Yesterday I attended the convocation chapel at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO) which honored the careers or retiring professors Dr. John Kampen and Dr. Linda Mercadante. Both have Mennonite ties. John and his wife Carol are long time members of Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship where I pastored prior to CMC. Linda and her husband Joe Mas attend CMC.
Both gave reflections. John recalled what he feels to be the most important accomplishment of his professional career: While teaching and serving as Academic Dean at Payne Theological Seminary, an African Methodist Episcopal Church school, he helped them become an officially credentialed seminary. They continue to form black leaders who are shaping communities and institutions.
Linda spoke of MTSO as a haven for her over a long academic career that included personal challenges. She began her career surrounded by male faculty and has seen the institution grow to embrace female faculty. It was noted that because of her long tenure, over half of the alumni to ever pass through MTSO would know her, and that her work with those who identify as spiritual but not religious has made a major contribution at the intersection of faith and culture.
Retirement seems to be a major theme these days at CMC as well. I don’t know how many of you have retired in the last couple years, but it’s a lot. Which means questions of identity, direction, and calling are all very close to the surface these days. Where to focus one’s energy? How to enter into this new stage of life in a way that welcomes new opportunities along with a chance for renewal? How to let go of professional identities yet still claim the gifts one exercised in those offices? How to adjust expectations when one’s body doesn’t cooperate with one’s aspirations. And many other such questions.
Listening to John and Linda speak affirmed how valuable it is to listen to one another’s stories, and what a gift it is to have this multi-generational community called a congregation. Since we’re starting to live with the words of our new Membership Commitment Statement, this line especially applies: “Learn from one another, allowing the wisdom of all ages to teach us.”
I’m not sure if we have enough structured ways to learn from the wisdom of all ages, but I want to say for now that it’s a very good thing. And I’m guessing our recently retired folks are feeling both parts of that statement: That they have some wisdom to share, and that they have so much more to learn.