Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Remembering Cameroon, Central Africa

It is always interesting to see the way the past continues to inform us. I had the pleasure of introducing in Chapel at Gettysburg Seminary the guest preacher for the noon service, Pastor Paul Déouyo. He is professor of systematic theology at the Lutheran seminary in Meiganga in Cameroon, West Africa. In my early days on the Gettysburg Seminary faculty, I spent a month in Cameroon and most of the time was at the seminary there. Dr.  Déouyo and I have common friends. My friend, Tom Christiansen (ELCA retired missionary) was my host and taught Paul. Hopefully, we will be able to Skype on Monday afternoon so that Paul and Tom can have a conversation. Paul is also friends with Lee and Torborg Bonhoeff. They were missionaries in Cameroon as well. I had not met Paul during my time in Cameroon because it was during the summer and there were no classes. It was good being able to remember my time in Cameroon and in addition to be able to speak French in Gettysburg, PA. On Tuesday 16 September, Déouyo will give the Norma Schweizer Wood Lecture at Gettysburg Seminary.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Catching Up

 A lot has happened since my last blog almost two months ago.
During May, I was in France. This trip was pleasurable in that I didn't have to rush around. Although I worked on a research project at the Société d'Histoire du Protestantisme Français, I also had time to visit friends (Maryvonne and Christian) in Erquy. For the past few years, we have been able to visit important historical and cultural sites in Brittany. As usual, I attended Parissoirée on two Sunday evenings. There was a tour group from Philadelphia at the gathering and two people from the group knew Lee Wesley, retired ELCA pastor who was the executive director of Lutheran Social Services in New York at his retirement. It is small world and even smaller Lutheran world. in addition, I was able to see a number of films. Thanks to my friend Yves, I bought a discount card for the M2K movie theatres. While I try to immerse myself into French life while there, I did have two highlights which involved Americans. At the beginning of the trip, I caught up with John Grimes (spouse of Dr. Barbara Ballard) who was in Paris for 4 days. We worshipped together at Notre Dame Cathedral one evening.

I always enjoy worship while in France: Notre Dame, Saint Sulpice, and L'Eglise des Billettes always uplift me while traveling. I was able to use my iPhone to record some of the glorious organ music

At the end of my trip, my cousin Larry and his wife Debbie arrived on my last full day in Paris. They were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary with a trip to the French Open and then on to Italy. We has a great time walking down the Champs Elysées in the morning and dinner at Le Café Rendez-Vous in the 14th arrondissement. Although they live outside of Philadelphia, we rarely see each other so it was great to spend time together. My return was different in that I few from Paris to Belgium and then Belgium to Dulles International. It was a great flight over the Atlantic. I returned to the States on May 30. I hope I can return in the fall or winter.

I should also add that I limited my purchase of books in Paris. I only bought two works: Tempête by Le Clézio and L'Elixir d'Amour by Eric Emmanuel Schmidt.

This past weekend, family and friends gathered to celebrate our Aunt Dot's birthday. Ricky grilled a lot of meat. We had a grand time. I couldn't help thinking that the Strobert family is really shrinking.

This past Monday, I met a former colleague Duane Larson and his wife Joen for lunch at Bloomingdales. Duane was in New York for a conference. The last time I was with them was at dinner in Helsinki, Finland two years ago. I was also able to meet the owner (Phillip Masson) of La Grenouille on E. 52 street in Manhattan. He lives between New York and Erquy, France. He knew Henri Reyntjes so I wanted to meet him. He is always in New York when I am in Erquy. It was nice to make the connection.

My return to Gettysburg today was uneventful in terms of traffic. I took my sister to work at Bergen Community College and continued on from there for Gettysburg. It is always  great to be in New York with family, however, it is an adjustment to return to G'burg.

More later.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hunter College Reunion and Luncheon

Today, I attended my 2014 Hunter College of the City University of New York reunion. It was delight to meet members of the 1969 class. All except one in our small group are retired representing education, law, economics, and theology. We commented on the excellent liberal arts education we received in the days when the City University was tuition free. Hopefully, "Mihi Cura Futura" (The Care of the Future is Mine) will continue to inspire the students.

My years at Hunter prepared me for much of what I have experienced upon my graduation. Hunter helped me to embrace the world beyond New York City and changed my worldview. I am truly thankful.

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 her...it 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.