Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Saturday, June 8, 2019


In the last week, I have seen the obits for two of my former colleagues. That’s not surprising; we are at that dying age.

Jim Pruyne was the Presbyterian campus minister at IL State U when I was the Methodist campus minister. Actually, he was the Presbyterian campus minister there forever. It was the only job he ever had. He started when he was a student at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, riding the train down to Normal on Friday night and returning to Chicago on Monday. [Most seminaries then did not have Monday classes, to accommodate students with weekend ministry jobs.] When Jim graduated, he moved to Normal and stayed there until he died at 90.

Jim was bright and full of ideas. I was full of ideas, too. My ideas and Jim’s rarely meshed. We respected each other, even liked each other, but we were usually at odds. Each of us thought we knew the best way to do campus ministry. We were probably both right.

Charles Sensel was a fellow minister in the Central IL Conference of the Methodist church.

When he came to the meetings of SADMOB [Senior And Directing Ministers of Bigchurches], Bill Browning would say, “Sheila has been letting him dress himself again.” During discussion about some way we could be effective in our ministries, I could tell when Charles was about to burst to get into the conversation. So I would say, “To move this discussion forward, we need to have Charles make an obscure reference to some foreign movie the rest of us have never heard of.” He never took umbrage at that, but was glad for the chance, and occasionally as he talked animatedly about said movie, some surprising nugget of wisdom would come forth.

Charles and I spent our ministry years in Methodism’s Central IL Conf but when we had retired, we lived within the bounds of the North IL Conference, Charles in Rockford and I in Sterling, where we didn’t have long-term connections with other preachers. There we went to a theological discussion group. We naturally sat together.

Polly, a new young pastor, once said, “I love to hear you old guys talk to each other. I learn theology and ministry, but mostly, it’s just because you’re so at ease with each other.”

That’s one of the gifts of old age. I never saw the world the way Jim Pruyne or Charles Sensel did, nor did they see it the way I did, but we knew we were on the same team, and when the working days were over and the assessing days had come, we knew that each of us had tried our best, so now we could be at ease with each other.

I think that’s a little foretaste of heaven.

John Robert McFarland

“Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” Isaac Asimov

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