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Good Good Radio

maxresdefaultThis Saturday, December 10, at 7pm I will be a guest on Good Good Radio. Hosted by my friend Noxx, the show airs in Atlanta on 860AM, plus worldwide on Love860.com and on iHeart Radio.

Good Good Radio is produced by Positive Arts Movement.

Tune in!

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Before we turn to our morning’s Scripture lessons, I want to take a moment of pastoral privilege. I don’t often focus on current events during worship – not because I don’t care, but rather because I don’t want to be in the habit of chasing ambulances. Our response to the world around us ought to be one of compassion, concern, and engagement. For people of faith, this engagement runs much deeper than taking a particular side on a particular issue on a particular Sunday.

That said, I think we have passed a watershed moment in our society this week with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, and I want to take this moment to speak into this space from my own perspective. I know that we have different opinions in our pews on the issue of same sex marriage. I know that many of you are pleased or even elated because of Wednesday’s ruling. I know that some of you are disappointed, even angry. I also know that we are a stronger community because we encourage a healthy diversity of perspectives. And if you hear nothing else I say today, I want to be sure you hear this: no matter your opinion, I am your pastor. And our relationship in that regard is unrelated to whether or not we agree on a particular issue.

As I have read commentaries and responses to the ruling from various church leaders, the one thing that I have seen again and again is a near-universal consensus that we are moving toward a national consensus in favor of same sex marriage. Even the most ardent opponents acknowledge that this writing is on the wall. It is my own observation that the real game changer in public opinion happened not Wednesday, but three years ago when the military repealed “don’t ask don’t tell.” The biggest gulf in opinion on this issue is not even between conservative and liberal, but between generations. For example: 51% of white evangelicals under the age of 35 support same sex marriage. That number represents a majority of those raised in churches that have been the most outspoken opponents of same sex relationships. We have passed the tipping point. The question now is: what do we do?

And here, I want to say that I recognize the fact that our worship space and service does not lend itself to two-way conversation. So after worship today, after we greet one another, I move to the Parlor in case anyone wants to continue in conversation. This is our strength as a church, our ability to talk honestly with each other, because we know that grace abounds, bridging gaps that might be impassable otherwise.

Back to the question: what now?

It must be said that just because something is popular does not mean that we as a church must go along with it. I think we have a responsibility to speak into places where our society has gone off the rails. We advocate for the most vulnerable among us, witnessing to the compassion of Christ. We speak against cultural tendencies toward excess and greed and drive, giving voice to deeper, holier purposes for life. This is one of those moments when churches will see this as just such an opportunity, to oppose the prevailing winds of culture. Speaking personally, I think resistance is a mistake, one that history will judge as a poor choice.

I choose, instead, to see this moment as an opportunity to live out the love of Jesus Christ in an imperfect world. We are, all of us, imperfect; that’s why we begin our worship service in confession. Our sexual desires are imperfect; that’s no less true for heterosexuality than homosexuality. It is because of this that we Presbyterians call marriage a covenant, not a sacrament. Ben Affleck was right (and that’s probably the only time you’ll ever hear me make that statement): Marriage is work. And because it is work, because it is imperfect, the marriage covenant is a public promise. We ask those who witness to promise their support to the couple. We pray for God’s grace, mercy, and blessings on the covenant of marriage.

By virtue of being an ordained minister, I have the authority of both church and state to play an official role in this covenant. It will not be long before I have the opportunity to do the same with same-sex couples. And it’s an opportunity I will likely take, because it gives me the opportunity to share the gospel with its promises of hope, redemption, and perfect love in the midst of imperfect relationships.

I know that many of you are already there, favoring full inclusion. You can even point to our mission statement where we describe ourselves as “an inclusive community of faith.” And I know that for many of you this is not an abstract issue of pros and cons, but one that has a face and a name…one that has to do with family members whom you know and love and support, desiring nothing more than their happiness. And yet, I know that this does not describe all of us. So whatever we do today and beyond, I trust that we will do it with the utmost grace – grace toward one another, grace toward all.

