There was a big party recently. To celebrate my getting to be 90 years old -------.
My dear successors in the Ministry: Dr. Daniel Harrell of Colonial Church, and Dr. Jim Olson, President of the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation, got together to make it happen. What a gift: to see all those dear faces together, precious friends in my life. And, my children, and grandchildren, and my dear companion in life, my fierce and faithful, wise and humble Molly - who went to her knees in Rwanda, asking forgiveness of the Africans, putting the unique mark of her humility upon the whole deep and tender work of the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation - across Africa and the world.
They have all loved me, and forgiven me, and encouraged and taught me the ways of Jesus - Who called us, sent us, and showed us how to make peace and to love all people.
Would I want to say something? Dr. Jim asked. I thought - "Of course." But what? So much I would want to say.
I even tried to write something out. But it didn't work. Till my dear wife bounced up to me on Friday morning, "You need to just thank them. Tell them what they mean to you. Thank them for the years. For standing by, and what they mean."
"And I will begin by thanking you, Molly, my wife, who has taught me, and encouraged me all my life, and who has worked so hard to keep me alive. I am so grateful."
"Well, you don't need to do that," she said. "I already know that." So humble she is.
But, being grateful is always the thing. It is always the most important thing to say: Thank you. Thank you.
We would of course, never get to a great age, never do a good work, never succeed at anything, without the help of so many others along the way - who've believed in you, loved you, taught you, encouraged you, given you so much from their own lives.
Teachers: dear James Stewart, chaplain to the Queen of England, lyrical preacher of the love of Jesus, my New Testament teacher at New College, Edenborough, my friend, and patron saint, if you will. He wrote a book about St. Paul, called "A Man of Christ," but his humble, winsome life was all through it.
Bob Seaver at Union, teacher of speech, who taught me and a handful of others the crucial importance of words, and THE WORD.
Coaches: my Harvard rowing coach, the "saintly" Tom Bolles.
Christian friends, like Bill in Williamsburg, who said when I left, "Arthur, you always preached one thing, the Church, what it means to be the Church."
There were so many others. Dear Prof. Stanley Ross, professor of economics at South and Amherst, and faithful Moderator of our own country church, who said, when I confessed to him my trembling heart and knocking knees when I entered the pulpit to preach, "Arthur, the day your knees don't knock and your heart doesn't tremble, is the day you can no longer be my preacher."
So, on it went, through the years: Agnes Sanford teaching me the healing ministry of the church; all the dear people of those three congregations, who, like Karl Barth's little congregation in the Alps, looking up and asking, "Is there any word from the Lord?" The Campus Crusades staff intent on winning the world as their mission, the Lutheran minister who baptized me in the Holy Spirit in front of the Abbey Church at St. John's University, and the handful of wise women of faith, who showed me courage as they lived boldly for Jesus - like Mary Lou whose funeral I shared in yesterday.
We all need to look back, and give thanks. And, look forward to each day's life, and the hope of heaven.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES