Linda J. Vogel
These birds of paradise bloom in our back yard. So far, most evenings have been cool enough for us to sit on our patio where we can see them and the face on our redwood tree. We have solar “mushrooms around the base of these “birds.” Our bougainvillea is beautiful as well.
Our “Birds’ Nest” sign from our beloved cabin in the Black Hills (made by dear friend, Jan Conn) is now on our wall above our back flower bed with Eldon Oliver’s “birds” flying below it. This home, then, has become our Nest in the West where we will spend summers as well as the rest of the year. It is hard to not be at our Birds’ Nest for the first summer in forty-five years!
But life is made up of chapters and that chapter has ended. Interestingly, Dwight’s and my fifty-seven years as a married couple have had some amazing chapters.
Chapter One: Graduate school (1959-1965) in Boston and Evanston (actually, those first three years I was an undergraduate but our community was graduate school). Linda completed a B.S. in elementary education from Boston University and an M.R.E. from Andover-Newton Theological Seminary. Dwight completed an M.A. in philosophy from Boston University, a B.D. from Andover-Newton, and he finished his coursework and exams for a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Evanston. (He received his doctorate in 1968.) We adopted Peter near the end of this chapter in 1965.
Chapter Two: Teaching at Westmar College (1965-1985), expanding our family with Mark Pulver in 1966 and Kristin’s arrival in August of 1967, and living in the “big red house with the smiling front door” (as it was described by one of our students). There were several interesting subchapters—our first sabbatical at the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, MN and each publishing our first books; our year in Martelle, IA while I completed my coursework for my Ph.D. at the University of Iowa (awarded in 1981) while Dwight became an accomplished “house husband” and primary parent for the year while serving Martelle UMC; a sabbatical January spent traveling in India with Father David Fleming; wonderful colleagues and life-long friendships with faculty and students; Dwight’s weekly newspaper column and his church choirs at Calvary Church and so much more. . . When Westmar’s president began making decisions that we believed to be unethical, we decided we needed to leave and asked the bishop for an appointment.
Chapter Three: The Birds’ Nest (1971-2016). While the Birds’ Nest remains in the family, last summer we determined that this wonderful chapter of our lives had come to an end. Forty-five summers in our beloved cabin in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota were a gift beyond measure. Wonderful friends, the Spring Valley community, Custer Lutheran Fellowship, Custer State Park and the buffalo round-up, watching Crazy Horse emerge from a mountain, Pine Ridge Reservation and learning more about all the injustices they have experienced, the Badlands, Wall Drug, so many family and friends who have shared time with us there, Cheyenne Crossing and Spearfish Canyon with it’s amazing Roughlock Falls, Stan and Marian Eng, Darrell Overlin, Joy Dillon, Jan and Herb Conn (explorers of Jewel Cave), Mark and Lois Bucholz, Doris McDill, the French Creek Folk, Randy Berger and Jana Emil and so much more!
Dwight and Kristin sharing the Enchanted Village which they created from their imaginations, the reading of many, many books (no TV ever and hardly any radio reception!), gathering with friends at Grand Vista, visits to the fire tower on Bear Mountain, being evacuated for five days during the Jasper Fire and watching the forest begin to recover, hiking around Sylvan Lake and driving the Needles Highway in Custer State Park, being a part of the Black Hills Playhouse family with season tickets every summer, going up onto Crazy Horse’s arm with Kathy and Jim, making s’mores around our fire circle, riding the 1880 train, having monumental ice cream cones at Mt. Rushmore, savoring the artistic delights at Warrior’s Works/Ben West Gallery, the Valley Rally (with Spring Creek friends like the Schwanns, Thorsons, Bells and Darrell), . . . The memories go on and on!!!
The Birds’ Nest—a thin place in the Paha Sapa (Black Hills, SD)!
Chapter Four: Overlapping the Birds’ Nest chapter, we left Westmar College and were appointed to serve St. Luke’s UMC (1985-1988) in Dubuque, IA—the oldest congregation in Iowa (1833) located on the Mississippi River with 128 Tiffany windows, a beautiful sanctuary and even more beautiful people.
A river town with its lock on the Mississippi River, Eagle Point Park, a twenty minute drive to Galena, IL (the town that history forgot!), a downtown church—all of these offered new and exciting experiences. Serving in team ministry together was a joy. Dwight was senior pastor and I was minister of education. During our time there, I transitioned from being a diaconal minister to being ordained as a deacon. And what we had assumed was to be the next long chapter in our vocation was soon to end when the seminary called me to be a professor of Christian education. The goose puppet Mother gave to Dwight one Christmas even had a ministry beyond our wildest dreams! That is—Gustapher Gustavus A-Goosus!