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Will Campbell made me a Christian.

I entered seminary in 1993 – not convicted by a sense of call to the ministry, but because I wanted to figure out what I believed (and the only model I knew for “figuring stuff out” was school). I entered the M. Div. program of the University of Chicago that Fall, not sure how my understanding of the world and beyond did (or didn’t) jibe with Christianity. But I was eager to explore.

Not long after I arrived, my (then girlfriend) Elizabeth sent me a copy of a Rolling Stone article about a renegade Southern preacher named Will D. Campbell. This was long enough ago that the article arrived as a black and white copy via the US Postal Service, believe it or not.

I devoured the article, and then found everything I could written about or by Campbell, coalescing them into a paper titled “Bastard Will,” an homage to one particular line of his that is still among my treasured theological nuggets. When a friend challenged Campbell to sum up the Bible in ten words or less, he replied, “We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.”

The friend counted and said, “You’ve got two more words.”

“Don’t need ’em,” Campbell answered.

Campbell’s own history is incredible: a dirt poor Mississippian who eventually ended up in the Navy and then at Yale by way of Wake Forest, he was fired from his first job as a college chaplain for playing ping pong with a black man. He was the only white member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But his true conversion came, he said, in the wake of Medgar Evers’ assassination. “Did God love Medgar, Brother Will?”

“Of course!”

“What about the redneck sheriff that shot him – does God love him?”

And so, after visiting with Evers’ family in the hospital, Campbell headed to the prison to visit his assailant. And in doing so, he lost many of his friends in the Civil Rights movement. But Campbell was convicted by the call of Jesus to love his enemies, and continued to do so throughout his life.

His writing was prolific, ascerbic, funny, and deeply theological. This combination meant that he became a darling of Protestant intellectuals, and brought him invitations to speak on campuses and in large churches. But his speaking style rarely meant that he got invited back: he was a prophet, a gadfly, who didn’t have any compunction about telling the truth the way he saw it and the way he was sure Jesus saw it.

Once invited to speak on a panel about the death penalty, Campbell followed an eloquent, thoughtful, philosophical argument in favor of its limited use in a democratic society. Campbell approached the mic slowly, leaned over, and said, “I think the death penalty is tacky.” And then he sat down.

During the Q&A that followed, someone in the crowd got up the nerve to ask him to elaborate on his viewpoint. “If it’s tacky, it ain’t got no beauty. If it ain’t got no beauty, God ain’t in it. I think that about says it.” Simplicity cut through the rhetoric and spoke louder truth than complexity.

And that’s why Campbell’s death hits me today: when I read his writings, I recognized the Jesus that I had fallen in love with. And that Jesus was a hard one to follow: loving enemies, praying for persecutors, hanging out with the poor, willing to die for the sake of the world. In other words, a far cry from what I observed among those who claimed to follow him. “If this guy’s a Christian,” I thought, “then I must be, too.”

The rest of seminary had its own twists and turns that led me to professional ministry. But it was the Rev. Will D. Campbell who initially got me pointed in the right direction. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Say hi to Jesus, Brother Will. I’m sure you’ve got a lot to catch up on.

Note: The biographical details and quotes are from memory. They are close, but may not be exact. Feel free to fact-check me by reading his memoir Brother to a Dragonfly. Even if I’m on target, it’ll be worth the read.

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It’s like we threw a party, but nobody got the invitation…

Elizabeth and I moved into a third story walk-up apartment on the Southside of Chicago. We shared the stairwell with five other apartments, but had not met any of the other residents yet. So we decided that we ought to take the lead. A couple of weeks after we moved in, we threw a party, inviting our neighbors to come upstairs. It was scheduled to start at 6pm.

