Saturday, March 22, 2014

At a finishing post

Last night's retirement occasion for Carol and me was a spectacular surprise in every way.  In the week before we had received a constant stream of apologies from friends who could not attend.  When we went into the Lindner Conference Center at 6:15 last night I was amazed to see the main conference arena set out with tables, tablecloths and flower arrangements (oh yeah!) filling the room. In front of the windows looking out onto the lake there were tables of refreshments for the multitudes.  We looked at each other amazed at the organizers' faith!   A handful of friends were there!  But, by the time we hit 7:00pm and the program started the room was amazingly full.

My two Deans called it my 'Recognition' evening and had organized a program which brought greetings and tributes, prayers and song with such warmth and over-generosity of spirit.  For me the highlights were many because everything that took place was thoughtful and kind.  Let me mention just a few (and forgive inevitable omissions):
  • hospitality - so many people worked to make the center look beautiful and welcoming with staff bustling around to make everything work. 
  • tributes - Lauren Visser spoke movingly for the students and beautifully not only summed up my teaching philosophy but modeled it,  while David Fitch with brilliant wit (and wildly over the top as you might expect) expressed his thoughts with seven headings including a crowd stopper of ....
  • Carol.  It was so important that Carol be honored because she is vital for my ministry and right from the opening welcome from Dean Karen, and greetings from an absent President, she had deserved pride of place as the love of my life, my best friend and the most loyal co-worker imaginable.  I was thrilled about the love expressed for her throughout the evening.
  • Letters from the past.  Bob Price wove together letter tributes ranging over my past ministry and surprised me by making it  42 years celebration rather than just my time at Northern.
  • Ninja - Adron Robinson shared this nickname from his doctoral class, apparently given me because of my smiling delivery of comments after each of their sermons and the students' surprise to find they had somehow amidst the smiles had been critiqued with cuts to the body!  
  • Emeritus Professor.  Jim Stellwagen, Chair of the Board, presented me with a plaque and I am thrilled with the honor and continuing connection.  Thank you.  
  • FRIENDS'  The most wonderful aspect of all was the presence of friends from so many aspects of our lives in the US who had taken trouble to be there and joined the line to speak to us, gave us cards, wrote in a book their greetings and, collectively, gave us memories we shall always treasure.
Someone in the seminary said that this was the happiest occasion they had experienced in that Conference Center, and we certainly felt it could not have been a warmer kinder evening with so much laughter.  Our deepest thanks to everyone who contributed.

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