Heather Carlson, who coordinates the “Meet the EP” section of our newsletter, suggested that it was high time that the editor introduce himself here. I live in Appleton, Wisconsin, am married to Susan, an academic gerontologist, and together we are parents to two adult children, one married and expecting her second child. I served two United Church of Christ congregations, the second for 23 years. It was during that second pastorate that Stan Hauerwas recruited me to the EP with semi-coherent but intriguing talk about “a bunch of wobblies and radical Christian folk, and they’re up in your neck of the woods!” I attended the second Gathering, became an endorser, and discovered a community of precious Christian friends who quickly became central to my life and ministry.
When you live with a gerontologist, you tend to talk about your own aging more than most people do. We dreamed about entering a “third age” together that would center in simplicity, service, friendship and hospitality–the core practices that get pushed aside in overly busy lives. So after 35 years of senior pastorates, I took a plunge into God’s unknown. I “retired” from my parish and took a part-time position with Goodwill Industries, developing a workplace chaplaincy that seeks to make the organization “faith-friendly” to all religious traditions. After many decades of ministering primarily to privileged people, I have spent the last five years being present to persons facing significant cognitive, physical and socioeconomic challenges. My secular friends thought I had plunged off the deep end while my EP friends said “of course.” Which is one of the reasons I am glad to be part of the EP.
I am now concluding my Goodwill chaplaincy to focus on the work Susan and I have been doing together on aging, dementia, friendship and community. Our book on this topic (a marriage that survives co-authoring a book is likely to stand up to any other test) will be published by Johns Hopkins next month. We challenge communities to extend the practices of hospitality and inclusion to those with dementia and learn how to live faithful friendships with friends who no longer remember that we are their friends. I write about these themes (and shamelessly promote the book) on our blog. We offer lectures and workshops on these themes in a wide variety of settings, but are particularly eager to speak to congregations.
We love to have EP friends visit when they are passing through, and when Susan finally retires from UW-Oshkosh next year (if our governor’s policies do not force her to do so sooner) we hope to visit many of you!