At about 6:30…well, you know that feeling when you’re the only ones at your party? That’s where we were, beginning to realize we were going to eating spinach and artichoke dip three meals a day for about a week.

Fortunately, that’s when a knock came at the door. It was the couple who lived across the hall. Not long after, another knock – the elderly bachelor who lived downstairs. Then the graduate student across the hall from him, and the retired couple from the first floor – all in all, five out of the six apartments were represented. The party was a success!

We lived in that place for seven years. And in that time, we shared lives with those neighbors: relationships came to an end, others started. There were weddings and births and deaths and moves. It was, in short, our little community near the corner of 55th and South Cornell. But that first party was the only time that we were all in the same room together.

Our apartment was nothing special; in fact, it was a cozy little one bedroom. And so, whenever we had a party, we had to pull out extra chairs (or anything resembling chairs, for that matter) so that everyone who wanted to sit could. We had set up our apartment for two people; when more were there, even for just a short period of time – a few hours or a few days – we moved furniture around, borrowed if we had to. In short, we made room.

When I read the Pentecost story, I wonder if God was at work doing something similar with the disciples: making room. After Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, their numbers were down to eleven, and they holed themselves up back in the Upper Room that had become their familiar respite. After the resurrection, when Jesus appeared to them and ate with them and spoke with them and stayed with them for almost a month and a half, they decided that maybe their story wasn’t over. And so, after Jesus left them, they gathered once again in the Upper Room as he had told them to do, and the awaited instructions. While they waited, they decided they needed one more to take Judas’ place, with that honor going to Matthias.

And still they waited…perhaps wondering if anybody else was coming to their party. Then Pentecost happened, and the church was born. Wind burst through the windows; fire lapped on their heads; languages filled the air; and Peter takes the opportunity to give his first sermon to the gathered crowd. Apparently, three thousand people were baptized that day because of what they saw and heard and experienced. This little party of eleven, then twelve, had suddenly outgrown the confines of that Upper Room – the celebration had to be taken to the streets!

I read all of this, and then I look at the state of churches today all over the country. I look around our own Sanctuary here at Oglethorpe Presbyterian. Unlike the disciples, we’ve got room – plenty of room – too much room. Sure, on Easter we’re overflowing. On Christmas Eve, we’re at capacity. On Preschool Sunday, we’re packed to the gills. But the rest of the year, for the most part, we could all fit in one of our seating sections – tightly, mind you. But we certainly don’t have a problem with space…or is that our problem?

Our attendance records go back fifteen years. And in that time, the trend is downward, year after year after year. Even way back in those heady days of the late 90’s, we were under half-capacity most of the year.

We’re not alone in this challenge, either, by any stretch. It’s the same problem that faces thousands of churches all over the country: a sanctuary built for 800 now seats 80. A worship space that could hold three hundred sees an average attendance of 15 or 16. Both of these examples are actually in Presbyterian churches here in Atlanta; in thriving parts of Atlanta. This situation, sadly, seems to be much more rule than exception. It’s as though we live in a six-bedroom house permanently set up for a party, when a one-bedroom apartment would be more than enough.

So, Happy Pentecost! Nothing like slogging your way to church on a rainy Sunday morning to get a rousing, energizing, feel-good sermon, huh?

My point, though, is that I don’t think we are all that different from those early disciples. I have heard theory after theory about why the church is on the decline. There are those who want to point theological or political fingers: the church is too conservative, or too liberal. Or they blame worship styles: the music is too stuffy and the language is out of touch, or it’s trying to hard to be “relevant” and ends up abandoning age-old truths…Having been in a church professional for almost twenty years now, I’m convinced that none of those things is much of a factor at all.

