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December 2016: “Cultivating Visionary Leaders”
Advent and Christmas greetings, Columbia Seminary Alumni/ae and friends! Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I live in Athens, Georgia. During a recent Saturday afternoon walk through the UGA campus, I came into the botanical trial gardens where new and improved varieties of plants are being cultivated. In this peaceful meditative setting, I had an unexpected encounter with a fellow sojourner. “Do you have five minutes?” she asked, and with my nod she continued, “How’s your prayer life?”
Thinking her question was one requiring qualitative analysis, I replied with a nervous chuckle, “You need to know I’ve been a Presbyterian minister for thirty years.”
“And so,” she repeated, “how’s your prayer life?” I said that my prayer life now is less a head bowed, eyes closed, and Dear God language thing and more a daily life posture of gratitude rising out of a visual awareness of the abundance that deeply nourishes and sustains my life.
After a brief pause she then cut to the chase, “My preacher told me that being lost is worse than death.” One, if not both of us, was searching for some light, some clarity about a way forward.
Some would suggest that there is a significant shortage of visionary leaders in today’s faith community. Persons who can bring clarity and direction offering guidance in these confusing times when the way forward is often unclear to say the least. However, we as Columbia Seminary believe in encountering God in the middle of disruptive change. We are committed to transforming communities from places of personal isolation into those of mutual strength, help, and support for all persons. Cultivating visionary leaders who are more diverse than ever before, you and I join with other women and men from varying ethnic and denominational backgrounds who believe that effective leadership is always reinventing itself for the time and community in which it is needed. As co-laborers in Christian ministry, we are clear that we are not the light but we seek to point in word and deed toward him who is the Light of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Representing Columbia Seminary, I have recently attended four presbytery meetings in three different states. Perhaps not unlike yours and many others, these are presbyteries that have been in and continue to navigate through difficult reorganizations, staff changes, theological disputes, and identity confusion. I left all these meetings significantly encouraged. Intuitively, I sensed that each community had turned difficult corners, are standing now on more stable ground, and are experiencing positive forward movement in ministry and mission. In no small way through the enabling visionary leadership of dedicated women and men like you, faith communities in the PC(USA) are on the move again. I believe this is true just like I believe what I shared with my conversation partner in the UGA trial garden is true. All of life is like a flowing river in which you and I are moving. Occasionally we try to swim against the current, sometimes we get ourselves in stagnating logjams, but finally, thanks be to God, the river takes us where we are called and want most to be.
For almost a decade, I have been very pleased and deeply satisfied to know and serve you and the wider Columbia Seminary community in alumni/ae and church relations. The seminary is now on the move toward some new and exciting places in theological education to which it is being called. And I am moving on as well to some new and exciting places in retirement effective December 31, 2016! I will miss you as we go our separate ways, but I trust, whether this year or next, with the shepherds, you and I will meet again as we…go over to Bethlehem, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us (Luke 2:15).
A blessed Advent and Christmas to all!
Randy Calvo ’81