Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lenten Journey

There are several areas of reflection for me during this Lenten season.

For the first time in several years I have attended mid-week Lenten liturgies at St. James Lutheran Church in Gettysburg. With the Word given by a lay person and Pr. Michael Allwein presiding at the Eucharist it has been a powerful journey so far. I have heard powerful talks on "change" from three lay persons. Each talk was unique but each indicated the power of the Word of God in their lives. The talks were reminders for all of us that the Word of God continues to sustain and empower us in the more difficult of times in our lives. On this last Wednesday in Lent, Allwein summarized all the reflections that were heard. He stated, "It takes courage to walk through the changes." The question that he brought before us, "How does God work in our lives in the midst of the changes?" I will ponder the question during the post-Easter period.

On the weekend of March 21 I drove to Buffalo, New York to attend the memorial service for Pastor Kathleen Gahagen/Pastor KEG. She died at the age of 44 having lived with cystic fibrosis for all of those years. I remember her growing up in East Cleveland, OH were her father was the pastor. I recall her graduation from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and chuckle when I remember an e-mail she sent to me after meeting her confirmation class for the first time when she was called to the congregation in Buffalo. Kathleen had a passion for the gospel. Preaching, teaching, and pastoral care were important for her. She didn't let her illness define was the Word of God that centered her life and interactions with all she met. That was clear in the various remembrances that were share at the liturgy. It was also clear in the sermon that was shared by her brother, Pastor Patrick Gahagen. I left the liturgy blessed that I had known Kathleen, pastor.

This has been a good Lent.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Way Out of No Way

Last week I taught a Doctor of Ministry course/seminar at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia entitled "A Way Out of No Way: African American Religious Education." While I have used portions of the African American educational experience in various courses, this was the first time that I was able to focus a course solely on this area. I was impressed by the students: their questions, and the integration of the material with their present ministry contexts. I look forward to reading their book reviews and term papers. I also wish them well as they continue their studies. All are working and pursuing this professional degree. Their stories brought back memories of my time in parish ministry in Cleveland and studying at John Carroll University and the University of Akron. There was no idle time.

At the end of this month it will be a year since I completed my teaching at Gettysburg Seminary. The year went rapidly. Retirement is an adjustment. The on-going encounters with colleagues and students are no longer assumed. I wonder what the feelings and thoughts of  friends and colleagues have been upon their retirements.

This year found me switching gears; forming new ways of self-identification. In the coming year, I hope to be about community outreach. One of my goals for retirement is to become a tutor for the Adult Literacy Council in Adams County. I registered for the next workshop that will take place at the beginning of February. The world was open to me due to literacy; perhaps I can expand the world for those who struggle to communicate through the written word. My brother-in-law is an adult literacy tutor in Brooklyn, New York at the Brooklyn Public Library and finds it challenging and rewarding. I'll give an update on this project as it comes to fruition.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Day 2014

New Year's Day 2014 finds me at home and fighting a cold. Staying at home on New Year's Eve and Year's day gives me time to reflect on the past year and anticipate the new year. Having retired 11 months ago, 2013 demonstrated a major but important change in my life. The past few months have meant a reorientation to life or as the GPS voice says it has been a time for "recalculating."

Reflecting on the past year, I enjoyed doing the book-talks on Daniel A. Payne, the lecture on Black Civil War Soldiers at the Luther Colloquium in October along with the honorary degree from Payne Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio, and presiding at the Eucharist at the Spring Convocation at Gettysburg Seminary.

As I anticipate the future, I'm preparing for teaching a Doctor of Ministry - Philadelphia Seminary course "A Way Out of No Way." The course will examine African American religious education. Although I have included portions of African American religious education in my previous courses, this will be the first time for an entire course dedicated to this area of the religious education literature. In addition, I will present some aspects of Daniel A. Payne at the Banneker Center in Baltimore in September. Research will continue to occupy an important part of my time in the coming months. As the research projects unfold I'll share them. For those of you who are researchers/scholars, what are your plans for research?

Reflecting and anticipating at the beginning of the new year , I am thankful to God for supportive family and friends. They have made the transition in retirement a good experience.