And I think Oglethorpe Presbyterian is a perfect example. I really do hope you’ll stick around for lunch afterwards, because the first part of our conversation is to hear the results of the Church Assessment Tool survey we did just a few weeks back. And there is much – much – to celebrate about what God is doing here! And I know I keep returning to this topic, but your support of the Capital Campaign continues to show that this church has a place not just for the present, but on into God’s future as well! That’s not to minimize the challenges that we have, or to deny their existence. They’re there, all right; but we know they’re there. And I know I say this every year, but your session leadership is amazing, gifted, and dedicated to discerning God’s desires as we move forward as a church. It’s almost enough to make me become a Presbyterian!

But this is where my party metaphor starts to come apart. We’ve sent out invitations to the neighbors, but they’re not coming. We want to walk through those pivotal life moments together – births, deaths, marriages, divorces, celebrations, tragedies. And we want the community to know that we are here to walk alongside them in these moments. As any of you who have been there know, it’s what we do best! And yet, the time has come. It’s 6:30, and we sit here, looking at each other, wondering why nobody came.

The truth is that the rules have changed. The word is different. To use a technology analogy, we keep sending invitations through the mail when everyone is checking their inbox for an evite. I think the church’s decline is as simple as this: we are sitting in the Upper Room, waiting for a knock at the door; but really, it’s time to take the celebration to the streets!

For the disciples, it took the storm force of wind, the interruption of fire, and a good dose of linguistic chaos to get them off their be-hinds (as my grandmother would’ve said) and recognize that the Spirit was there so they could pick up where Jesus left off. What’s it gonna take for us to do the same?

I’ve got good news and bad news: the bad news is that we’re probably not gonna get the same kind of signs they did. There will likely be no burning bush, no Red Sea parting, no sky splitting open, no dove descending. But the good news is that the Spirit never left us – God is still here! It never left us! I’m just not sure we’re paying close enough attention, or that we’re able to filter out the stimuli that constantly bombard our senses long enough just to hear the wind blow…

Friends, the truth is: it’s not even our party to begin with! Maybe we have forgotten that, or maybe it happened so long ago that we don’t remember, but the celebration started long before we arrived on the scene. Somebody bothered to include us – our parents, a friend, a beloved pastor – because they knew that it was God’s party all along! Do we know that? Can we stop sending invitations and, instead, become invitations, taking it to the streets? And can we remember what the party was about in the first place – not a building, no; but the host, who meets us where we are!

My prayer today is that God would light a fire – not on our heads, but under our be-hinds, sending us out to be Christ’s deeds of power, living invitations to a world that needs healing, more than it knows. May it be so!

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In Memoriam: Wyatt Pasley

I am part of the extended Galloway family. I am a Galloway alum, a Galloway parent, and a faculty spouse. Being part of Galloway has shaped me forever. And it might sound odd to say, but I know for a fact that I am a pastor because of Galloway. It’s not a religious school, in fact you might say it’s a proudly secular school. Mr. Galloway was a pastor, but he didn’t wear it on his sleeve. Instead, he allowed it to infuse everything about him. He believed that the universe was the source of infinite love and wisdom, all of which were to be shared with infectious exuberance.

I did not know Wyatt Pasley; but I do know Galloway. You have shared stories with me, and have allowed me to listen in on some of your memories. So I take this moment as a gift, a privilege, to speak to my Galloway family here today. I have often said that we who are part of Galloway know that we don’t quite fit in; and we are proud of that fact. So whether we have met before, we know each other through the spirit of our shared community.

What we do here today matters. What comes in the days, and weeks, and months, and even years ahead will be important, and it will be hard. Tears will come, anger will come, sadness and, yes, even laughter will come. But what matters today is gatherings such as this, where we consecrate our space together and cling to the things that will not come and go. We need to remember the things that will endure. What is Wyatt’s legacy? What is it that Mr. Pasley left to those of us who are still here? What are those seeds, perhaps just planted, that will continue to grow? What was it about Wyatt’s life that was holy and eternal, that was of the very essence of the love and wisdom of the universe?

