“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” John Wesley
James Robert Fields, familiarly known as Bob, passed away of natural causes on December 23, 2022, having reached the age of 95. Since he was best known as a United Methodist pastor for 44 years, this obituary will take the format of his beloved and often-used 3-point sermon.
There can be no question that Bob Fields lived his faith, and proof of that can be seen in three ways: lifelong devotion to service; a commitment to fellowship; and love for friends and family.
Lifelong Devotion to Service
Bob Fields went to Purdue University to study chemical engineering but after attending a revival service one evening, he and a close friend felt called to ministry. He attended Garret Theological Seminary, and even before completing his degree, Bob began serving local churches as a student pastor. He served for several years as a campus minister at Indiana State Teachers College (now Indiana State), and then served as pastor for Northern Indiana congregations in Kentland, Knox, Kendallville, Elkhart, Huntington, and Warsaw before retiring from active ministry in 1993. Bob was sought to give guest sermons and occasional officiating into his 80s. All kinds of gatherings looked to Bob to provide an impromptu prayer or words of wisdom, which he did with calm eloquence.
Bob had a deep, resonant yet gentle speaking voice that could command attention even in moments of quiet. He usually delivered his sermons from memory without notes. Bob had a very grounded, compassionate theology that found good in all people and offered grace in even the most challenging situations. He loved all forms of music, especially hymns. In most churches he served, he not only led worship but also sang in the choir.
An important part of Bob’s ministry was mission, and he participated in many, many mission trips over the years including ones to Alaska, Red Bird Mission, Henderson Settlement, and others. Even after retiring from the ministry, Bob continued his mission work, co-chairing the mission committee with his wife Jo at St. Mark’s UMC in Bloomington, Indiana, and he participated in a peace mission to Belfast Northern Ireland in his late 80s.
Bob also excelled at providing thoughtful counsel. He mentored numerous young people pursuing careers in ministry, and he insisted on providing counseling for any couples that wanted him to perform their marriage ceremony.
Commitment to Fellowship
Bob believed that faith flourished best in communities bound by fellowship and mutual care. He regularly organized programs to promote fellowship at his churches, such as potluck fellowship dinners (don’t forget the devilled eggs!) and congregational family camping.
In addition to mission trips, Bob also spent part of many summers as a church camp director or senior counselor. He maintained a regular network of pastor colleagues, and would convene with them at conferences and seminars. He continued to attend church annual conferences for years after retirement.
Bob was an avid game and card player, especially bridge, and often saw playing games as a way to fellowship with other people. Bob and Jo belonged to numerous bridge groups throughout his life, and maintained friendships with many of the people they met through those games. Surprisingly competitive for a “man of the cloth,” he had two significant tells for when he had especially good cards: snapping the cards he played on the board and a subtle smirk on his face, both of which drove his wife crazy.
Love for Family and Friends
Bob and wife Jo shared a belief that friends were really extended family. Their Christmas card list was epic, and included friends across the country and around the world. Family camping trips, even ones several states away, were usually planned to include other families. In retirement, when they travelled, Bob and Jo always planned stops along the way to visit with friends. When their children were grown and had families of their own, they encouraged frequent reunions (especially at the holidays) and even presided over several multigenerational Fields vacations, including to Maine, Utah, and Arkansas.
The Fields family were always avid travelers, touring the country with Cox camper in tow (in retirement, Bob and Jo graduated to a Bounder RV). Bob built much of the specialized kitchen and storage equipment used on family trips. He would teach the kids campcraft and camp songs while Jo prepared meals using his custom kitchen gear. A favorite song of his was The Happy Wanderer. Bob’s affection for the outdoors, camping, and hiking continued into his 80s, and is still a treasured activity of his children and grandchildren.
Bob is survived by his four children: Mark (Wilmington, DE); Scott (Carlsbad, CA); Lynette (Winter Garden, FL); and Kirk (Indianapolis, IN). He also leaves five grandchildren: Isaac, Bevan, Casey, Harrison, and Jonathan; numerous nieces and nephews; and dear friends throughout Indiana and across the country. He was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Jo, as well as his two siblings, Carol and Loyal.
The family will hold a private memorial and scattering of ashes next spring. In lieu of flowers, mourners are encouraged to make contributions to any of the following organizations in Bob’s honor:
Poverty Solutions Group in Winter Garden Florida (https://povertysolutionsgroup.org/);
Indiana Parks Alliance (http://indianaparksalliance.org/); or
Henderson Settlement (https://www.hendersonsettlement.com/online-giving.html)