A great honor has recently come to Kathleen and me. Greenville College, the school at which I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English 63 years ago, has bestowed the honor. My impulse is to share the details with my readers but I must first tell you about the college.
Greenville is a Christian liberal arts college. In September it is to become Greenville University. The school was founded in Greenville, Illinois in 1892, by ministers and members of the Free Methodist Church. Greenville, a city of 7000 on Interstate 70, is about 50 miles east of St.Louis, Missouri.
Today the college has 1600 students and offers more than 50 majors. It was smaller by far when I was a student long ago, but it continues with the reputation of providing solid higher education and sending a significant number of students to graduate school and then onward to lives of character and service.
I graduated from GC in 1953 at 27 years of age. With three small children in tow, Kathleen and I then went on to Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky for a three year program of pastoral education. Only eight years after I graduated from Greenville I was brought back from Western Canada to be the pastor of the college and community church. The new church building was just across the street from the campus, and this move began for us a 13-year, wide-ranging pastoral ministry.
Later, at 48-years-of-age I was voted into the bishop’s office for a period of service that lasted 19 years. Kathleen and I took that election with full intent to treat it as another though broader pastoral assignment. Our life’s commitment to the pastoral office did not flag.
A few months ago, 63 years after my graduation and 42 years after completing my 13 years as pastor of the Greenville Free Methodist church, President Ivan Filby asked me a question that took me by surprise: Would my wife and I consent to have the college name a renewed School of Theology, Philosophy and Ministry after us, and would I also be agreeable to having a Chair of Pastoral Theology and Christian Ministry established in my name?
Needless to say, we were astonished and felt deeply honored at the same time. On several occasions during our Greenville pastorate we turned down invitations to other enticing Christian ministries. I refused such offers in order to continue as a local pastor. So we said yes to President Filby’s inquiry.
Now to the formal inauguration of the Donald N. and Kathleen G. Bastian School of Theology, Philosophy, and Ministry. It occurred just three weeks ago, on October 5 and 6. For months Linda Myette, Vice President for Advancement, and her staff, had been working diligently to put together a two-day program of celebration of this event. In addition to the school, the Donald N. Bastian Chair of Pastoral Theology and Christian Ministry was to be established.
So, on October 4 members of our family converged on Greenville. Kathleen and I and two Greater Toronto children Carolyn and Don with spouses, Doug and June, traveled together. Son Robert and wife Jan drove from the Chicago area. Two grandchildren, Charis and Zach, also drove from there. A grandson, Jonathan, and great granddaughter, Rebekah, came from Pennsylvania. It all turned out to be the experience of a lifetime for all of us.
Among many wonderful moments of the two days, here are the three highlights for me and for Kathleen as well.
First, to start the celebration we listened to heavenly choir pieces in chapel, and afterwards I preached the sermon to an attentive student body. The text: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all things needful will be added as well. For me and for Kathleen, that verse summarizes the life we have attempted to lead, and I believe the students received it as a challenge from the Lord for their lives too.
A second highlight was the ribbon cutting and the uncovering of the large plaque at the front door of the school of theology, announcing the new name of the school housed in the JKL building, a gift to the college made by Don and Esther Jones. A large group of friends, family, and community gathered outside to hear the greetings, comments and proclamations. The ribbon cutting made us feel we will always be a part of Greenville.
Third, I had been asked to be guest lecturer for a one-hour class of about 20 ministerial students. My subject: The Pastoral Vision. It was a joy to break down the pastoral task into three main components: Ministry of the Word, pastoral care of persons, and administration, and to illustrate these assignments from a long life of ministry. The class was alert and engaged and afterward we enjoyed a special luncheon with them. What a privilege to connect and share with a coming generation of likely pastors.
Please share with us in giving all glory to God for the possibilities launched on this occasion.
And join Kathleen and me in praying for the students of Greenville University, rejoicing with us in the faithful service of President Ivan Filby and his wife, Kathy, as well as the faculty, staff, administration, and trustees of this greatly loved institution!