All of you knew him better than I did. And you know the stories. I have been blessed as I have heard you share them, your memories of a passionate teacher with infectious curiosity who somehow seemed to take forever to grade his tests. And I hope you will continue to tell these stories to each other – not just today, but for a long time to come. These stories, these absurdly fantastical stories of entering the Chattahoochee and exiting the Gulf, of coffee mugs that looked like they had been coated in tar, of avoiding park rangers in forbidden waters, of mountain biking and climbing and longboarding, all of these stories are part of his legacy. Wyatt Pasley will indeed live on in the memories and stories you share and hold dear. In the telling, you piece together a life, a fragment at a time, into the wholeness that it deserves. And it is in the wholeness that we begin to see what it is that deserves to live on.

One of those strands for the ages, I think, is this: Actions you take today will have an impact for a long time to come. This is a truth that teachers probably know better than anyone. Students will return years later, sharing an experience that has long since faded from memory, but still managed to shape them and whom they have become: seeds of curiosity, words of well-placed wisdom. What I mean is I hope you can recognize what it is that Wyatt – that Mr. Pasley – has done which has had its impact on you. It could be as straightforward as inspiring a love of the outdoors, or as subtle as the very act of asking questions which leaves you with your own passion and curiosity. But for that legacy to last, I want to encourage you to explore it further: what will we do with the impact that we have received? How do we care for our planet? How do we engage the world as citizens? How do we treat one another? All of these things happen in small moments, but their ripples echo out for a long time to come. Actions we take today will have an impact for a long time to come.

The second strand, I think, is this: Value the struggle. Be dialed in for life. Embrace the truth that there are rarely easy answers. Success sure is nice. But failure is just as crucial, if not more so, because it gives us a chance to learn and grow. And it also brings with it the opportunity to know how much love and wisdom there is in the universe. It’s there for the taking: all we have to do is ask. Value the struggle.

Call it a vocational hazard, but I want to close my remarks with a few words from Scripture:

From the prophet Amos: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

From the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us run with perserverance the race that is set before us.”

May it be so. Amen.

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“…we pray that our present actions will honor those who have come before us 
and bless those who come after us…”

These words have been part of the prayer that has guided our capital campaign from the beginning. They say so eloquently in a few words our hopes and desires for all that we do as a church.

If you have entered the building through the lobby any time in the past month, you have seen the photos culled from our archives that mark the historic passage of time. From the groundbreaking ceremony of 1950 through various phases of construction to the 50th anniversary celebrations and beyond, there is a whole lot of OPC that has come before us. And indeed, part of what we do in this campaign is to honor all of that. In order to ensure that there would be not just a building, but a community of faith, here at the corner of Woodrow and Lanier, those who have come before us made sacrifices, financial and otherwise. And without them, it is safe to say that we would not be here today.

And here we are! We have embarked on an ambitious capital campaign totaling more than half a million dollars. Item number one, the roof, is already scheduled to start this week, weather permitting. The rest of it, whether it’s deferred maintenance or improvement, programming or physical plant, is up to us and what we are ready to commit in this present moment.

As you contemplate what it is that you can give to our campaign, please remember that we are asking you not to reduce your annual giving. As we minister in 2012, our annual giving is what makes it possible for the church to operate from day to day. Think of it this way: your annual stewardship gift is for the church that is; your campaign gift is for the church that will be.

In the next week, you will be receiving a brochure with more information about the campaign. You will also be hearing from our campaign ambassadors who will simply contact you to make sure you have received the information. And in two weeks, on December 9, we are asking each of you to make a three-year financial commitment to this campaign.

The request is to consider making a three-year commitment of 3-5% of annual income, or 3-5% of accumulated assets, depending on your situation. And more importantly, we ask you to make your commitment prayerfully. If you haven’t already, take one of the prayer cards in the pew in front of you home, that it may be part of what guides your decision-making.

And that’s the question: what is it that guides your decision-making?

