Forty-nine autumns ago, my parents drove me from my hometown of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, to Capital University. Since eighth grade I had felt a call to ministry and enrolling at Capital was a step in that vocational direction. We parked in the lot next to the Capital Law School, which in 1973 occupied the space that now houses Brassica and Bexley Urgent Care on the northeast corner of college and Main. As we carried boxes and bags across Main Street to Lehmann Hall, which stood on what is now the green space between Blackmore Library and Renner Hall, I nodded toward the seminary and I said to my mother, “If all goes well I’ll be there in four years.” All did go well. Very well in fact. After seminary, and a dozen years divided between graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary and parish ministry in La Jolla, CA, I returned to Trinity twenty-nine autumns ago as a faculty member. I’ve been here ever since. And now the time has come to close this chapter of my life. On October 31 I will retire.
I think of my life as having three chapters. The first was preparing for my calling. The second was actually doing it. And now I am turning the page to author chapter three. And what will I do in retirement? That’s a question everyone seems to ask. And my answer is, “I’m not sure, but I’m reasonably intelligent and I’m pretty sure I can figure it out.” To begin, I’m going to embrace the rest of this academic year as sabbatical time. I’m looking forward to having time to ponder. Erik Erikson wrote that the stage of life I am entering is a time for “the acceptance of one’s own and only life cycle and of the people that have become significant to it as something that had to be and that, by necessity, permitted of no substitutions.” So I am going to ponder what has been.
Looking back over my time at Trinity, both as a student and as a faculty member, I’ll be pondering and giving thanks for significant people: the faculty who formed me as a student and those who became my faculty colleagues, staff who made so many things possible, and, of course, students.
My rough estimate (at which I arrived by counting faces on the photos in the Alumni Room) is that some 900 students have graduated from Trinity since I joined the seminary. A slightly rougher guess (because I never developed the knack for maintaining detailed gradebooks as Wally Taylor did) is that I had some 650 of those students in class or I-Group. If a study conducted a few years ago by the Association of Theological School is correct, that one person in ministry over a thirty-year span can influence the lives of 100,000 people, then it is possible that through the ministries of hundreds of Trinity graduates I may have indirectly influenced millions of lives.
I’ll also be pondering and giving thanks for significant events that I had a hand in shaping but that also shaped me: the transition from our one-year MIC program to our two-year LIC program, the renaming and reshaping of our “Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling” course to “Care of Souls,” my six and a half years as Academic Dean and the launching of our 2+2 internship program, the seminary’s acquisition by Capital and the building of relationships on the east side of College Avenue, the construction and dedication of the Meuser Courtyard, our becoming an RIC Seminary, opportunities to travel on behalf of the seminary – to Tanzania, Russia, Estonia, Germany.
And I am going to look ahead and ponder what the future, to the extent that I have any say in the matter, will be. I’m not bereft of ideas; I’ve filled more than a page in my journal with possibilities. I have a growing interest in cosmology and its implications for theology. The burgeoning literature on shame can keep me occupied as long as I want it to. Cooking, drawing, traveling, singing, and a lot of home projects all await exploration.
As I approach the beginning of chapter three I’m experiencing the feeling of being almost at the top of that first big hill on a roller coaster. There has been a lot of expectation on the climb. Next comes that liminal moment when you’re neither climbing nor descending but suspended in a brief pause at the apex. Then you’re off on a new adventure that combines exhilaration and terror in some unpredictable ratio.
It’s the unpredictable part that I find most exciting. My hope for the future – both my personal future and the future of the cosmos – rests not in what I can predict, or on whether any specific dreams I have come true. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus, God with us. At the beginning of chapter three all I need to take for my own are the words of Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
To all of you who have made my journey so meaningful and memorable, thank you. And for all who are continuing your journey at Trinity, may deep meaning and lasting memories be yours as well.
- Brad Binau, TLS class of 1981 and soon-to-be-retired Professor of Pastoral Theology