Christmas Eve 2013

Christmastime in New York is always interesting. People seem to be more pleasant and friendly. The city is buzzing as usual but even more so during the Christmas shopping rush.  I arrived in New York on Sunday afternoon and did my last minute shopping on Monday and today.

This evening I will be celebrant at Epiphany Lutheran in Brooklyn, my home congregation. It is always good to return to and remember one's roots. Many of the people I grew up with in the congregation have ended their earthly journeys but their presence in the life of the congregation remain to those who knew them as well as those who never met them. I feel honored each year to be able to preside at the Christmas Eve liturgy. The lessons, Gospel and Silent Night are particularly meaningful in a world that cries for hope.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent 1

Gettysburg had 4 inches of snow today. It was snowing very lightly when I left to worship at Christ Chapel - Gettysburg College. By the time worship ended, the snow was falling rapidly so I shoveled. I wonder if this is a foretaste of the winter.

Most of my time in the past few weeks has been planning for teaching a Doctor of Ministry Seminar at Philadelphia Seminary in January. I am enjoying reading more of the literature and hope that students will enjoy the readings as well.

I have continued to participate in professional meetings. From November 8-10 I attended the annual meeting of the Religious Education Association in Boston, Massachusetts. The quality of the sessions was quite good. I am always amazed at the various areas of research by junior and senior scholars in the field. I attended the American Academy of Religion for one day, Saturday 23. Again there were good sessions. At both meetings I heard research on religious education in prisons. As always, I marveled at the book display. I was also able to meet and have conversations with Dr. Richard Stewart and Dr. Beverly Wallace. Professional meeting are great for catching up with friends and colleagues.

 On Remembrance Day, 19 November, I delivered the Benediction. Each year thousands come to Gettysburg to remember the Gettysburg Address. This was especially significant this year as the 150 Year of the Address as well as the Battle at Gettysburg during  the Civil War. Along with Governor Corbett, Chief Justice Scalia was there to swear-in 16 new citizens. I found this to be a moving symbol of focus of the day. This was my second swearing-in of new citizens. I attended the swearing-in of my friend and colleague, Dr. Kirsi Stjerna in Philadelphia.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Autumn Reflections

This was a different Fall season for me...I didn't return to the classroom after 25 years on the faculty at Gettysburg Seminary. Anticipating the change, I made my plans. I attended the Opening Convocation of the semester which was a joyous event. My friend and colleague Dr. Brooks Schramm was installed in the Kraft Chair in Biblical Studies. It was an excellent lecture by a great scholar.

On September 6 I took a flight to France and was there for three weeks. It was good to see friends and see the Paris during the fall season which was a first for me since I was always teaching. I went to two museums I had not visited before, Musée du quai Branly and Musée des Arts Deco. A friend, Dr. Bruno Vercier, was on a panel at the Branly discussing the writer Pierre Loti. Dr. Karen Bohleke of Shippensburg University and Gettysburg Seminary, wanted my to pick up the exhibition catalogue from the Art Deco, hence, I took the opportunity to browse the exhibitions. Both places were interesting to visit and I'll definitely have to return for extended visits. It was definitely autumn with lower temperatures than when I left the U.S. so I had to buy a jacket to keep comfortable. Going to the Parissoirée each Sunday evening was fun. One meets a number of ex-patriots as well as visitors to France and French men and women. Each week was unique (vocalist, film producer, and motivational speaker) and great food produced by Patricia LaPlante-Collins, the organizer of the group. I left the cool days of Paris for a day trip to the warmth of the southern France in Avignon to see Le Pont (Bridge) and the Palace of the Popes which dates back to the 15th century.  I will have to spend more time in the Provence region. At the end of September I returned to the states but leaving France is always bitter sweet for me. I enjoy returning to my home yet I want to be in France as well, however, I always enjoy the custom officer's words, "Welcome back to the United States."

For the Fall Academy at Gettysburg Seminary, I gave a lecture on my research on "Black soldiers, the Civil War and Education" I am enjoying this research and hopefully will develop into a journal article. I think the lecture was well received.