Some of you have heard my own story of how financial giving plays into our family life. I was raised in a faithful church family that did not talk about money or giving. The only modeling I remember was that of my grandfather, who would quietly hand me a dollar bill each Sunday so that I could put something in the collection plate. There was no adjusting for inflation, no understanding that the gift would come out of my allowance. One dollar in 1973 was still one dollar in 1993.

Fast-forward to seminary, where I had no classes on stewardship. Instead, my lesson was to come through relationship. My soon-to-be mother-in-law, a faithful woman who has lived hand-to-mouth as long as I’ve known her, made a regular practice of tithing. She would calculate 10% of her income, pre-tax, and give it to the church. Period. What she has discovered through the years is that there is always enough.

Elizabeth and I began doing the same. As a household with the income of two graduate students, we were not making a huge impact on our church’s budget. But if we ever questioned the wisdom of the tithe, those questions were soon to be eclipsed.

We had been married for a year and a half when Elizabeth was rushed to the hospital, having suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Within a week, she had been admitted for surgery to remove a “mass” from her brain stem. The surgery was successful, the tumor was benign, and she experienced none of the possible side effects that a brain stem surgery might bring about. We were floating on grace.

And then the medical bills arrived.

I had just graduated from seminary and, coincidentally, out of a spectacular health insurance plan. While we worked part-time jobs, we jumped into Elizabeth’s graduate school insurance with its generous major medical cap of $10,000. The surgery and hospitalization bills came to a total of $70,000.

We began working our way through the hospital billing system, applying for state and federal aid for which we did not qualify. The hospital asked for a thorough accounting of our assets, and stifling a few laughs, I imagine, they put us on a payment plan which would cost us $5,000 in two years. The rest of our hospital debt would be forgiven.

That took care of about half of the bill. The other half was the individual responsibility of each doctor. To them, we were encouraged to write “dear doctor” letters, explaining our situation, and asking for clemency. To our shock, all but one of the doctors agreed to our request, including the surgeon. In the blink of an eye, more than $60,000 in debt was eliminated.

At that point, the whole question of giving seemed superficial. God could not have provided us with a more coherent parable of the meaning of tithing: in our hour of need, we were taken care of not only physically and emotionally, but financially as well. How could we hold back from sharing our good fortune?

This has been the financial foundation that we have lived with ever since. Our pledge every year is based on tithing 10% of our anticipated income. It is the first check we write every month. The meaning of this commitment is something that we are working to pass on to our own children. And as we have contemplated how we will give to this capital campaign, it is these life lessons we have kept in mind.

What about you? What is it that you have learned about the way money works? Is God a part of those life lessons at all? Is it possible that you missed something right before your nose?

You see, it took me almost forty years to realize what I missed in those early days of sitting in the pew with my grandfather: what I had to put in the plate was never mine to begin with. It was a gift. As short-lived and small as it might have been, it could only stay a gift if I was willing to give it away. Is there a better way to describe the blessings that God has given us?

So what about you? How is it that your gift can not only honor those who have come before us and bless those who will come after us, but can also be part of that blessing and honor and glory and power that the angels sing constantly in the presence of God? What is it that could be your sacrifice? Maybe skipping that cup of Starbucks in the morning, or limiting the number of meals you eat out each week? Or perhaps as you contemplate gift-giving this Christmas season, how about taking a page out of our Alternative Gift Market? Do you really need more “stuff”? Or might you contemplate asking family members to give their gift to your church instead?

Whatever your decision, know this: we, too, will be counted among those who have “come before”. There will be those who are grateful for the many, many gifts that this church has given them. Like many of you, I know that there is a desperate need for a church like OPC in this world; and it is ours to make that possible for those who come after.

In short, God has blessed and honored us so richly! May we do the same.

Amen.

