Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Search: Life Choices

After moving to Tipp City schools, my satisfaction with teaching grew while working with Bill Bechtol and colleagues interested in developing a system designed to meet the needs of each student. I also found satisfaction and rewards in working with students in and out of class. With my studies at Miami U in the summers, I was preparing for a long-term commitment to teaching science at the high school.

With the “laying down” of Ludlow Falls Friends Meeting and West Branch Quarterly Meeting, my commitment to Friends seemed to be waning. However, in the spring of 1968 I was invited to become the regular “preacher,” only on Sundays, at a very small Friends Meeting in Wilmington Yearly Meeting. As a result of that I was subsequently invited to be the “weekend minister” at Jamestown Friends Meeting. The parsonage was empty and we were invited to stay in it whenever we needed to stay overnight. With my father being the pastor at Xenia Friends Meeting just down the road, this seemed to be a chance to work more closely with him. One of the surprising aspects of this was that for the first time I heard my father question whether the pastoral system was truly in the tradition of Friends.

After the first year at Jamestown and the third year at Tipp City, I was presented with a choice that was the first major crossroads of my life. Apparently my work at Jamestown was well received and word had spread in the Yearly Meeting. I also suspect that my father’s reputation as a truly outstanding person and minister was involved. I was “called” to a full time pastorate at a relatively large Meeting in Wilmington Yearly Meeting. At about the same time, as a result of my work at Tipp City and at Miami U., I was invited to attend an NSF Academic Year Institute for Science Supervisors at Ohio State U. In addition, Tipp City schools encouraged me to stay there with “tenure” and work on the curriculum in science and math. Up until then most decisions in my life had been either yes or no with relatively clear directions as to which way to choose.

Judy and her family were opposed to my going to Ohio State. This was partly due to the fact that for the previous three summers I had been attending Miami U while Judy had been pregnant the first summer with a difficult pregnancy as well as being pregnant the third summer while I stayed at Miami during the week to work on my thesis. We now had two sons under the age of 3 and the stipend for the Institute at Ohio State was not very much. However, I chose to accept the invitation to Ohio State, in hindsight this was partly due to my wanting the recognition as a young, 25 years old, person among the leaders in secondary school science education. In addition, I could continue as weekend minister at Jamestown.

During that year I experienced a good deal of satisfaction in the academic life and loved being a seeker of knowledge. At the same time the ministry at Jamestown seemed to be producing spiritual growth in the Meeting and in myself. However, I had growing doubts about the pastoral system in Friends since it seemed that the more I was able to speak to the condition of the members and attenders, the more they relied on me and listened to me rather than to each other or to themselves on a deeper level. In conversations with my father, this seemed to be a major danger with the pastoral system in general. My father felt that one of the major goals for him was to “work himself out of a job,” that is, to assist the members of the Meeting to become leaders and ministers within the Meeting. In my experience at Jamestown, it seemed that the more participation and interaction was evident but this seemed to be more a result of the Meeting being content with a “good” pastor rather than a careful searching of their own personal condition.

Toward the end of the academic year, I was given another choice that would confirm the direction I would undertake.

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