ELCA NEWS SERVICE
June 11, 2009
Extraordinary Faith, Ordinary Life -- A Lutheran Horseshoe Pitcher's Tale
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Terry Cuthbertson hoped to bring the 2009 world horseshoe pitching tournament to Kansas, home of the first such championship 100 years ago. By a five-vote margin, members of the National Horseshoe Pitching Association (NHPA) opted to hold the July 27-Aug. 8 competition in Springfield, Ill.
Kansas was a sentimental favorite, but Springfield won in part because of its proximity to the National Horseshoe Pitchers Hall of Fame, located 135 miles away in Wentzville, Mo. "We're good sports about it," said Cuthbertson, president of the Topeka Horseshoe Association. "That's as important in life as it is in horseshoes."
Cuthbertson, 66, is a member of Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Topeka. His pastor, the Rev. Meggan Prosser-Gebhardt, describes him as a "go-getter" when it comes to both civic and congregational activities. His faith is evident, she says, whether he's pitching horseshoes or praying devotions.
"Horseshoes is not the run-of-the-mill kind of sport," the pastor said. "It requires a great deal of concentration, focus and diligence. That's something I see in Terry. He's very committed to his faith and willing to go to great lengths in order to serve others."
Cindy Freeman, a member of the congregation's executive council, described Cuthbertson as sociable and outgoing -- the guy always in the know. "He's also always there if you need somebody to help you out," she said. "He lives his faith day in and day out. You see it in how he treats people and in his service to others."
Christian theologians throughout the ages have stressed the importance of demonstrating extraordinary faith in the ordinary, mundane activities of life. Cuthbertson said he strives to live his faith in all walks of life, but falls short like everybody else.
He took up horseshoes "for fun" in 1996, but became more serious after retiring from a career with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2005. He struggled at first, but now routinely places near the top in state and regional competitions.
"It teaches humility," he said of horseshoes. "I don't care how good you are, you're going to get beat. Even so, you still win because of the fellowship with other players."
As the Topeka Horseshoe Association president, Cuthbertson tries to demonstrate his faith by his leadership and comportment. Players must shake hands before and after a match. Swearing and the selling of alcoholic beverages is forbidden at events. Pitchers who violate the foul language rule -- usually newcomers -- must pay $1 every time they curse.
"We keep it clean, fun and respectful," he said. Parents, their children and grandchildren often compete together in tournaments.
A wholesome environment is part of the appeal for many pitchers, agreed Dale Lipovsky of Apple Valley, Minn. "We don't go for holding tournaments in Vegas," said the former three-time world's men champion.
Still, garnering public interest is an ongoing battle. "Many times our only spectators are players," said Lipovsky, a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
The 13,000-member National Horseshoe Pitching Association tries to elevate the image of the game as more than a backyard pastime through standardized rules and competitive play. It also says horseshoes aids physical fitness: "In this day of weight watching, what better way to exercise than walking, bending and reaching?"
Cuthbertson's congregational activities include serving on memorials, stewardship and fellowship committees. He chaired a task force examining ways to make the church kitchen environmentally friendly, or "green." He's often an usher, worship greeter, coffee hour host. He also helps to mow the grass. Civic activities include organizing a Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Topeka benefit. He's also the Kansas state leader of Sertoma, a service organization that provides hearing aids to people who can't afford them.
"Our entire existence is based on the concept of service to your fellow man," said Steven Murphy, Sertoma's national executive director. "Terry embodies that."
Information on the Topeka Horseshoe Association is at http://www.topekahorseshoe.com on the Web.
Information about the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association is at www.horseshoepitching.com (the rules of the game are also found).
The National Horseshoe Pitchers Hall of Fame is at http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM2WC2 on the Web.
Information about Sertoma is at http://www.sertoma.org on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog