Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Paris Encore

This note as I wait at the gate 45 at Charles deGaulle airport in Paris. It was a good trip and as always, I already miss the city. There are several highlights from this visit including meeting my friend and colleague Brooks Schramm (Professor of Old Testament at Gettysburg Seminary) in Amsterdam. Usually we meet in Europe with Kirsi Stjerna (his wife), however, this year they had to take separate research trips in Europe. So, Brooks and I were on our own. The beer and wine were flowing.

In Amsterdam, I was able to finally get into the New Church. It was the place of the opening service of the Evangelical Alliance in 1867 and Daniel A. Payne was there. The last time I was in Amsterdam, the church was under renovation so I only had outside photos of the building. It is used for a variety of events. Presently, there is an exhibition on African masks and figures from the Ivory Coast. It was extensive and included a couple of films that elaborated on a technique or an artist. One can still see the nave of the church in the midst of the exhibition, so I took some photos of the inside. Brooks and I took the cruise around the waterways of Amsterdam. It was interesting with historical and cultural highlights of the city. Again, it was a good weekend trip.

I attended a Soirée on Sunday. The topic centered on terrorism in France from the Algerian crisis in the early 60s to the most recent attacks in Paris. He speaker was a retired Foreign Service officer. So he was a knowledgeable resource for the topic. Patricia LaPlante Collins continues to have interesting guests as well as ex-pats in the group. I would recommend going to an event while you are in Paris. It will give you a different perspective on life in Paris and France, besides, you will meet interesting people. Here is the link: http://patriciasparissoirees.com/.

Another highlight of this trip came from being on the Parissoirees list. Patricia reminded all of us of the opening of the Romare Bearden exhibition that opened at Reid Hall (Columbia University's Paris Center). It was a good exhibition and highlighted Bearden's time in Paris which he reflected in his drawings, drawing, and sketches several years after his visit. The host for the event was Robert O'Meally of Columbia and the President of Columbia University.

Paris continues to fascinate me and others who come to the City of Light. Paris always give me energy for research and writing.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Christmastide 2014-2015

It is the third day of the new year and the 10th day of Christmas. On this rainy day in Gettysburg, I find it a good time to reflect on the season and the beginning of 2015. As usual, the Christmas holiday was spent in Brooklyn, New York, where I stayed with my sister and brother-in-law. I presided at the Christmas Eve liturgy at Epiphany Lutheran where I grew up. I find it comforting to return to my familial and spiritual roots. This holiday was different in that one of my aunts had surgery on Christmas day so could not come to the house for dinner with my uncle. My other aunt (the oldest in the Strobert family) decided to stay at home, so we took dinner to her. It is always a delight to visit our cousin Ricky and his family. We had dinner there this last Thanksgiving. Their sons are really young men now, 23 and 19 years old. Time really goes rapidly.

A few days after Christmas, a good friend, Salud Nieting died from cancer. She was such a gracious person and fine host. Her late husband (Lorenz) was one of my New Testament professors when I was a student at Gettysburg. When I returned to the faculty, he was my colleague. My last formal dinner as a student was at the Nieting's before I left for my first call in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Salud along with Lisa Leber (a former advisee and now pastor) gave me a retirement party which was held at Salud's. Another pleasant memory for me was the time when I met Salud and Lorenz in Paris. They were celebrating a wedding anniversary, I was giving a paper at the Sorbonne. We met in front of Notre Dame, had lunch in and walked around the Latin Quarter. Rest in Peace, Salud.

This season was the first time without receiving a Christmas letter from Kathleen Gahagen, pastor in Buffalo, New York. She died this past year but her father, Robert Gahagen remembered her words and presence in his Christmas Eve sermon at Epiphany. It was the same sense of loss with the Pasqual family upon the death of Morris Pasqual, husband, father, grand-father, and great grand-father. He and his wife Gloria, raised 6 children who continue to be good, responsible, and professional people.

My health continues to bother me but I'm going to keep going until the time I'm not able to travel and get around has freely. I'll be leaving for Paris this month for a couple of weeks. It will be good to be in the city of lights while I work on an article that centers around Paris and two African American visitors to the city in the 19th century. For some reason I get inspired and creative when I'm in Paris. I'll stay at the same apartment complex as the last two times in the 15th arrondissement. During my time there, I'll take a couple of days to go to Amsterdam where I will meet my colleague and friend, Brooks Schramm. He is on sabbatical and doing research and writing in Emden Germany. Hopefully, I can visit the church where the meeting of the Evangelical Alliance was held in 1867. Daniel Payne was there. When I was working on my Payne book, I went there to take pictures, however, it was closed due to renovations. I want to take some interior photos as I work on a PowerPoint presentation of Payne in Europe.

As the new year begins, I hope to complete my book of essays on Martin Luther King, Jr. and complete the article. In March, I will be teaching "Multicultural Religious Education" as part of the Christian Education seminar at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. I look forward to the academic involvement. At the same time, I look forward to continuing my involvement with the Adams County Adult Literacy Council as a tutor. These students are really committed to learning!

If you read this issue of my blog, I pray that you have a glorious New Year 2015.

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.