Princeton Theological Seminary
It has been twenty years that the ministry of the MFCA has been much of my life… On March 7th in 1991 I flew to Chicago from Buffalo to interview with a committee of the board of the Theological Education Agency (TEA). The next day I received a call offering me the position as director of the agency. I won’t go into details other than that the hand of God was in all of this and later in March the Kors family of Dunnville, Ontario, Canada was visiting California so as to find housing, schooling and a church home. By April the five of us had a good idea where we would be living, what schools we would be attending, and where we would be worshipping as a family.
Twenty years, three college graduations, and soon to be three grandchildren later have created many memories. The past week has included two major trips and many memories, causing me to reflect on what my life and vocation is truly about. Allow me to share some snippets from what I have done this week and what has introspectively been conjured up from deep within me.
· A trip to Ontario always triggers memories and reflection. The minute I cross the border at Buffalo / Fort Erie, numerous childhood memories arise; some creating images in my mind so real that it seems they were created just moments previous.
· Passing the cemetery where my father was laid to rest in July of 2000 reminded me of how blessed I was to have had a dad who modeled unconditional love for his children and who faithfully served as an elder at the First Reformed Church of Hamilton. Being an elder did not come without sacrifice on his part since he worked long shifts at the Steel Company of Canada and until being on consistory had never been asked to pray in public.
· As I met candidates at Ebenezer Reformed Church in Mississauga, I could not help but remember being dragged to this same church as a kid and sit through the choir festival in which my mom sang faithfully as part of the RCA all Ontario choir festival.
· I was able to review ministry opportunities with Marijke as she prayerfully considers life after earning her M.Div. at McMaster Divinity College. I find it difficult not to think about Marijke as the little wiggle worm that sat with Christine and Bart, her parents, in the pew in front of us when we were members of First Reformed Church.
· I had the opportunity to be told by John that he and Ruth were again expecting in a coffee shop in the neighborhood where I grew up. John serves a church that stands on the property of Camp Shalom. The camp is where I met Jane, the love of my life and to whom I have been married 34 years as of next week.
· I was back in California only three days before I was again at LAX airport on my way to New Jersey. I was able to show my new membership card to the people at the desk of the Red Carpet Club for the first time… the card recognized that I was now a member of the “two million mile club” with United Airlines. I can’t begin to figure out how many hours I have sat in an airplane seat or slept in a hotel bed.
· At the desk was Bruce, someone I have gotten to know over the years.For the last few months I have had the opportunity to ask Bruce how his mom in Michigan was doing with her battle with cancer and if there had been any progress with his 31 year old son, Marco, who was struggling with a drug habit. I was able to assure him that he and his family were in my prayers and I left an invitation card with him for Easter services at Emmanuel Reformed Church. This year we are having seven services and I quietly prayed that Bruce and his family would somehow make it to one of those services on Easter Sunday.
· A trip to New Brunswick Theological Seminary is always filled with memories and even though they have remodeled the buildings significantly, I can vouch that the floors that Jane and I mopped, and the bookshelves of Gardner Sage Library we dusted, are the same. The only jobs we were able to hold as Canadians were work-study jobs at the school. Thus, we did whatever was asked of us.
· What was not the same were the people who walked the halls at NBTS. Few of them looked like me. Almost all the folks I encountered this past week were either African American or Korean. Walking past a classroom with Gregg Mast and Renee House (president and dean of the seminary), I could not help but ask about the commotion in the room? They explained that a class on the Holy Spirit was in session and that there was always a significant portion of time dedicated to prayer in this class. The sounds I was hearing was people speaking in tongues. I can honestly say that this was not my experience when I was at NBTS in the late 70’s.
· On Wednesday evening I was able to make it back to NBTS after meeting candidates at Princeton Theological Seminary and be part of vespers. It was a Lenten service and I was touched by the liturgy and the message shared. Good and meaningful worship was happening that evening in the chapel, more affectionately known as the “Dixie Cup.” I was also well aware that the Dixie Cup might well not exist much longer since there is a good chance that NBTS will sell part of the buildings and property. The plan is to create a new facility as well as a future for the seminary through the sale of the property.
· While at Princeton I met with Karen in the cafeteria. While Karen was telling me about the many amazing things going on at her supervised ministry site, Highland Park Reformed Church, they were setting up for the “senior banquet” later that evening. I could not help but wonder how many times that had been done in the past and how many individuals had been part of this activity and who were now impacting the world for Christ.
· Later, in the same cafeteria, I met with Luke and discussed with him his future, as he was one of the seniors who would be attending the banquet that evening. We talked about many opportunities, including one at City Church San Francisco. Who would have thought, back when I was taking courses at PTS in the 70’s that we would have ministries such as CCSF and Newbigin House of Studies charting new directions for the RCA in 2011.
I could go on but will refrain. I am grateful to God that I have been given the opportunity to serve in this ministry called MFCA and in sharing just one week, I hope you have a glimpse of how richly I have been blessed.