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In his first week at school, my kindergartner got in an argument about Galloway’s origins.
One of his classmates said Mr. Galloway built the school. “No,” Ramsay responded, “my grandpa built the school.” I had to explain that, in a way, they were both right. Grandpa’s construction company built the Early Learning building (where the argument took place), but it was Mr. Galloway who created and shaped the school indelibly. It led to a wonderful conversation about origins and vision, about legacy and future, and about what it means to “build” a school. Is a school a place we carve out, or an idea we cultivate?

I have my own ideas about Galloway, many of them a product of my “lifer” status. We old-timers love to invoke our history – at least, our version of it. And if we’re honest, there are those times when we veer into hardship nostalgia. Call it the Chastain version of Bill Cosby’s going to school “uphill, both ways”. We had one building with chipped paint and noisy radiators; many of our classes were held in trailers that dotted the perimeter of the property; our athletic facilities had to be borrowed; and a mascot? We didn’t need one: we were the Galloway School!

The truth was that we knew deep down that being a Galloway student was to be part of a movement, not an institution. We were different. We were outsiders. Our friends were baffled that we didn’t know what grade we were in. College admissions offices needed translation guides to turn our transcripts into something approaching a G.P.A. And we liked it that way. We learned how not to fit in, and if we look back, we know that our outsider status has continued to serve us well.

I am a proud Galloway alumnus, proud of the school that shaped me, and proud of my enduring friendship with Mr. Galloway. When I started at age 4, I went by my middle name: Elliott – two l’s and two t’s – just like Mr. Galloway. When I married, he spoke in our wedding. When I entered Seminary, his influence was at work again. When we returned to Atlanta, we were fortunate to reconnect with him. And when he died in 2008, I was honored – and stunned – when his family asked me to officiate at his funeral. My roots run deep. How could we not continue the legacy with our children?

And so, as our eldest left pre-K, we began the school application process. Our first impression of Galloway as prospective parents was how different the school looked. There are a multitude of pristine buildings, decked out with the latest technology. The trailers are gone, replaced by fancy extras like a gym and a theater. Since my senior year, Galloway has had a maScot. And, most obvious of all, Mr. Galloway is no longer walking the halls, cup of hot water in hand. The school looks more established. So our question was simple: has the institution replaced the movement?

Our primary concern was to find a school that was a good fit for our eldest. After the tour, I commented to Elizabeth, my wife, that Galloway passed the test. It was, I said, the right school for him. Her response was right on the mark: “It’s the right school for any student.” And a year into the brave new world of Galloway parenting, I’m convinced she’s right. The movement is still moving. Galloway is still different. And that difference is what makes it stand out from the crowd.

Instead of seeing the student as a purely academic vessel, Galloway nurtures the whole child, because wellness, not success, is the goal. Mr. Galloway taught me that. Critical thinking skills take precedent over information, because there will always be new data to integrate and challenge. Mr. Mathis taught me that. And a life-long love of learning is cultivated, because curiosity must not end with graduation. Ms. Coffin taught me that. The times are different, and the methods might vary, but the values and the vision endure.

And that, I see, is the challenge before our community right now. We are only four years removed from the death of our visionary founder. The school can and must continue. But will we successfully navigate this transition so that “The Galloway Way” moves from being Mr. Galloway’s way to being the Galloway community’s way? Can the progressive vision of one man starting a simple school in the 1960s be articulated and expanded into the 21st century by a whole new generation on the cutting edge of education? The historic vision of this community has served us well. As times change and things look different all around us, the values that have guided this place from day one will continue to provide the clarity we need and the direction we desire.

This summer, we will welcome Suzanna Jemsby as the new head of school. I am excited about what lies ahead. Suzanna’s background, skills, openness, and intuition seem extraordinarily well-suited for this “movement” I joined way back in 1974. And now, as a parent, I know what I want for my child. As he grows up and develops his own version of Galloway nostalgia, I want him to remember the whole community that continues to build this movement for the road ahead.

Reprinted from the Alumni Magazine of the Galloway School (Spring, 2012)

See a pdf of the original article here.

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