Let’s say we can divide my life into three 25-year segments, and let’s call the anniversaries jubilees.
The first jubilee came in May 1965. The first 25 years were all about growing up and becoming me. I graduated from full-time higher education on my 25th birthday, May 14, and was ordained into full-time Christian ministry in the Presbyterian Church USA two days later.
Then I came to Thailand and began ministry. This career involved three decades of pastoral work as a missionary in Chiang Mai, Thailand and as pastor of churches in Ohio and Illinois. During this time our family life evolved. I explored writing and photography as avocations.
The third segment was one of dizzying change. Our two children began lives on their own. My first marriage ended and a radically different one began. I undertook a new form of ministry that settled into higher education administration. I established my identity as gay and thereby withered my relationship with the church. Now, at the end of the third jubilee on my 75th birthday I am engaged in a full-time avocation of eclectic writing.
If I were going to list life accomplishments they would necessarily be of two types: those that have lapsed and need not be remembered by me because nobody else does, and those that have been continued until now new generations have taken them over and well know what an accumulation of contributions made that happen so that my small bit matters less than those of others.
On this anniversary it is my life evolutions that I want to inventory.
1. I began as a white farm boy, discovered a world of cultures of color and became color-blind, a condition some still insist is impossible until they see the color-blended life I live.
2. I marched, sat and sang for civil rights, feeling caught up and changed and at odds with my heritage. Then I was caught up and changed by the cold war, being right where its hot front edge was being launched from air bases in Thailand and going back to where it was being opposed in the streets in Chicago and Ohio (think: Kent State). Now I am again caught up as the church shudders and agonizes over gay rights and dignity. I envy the pastors I aspired to emulate who did not find themselves in the loyal minority on every big issue of our times.
3. I dedicated myself to a career of church leadership, prospered in that role, discovered the church was unwilling to requite my commitment if they could not dictate the risks, and had to come to terms with being retired from church leadership.
4. I have developed a level of regret I did not see coming that the Christian Church has chosen to be adversarial with regard to other varieties of faith. I simply fail to see how any of our world religions has a basis to be ungrateful for insights from the others.
More than anything, I am grateful for friends and family who have endured and sometimes enjoyed my enthusiasms, crises, changes of lifestyle, and mutating goals.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.