Friday, April 12, 2013

Twenty-five Years Later

In May 1988, I graduated from Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey. I'd arrived there in September 1985 directly from college, unsure about ordination as the end result, but trusting that I was called to further theological studies and that beyond that God would show the way forward. A month after graduating from Drew I was ordained in the United Methodist Church and began serving a small-congregation in Hampton, New Jersey while continuing my studies at Princeton Seminary toward a ThM degree. From there I took a job as an ecumenical campus minister, and eventually was received into The Episcopal Church

Twenty-five years after graduating from Drew, our core group (minus one who could not make this trip due to illness) gathered together in Madison for about 36 hours that were filled with good food, laughter, conversation, worship and a slide show where we saw the images of people who looked a lot like much younger versions of all of us.

It is hard to believe that so much time has passed but it didn't feel like it had; while it may be a cliche it was also true that we kind of picked up where we'd left off. While we all went through Drew as United Methodists, four of us have since changed denominations - I became an Episcopalian in 1993, two of my friends are now United Church of Christ clergy and one is a Unitarian-Universalist lay person.

What strikes me the most as our time together comes to a close is that we are all still passionate about, and I think in a deep way hopeful for, the holy catholic and apostolic Church we love - even though the Church has left us all somewhat bruised and some with deeper scars. I think we represent an emerging Church that is more interested in ecumenism and interfaith issues, and is more radically inclusive and focused on justice for all. We see this as following the path of Jesus, and guided by the Spirit into deeper truth. I think it's also fair to say that all of us are less interested in maintaining or propping up denominational structures and old paradigms that do not serve God's reign, and have (along the way) realized that this is easier said than done. While we are all  fully aware of what we did not learn in seminary, I think we are all grateful that we gained not only the skills required from our teachers at Drew but even more importantly,  companions who challenged and loved us more fully into the Body of Christ.

For my own part, and along with Hathy, there has been a bit of nostalgia -  but not in a bad way. We began our married life at Drew after my first year of studies, living in married student housing during my middler year and off campus during my senior year. Then, as now, it was just the two of us - before children at Drew and now returning as empty nesters. I am about to make a major job change, leaving a parish I have loved (and that has loved me back) for fifteen years. On Tuesday we expect to sign a purchase and sale agreement on a house after living all these years of our married life in church-owned housing. Today, before we leave Madison I want to go by Grace Church, where I worked as a seminarian and was first introduced to the Episcopal Church. "All my life's a circle;" so said the theologian, Harry Chapin.

Or as T. S. Eliot put it, "we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring will be to find ourselves where we began, and know the place for the first time." (Little Gidding)

Yes, indeed.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. In literature it has been said, "True journey is return." yet your story demonstrates the added dimension: the path of the true journey's return is more like a helix than a mere circle. The helix moves onward and upward and progress is built into the circling around. We see progress in the story of our return to paradise. Our beginning is a garden which is the setting of a relationship, and our end is a city, the setting of a community. Looking at it from a scientific angle, the shape of our journey reflects the the shape of our DNA. You could say what is written in Scripture is also written in our DNA: true journey involves progress or growth. Your story beautifully highlights how you and your classmates have grown and that has facilitated meaningful return. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. As always Rich, well said. I was thinking of quoting Madonna, and her song "Holiday!", which talks about taking time to celebrate. After all, it was the 80's, but I can live with the Harry Chapin reference. Much love, Kristin