As I move toward retirement I have become reflective about 45 years of ordained ministry and more than 50 years of ministry before my ordination. It all started at the Black Rock Congregational Church in Bridgeport Connecticut when I was a freshman in high school. Through a variety of circumstances I began attending that church and became part of a dynamic youth ministry – Black Rock Teenagers – that met on Saturday night with upwards of 200 young people attending from all over the county. For your information, the church only had about 200 members!
It was here that I learned how to lead singing from Bruce Carley. I learned to connect my head and heart in the interpretation of music from Jay Carley, our splendid pianist. I learned how to give talks to young people from Jim Guyer and Pastor Stan Allaby. Finally, I learned how to talk to almost anyone about anything from my dear friend and mentor, Bill Koerner.
I had an excellent theological education leading to my Master of Divinity degree but I learned how to be a pastor through my work in this wonderful teenage group. It was here that my gifts were identified and I was given opportunity to use those gifts and to cultivate them. Over the years my ministry has not come about because of what I learned in books and in the classroom. I became a pastor by emulating people I loved and respected – and who pointed me toward ministry in God’s church. I will always be thankful!