I have just returned from Grand Rapids where I met with representatives of the other 16 seminaries involved in Lilly-funded preaching projects across the US. Many are academics involved in teaching preaching. Sometimes, the fact that many academics are introverts and slow to warm up (have you ever noticed?! ) makes these experiences hard work but these past three days have been filled with joy. They really have.
It was my last such conference and that fact added a dimension of memory and thankfulness as I caught up with teachers I have met in different places over the last seventeen years. At several of their seminaries I have given lectures and preached, staying a few days on their campus, making friendships and memories. One of the three professors at Gordon Conwell, Boston, which I have visited many times reminisced about Carol as well: 'She really is something!' he said - and he clearly meant it to be a compliment.
Of course, I shall miss the collegiality of this annual meeting but isn't it encouraging to know that your work and presence has been noticed! In different ways I hope that is true of all of us as we come up to retirement. (Often that means making sure we express our appreciation to others too). At some point I may post about the future of the preaching project that I started when it becomes clearer with the leadership of a new President and a new Director of the program. But this occasion truly expressed the best kind of valediction on a very different part of my ministry. I return to the UK with immense gratitude to God for doors he opened.