Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Graduation and Ordination Memories

The fact that the church decided to mark both my 15 years of service here and my 30 of ordination on the same day, this past Sunday, sent me to a page in the Pastoral Record Book where I keep some treasured mementos from days gone by.  Here you see several of them.  The tan colored bulletin is from the 157th Anniversary Commencement Exercises at Lancaster Theological Seminary, on May 15, 1982, when I was conferred the M.Div.  (Master of Divinity). 

As you probably know, the M.Div. is the only masters degree that takes three full years, not two years, to complete.   

Our commencement exercises were memorable indeed, in Hensel Hall on the Campus of Franklin and Marshall College, just across the street from Lancaster Theological Seminary.  Scripture was read by my friend the late Rev. Jeffery L. Roth, and that the sermon was delivered by Dr. Walter A. Brueggemann, who was and is one of the leading theologians of the United States.  "Doc" Englert offered the benediction--he was the longest-serving member of the faculty at the time, and professor of Old Testament.  In his OT Survey class he used to say that if you drop your pencil, you will miss the Book of Jonah!

Jim Glasse, President of the seminary, presided, and Jim also preached at my ordination several months later, as well as at my installation at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church five years later.  I had first heard Jim preach at Penn State in 1973 and was duly impressed.  I wrote to him asking for a copy of the sermon.  He had only notes, which he photocopied and sent to me.  Later, they appeared as part of one of Jim's books.  Jim was a fine clergyman, theologian and author; our paths crossed upon many happy occasions, and he is greatly missed. 

Yes, among the graduates I see my friend Ernie Shaffer's name; my dearest friend.  Ernie and I keep each other grounded by daily emails between Florida and Pennsylvania, telling one another the often weird and wacky things that happen at our respective churches during the course of a day.  Perhaps you have been part of some email of mine...who knows?  As I have said, "I am writing a book..."  You may be in it!

Moving on to the Ordination Day, Sunday, August 1, 1982.  The setting was my home congregation, Highland Presbyterian Church.  The day, as has been said, was done just right.  We had a procession of clergy and every one of the professors from Lancaster Theological Seminary was in attendance.  It was a notable gathering of divines, as they might have said in the newspapers. 

The order of worship was distinctive.  The prelude, played by Helen Buss was one of George Gershwin's.  Elder Glen W. Mauglin from the Guinston Presbyterian Church over in York County offered the Call to Worship.  I had preached and Glen's church as a student supply preacher and was so glad she was able to take part as a member of the ordination commission. Donald Weber, Bill Scheetz (from Wrightsville PC another of the congregations where I had preached often during seminary), Victor Baer, Jim Hanna, Jim Glasse, Bea Matheson, Larry Smith and of course Dottie Rose Smith, Bill Rhodes, Jane Gray Smith, the Senoir Choir and Len Arbuckle, Russ Bechotld, Gerry Bosch all had parts in the service.  My dear pastor Ross McClintock was away (why am I remembering that it was an out of the  country vacation?).  Sue McCarty and the Hospitality Committee did a lovely reception following the ordination.

Others who shared in the service were Jeanne Linderman, who was the first woman ordained as an Episcopal deacon (and priest) in the Diocese of Delaware, and my friend Ernie Shaffer who at that time was the new pastor at St. Peter's UCC in Tatamy, PA, where he continues as pastor today, and my uncle, D. James Yolton, who was pastor at the UCC congregations in Shamokin and Trevorton. 

There are stories to go with every name, for instance, Len Arbuckle had been one of Papa's high school teachers, and later moved to Lancaster and (hold on ot  your hats) later attended Papa's 50th high school reunion.  Very cool.  Jane Gray Smith played Meditation from Thais, which has appeared in various other important worship services in my life thereafter.   

It was one of those, if-I-had-to-do-it-again-I-would-not-change-anything days.

Good memories, all...

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