Our family trip to Pennsylvania took us to many places. We visited United Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg and the many historic sites there. We visited the historic campus on “Seminary Ridge” (yes, that seminary ridge). As well as the library and the seminary President’s house. President Schmucker started Gettysburg seminary with many goals, one of which was to make Lutheranism more “American.” But he was also an avowed abolitionist. A stance that resulted in him being a target of the Confederate army. So when that army came into town he wisely decamped, leaving his house and seminary behind, to nearby York. His house was ransacked and raided, typical treatment for an abolitionist by the confederated rebels. However, one soldier, perhaps recognizing that wars happen, soldiers, particularly in this war die all to quickly, but history is forever found the Schmucker family bible. He replaced it on the shelf from which it had been ransacked but not before writing a bit about himself and who he was. As a result we have a record of this soldier and his presence in the seminary president’s home.
Our trip was laden with history. But also fun. Reminded that all work and no play makes for a dull vaca we took a fun day Thursday to visit Hershey Park and ride some rides. We did do some “hard work” learning about how delicious chocolate is made and were reminded that 70% of the world’s Cocoa comes from West Africa although only a small portion from Sierra Leone.
We also ventured into Philadelphia for a trip historical, ecclesial, and personal. Historical as we visited the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall as well as drove by (in the rain) many other sites like boathouse row, the art museum (we did a Rocky pose at the visitor center), the Franklin Institute and Free Library, and City Hall. We also had lunch at Pat’s King of Steaks, “the Original” since 1930, on Passyunk. I had a provolone wit, my spouse and kids wit out.
Ecclesial as we drove out to ULS’s campus in Mt. Airy (a neighborhood in the NW part of Philly) to tour as well as bring a gift to the new bishop of the Southeastern PA synod the Rev. Patricia Davenport. As it was a Friday and in the summer we weren’t sure anyone would be in the office but we were greeted warmly by the synod administrator Yvonne. We took a quick rainy tour of this historic campus and then headed back down to center city.
When I first graduated from college I took a position as a consultant for what is now known as The PFM Group. This national firm specializes in municipal bond financing and finances. The firm is headquartered in Philly and I lived for several months there in training and on other visits as well. There I learned a great deal about bond law, interest rates, and Microsoft Excel. I enjoyed the work there as I believed the firm truly was working to serve the people and leadership of municipalities and institutions to be good stewards of the people’s money. I learned much about stewardship there.
My kids only know me as a pastor and now bishop so it was fun to show them my first corporate housing as well as the office tower in which I worked before moving to their Boston office. I want them to know there are many vocations and ways to serve using the gifts God has given them.
This weekend we will be traveling to Altoona to spend some time with Bishop Mike Rhyne and his family. Then early next week we return to Pittsburgh to fly home and back to the work and preparing for the beginning of school. It is good to have this time together. It can be a challenge to spend so much time in close quarters. But it is a gift to have vacation and to be able to travel, visit friends, make new friends, and introduce our children to our world and the history they have inherited as citizens of this nation.
Our nation, like our church, is a work in progress. Our tour guide at Independence Hall reminded us that the work done there was not about completing or perfecting (in fact most of the signers of the constitution were well aware this was not perfection, it was compromise) but about putting ideas in motion. Ideas that led to the sacrifices at Gettysburg and the Civil War to deal once and for all with slavery, an issue the framers punted on. The cracked Liberty Bell bringing inspiration to marginalized groups seeking liberty such as women’s suffragists, native peoples, and those championing civil rights.
We are a work in progress and our history reminds us of that. We are, as the author of 1 John put it, not yet what we will be, but by faith we are God’s children now. Called to continue the work of bringing liberty. The unfinished business that Lincoln reminds us of in his address at Gettysburg. As Lutherans, people of Reformation, this should not make us fearful. For it is God working in us, we pray we may take part in it. #NTNL #ULS#SEPASynod #InMissionTogether