I am presently developing my course on African American Religious Education for Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. If anyone reads this blog and has any bibliographical suggestions, please don't hesitate to share them with me.

One additional note...On October 28, I was awarded an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio. It was an unexpected event in my life. I am humble by this honor.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer and Spring Musings

It has been some months since my last postings and much has happened in my adjustment to retirement. I'll list my thoughts and highlights of the recent past.

The death of a colleague. Dr. Susan Hedahl, professor emerita died in July from brain cancer. We were both senior members on the Gettysburg Seminary faculty upon our retirements. She was dedicated to her field, homiletics and tried to instill that passion in her students. I will always remember her "Recalculating" sermon in chapel. She had a gift for the English language as well as being able to speak Swahili and Arabic. We often talked about retirement and what we hoped to do. It was an honor to be able to be a lector at her funeral and to sing in the choir led by the composer and music scholar, Nancy Galbraith.

My time in France this spring was particularly memorable in two ways. First, I gave a talk on my Daniel Payne book for Parissoirée on Sunday 26 May. I think it was well received. I am thankful to Patrice LaPlante-Collins for giving me the opportunity to share my research with the group of French and ex-patriots from around the globe. Secondly, I went to Brittany (in western France) to visit my friends, Maryvonne and Christian who live in Erquy. We celebrated our retirements with great eating and champagne. We also took a trip to Mont St. Michel. I had not been inside the abbey in over 40 years. We also went to the grave of Madame Ortensia Reyntjes. The mother of my friend Henri who died nine years ago and the mother-in-law of Maryvonne. Ortensia died in April. She had known me since I was 19 years old during my first trip to France and Brittany in the summer of 1967. She kept the letters I had sent to Henri while in college and in seminary. She also had pictures of me from that time. After Henri's death, I would visit her and Maryvonne each summer. Her grave as well as that of Monsieur Reyntjes is in the town/parish cemetery in St. Méen le Grand where I had worshipped with her. I was certainly blessed to know the Reyntjes family.

On July 14, I ventured down to the Washington Cathedral for evensong. I had not attended evensong there since my seminary days. The reason for going on that Sunday was the fact that St. Matthew-St. Luke Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, New York

I was invited to do a book-signing at Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio on June 28, 2013. It was a delightful time. My faculty host, Dr. Charles Brown, was very gracious and made me feel a part of the community. I was surprised at the reception by the presence of Ms. Jacqueline Brown, librarian and archivist at Wilberforce University. She was very helpful when I began my research on Payne. In addition, the mayor of Xenia, Ohio was there as well.

The Seminary Ridge Museum opened on July 1. This was an historical event in that the museum is in  Old Dorm which housed wounded soldiers from the first day of the battle at Gettysburg. The governor attended as well a the presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mark Hanson. The previous day, there was a dinner and vesper service where Bishop Hanson preached. I hope that interest in the museum grows. The museum emphasizes the first day of the Gettysburg battle, the hospital work, the role of religion, and the life of African Americans in the town during the war. Daniel A. Payne was highlighted for being the first African American to attend Gettysburg Seminary and spoke out against slavery during the antebellum period.

On July 14 I attended evensong at the Washington Cathedral. I attended that Sunday as the choir from St. Matthew-St. Luke was there on a bus trip. My sister and brother-in-law was with the group. The guest choir was the Christ Church Cathedral Girls Choir, Lexington, Kentucky. I will have to attend Evensong at the Cathedral more often. It was a delightful Sunday afternoon.

On April 17, I conducted two workshops on Payne for the Annual Spring Convocation at Gettysburg Seminary. I also presided at the Eucharist. It was good seeing seminary classmates and former students.

At the Annual Recognition Dinner at the Seminary, I was given a Gettysburg chair and the faculty and Board minutes upon my retirement were read. It was indeed an honor. I could not have accomplished those years in the teaching ministry without the years of support and prayers from family and the members of Epiphany Lutheran Church in Brooklyn where I was nurtured in the faith. In addition, the members of the Lutheran Churches on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands and Advent Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Ohio. I have truly been blessed by their presence in my life.