

“I think this movie's actually providential,” Wirth said. “We are now in a fractured time with cynicism, breakdown and stability across this country. We're really struggling with respecting people, especially those who are different than we are. To have this film coming out and also Tom Hanks preparing to make another movie about Mr. Rogers and all of what he stood for -- civility, respect, loving your neighbor -- this is providential. It's at the right time in the right country because we need all this back to remind us of our better angels, who we could become.”

Learn more about Won’t You Be My Neighbor? at MrRogersMovie.com. It is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language.

 

Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com

Photo courtesy: Facebook/Fred Rogers' quotes

Publication date: June 7, 2018





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