When we left Westmar, we assumed we would finish out our ministry in parishes. That was not to be. Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary urged me to apply for a Christian Education position almost as soon as we arrived in Dubuque. I declined. They interviewed candidates but did not hire anyone. D.J. Furnish began a full court press to get me to apply in the fall of 1986. After much soul searching and consulting with Bishop Job, we agreed that I should apply.
So it turned out that I accepted the faculty position as an Associate Professor while Dwight agreed to continue at St. Luke’s. Neither of us liked having a commuter marriage (I drove home almost every weekend—a 4 hour drive with an hour of Chicago traffic if I were lucky). By late fall, Dwight told the bishop that he would leave the church in June and go to Chicago to live with his wife!
This was a difficult decision (Kristin was attending Earlham College and Pete and Mark were gone from home). We loved St. Luke’s and enjoyed living in this river town.
Chapter Five: (1987/ljv & 1988/dwv – 2005) Continuing to overlap the Birds’ Nest chapter, we moved to Chicago when Linda joined the faculty at GarrettEvangelical Theological Seminary in 1987 while Dwight remained as senior pastor at St. Luke’s and we commuted for one school year. Linda lived in a G-ETS apartment for a year and then we purchased our wonderful 1928 six flat condo in the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago—1605 W. Chase.
Just 10 minutes from the seminary in Evanston, a three block walk to the beach on Lake Michigan and very close to the Jarvis El stop which took us to the loop in forty minutes, we marveled that our vocation brought us to this place!
When Dwight came to Chicago in June, 1988. he began as director of the choir at the seminary, taught undergraduates at Loyola, began teaching courses at G-ETS and eventually became a full professor in the Styberg Chair in Worship. We loved our seminary teaching—wonderful students, good colleagues. I published a Jossey Bass book on adult religious education, was promoted to full professor and became a member of the Northwestern University graduate council. I served as faculty trustee for one term, We worked with the Sacred Worth (LGBTQI) group, engaged in curriculum development and loved seminary life! Our MCE/M students across the nation were empowered and able to complete their degrees without leaving their church positions. We both were blessed to work with Ph.D. students from here and around the world.
During our time at G-ETS Dwight served a term as Abbot of the Order of St. Luke and I served as president of the national Christian Educator’s Fellowship. We both wrote and published. Dwight continued as an Elder and I as a Deacon in the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Chicago also meant CSO concerts, the Chicago Chamber Ensemble, the Art Institute, Steppenwolf Theater, the Goodman Theater, the Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, the Chicago Botanic Gardens, Lincoln Park Zoo, opportunities to travel to Japan and India and so much more! We loved walking along the shores of Lake Michigan both in Rogers Park and on the Garrett-Northwestern Campus.
Once we were both teaching full time at the seminary, our life settled into a lovely routine. We began spending spring break on Sanibel Island, FL with Paul and Carol (one year we went to Santa Fe together on the train and another time we flew to Elbow Cay in the Bahamas to stay in the McGees lovely vacation home there) and our entire summers at the Birds’ Nest where we wrote, prepared for classes and continued to enjoy life in the mountains and forest!
Friends from Dubuque and friends from far and wide were much more interested in visiting us in Chicago (imagine that!) and we loved sharing our home and our city with them! We retired in 2003, though we both became Emerita/us and Senior Scholars. For some years, we continued to offer intensive courses and independent studies as needed by the seminary. I taught “Vocational Formation and Church Leadership” on-line for students unable to take the course at G-ETS for 10 years.
Retirement was good but we lacked clarity about where we might settle. We looked at Spearfish, SD (close to the cabin and a university town), Madison, WI, and even Dubuque. Nothing seemed quite right. We decided we would stay in Chicago (our condo was paid for and we loved the city) with longer times at the cabin (maybe even June-mid October). “We’ll know when it is time to move,” we said!
And then we planned to attend a national OSL retreat in Santa Barbara and our colleague and good friend, Barbara Troxell, said, “Come and spend a few days with me at Pilgrim Place and we’ll drive to Santa Barbara together.”
We did. And after only 24 hours at Pilgrim Place, I said to Dwight, “I think we need to move here!” “You amaze me,” he said, “but I agree.” We picked up applications and by the time we left the OSL retreat, we had decided that this was, indeed, what we should do! The only downside when we made our lists of pros and cons was how far away SO CAL is from our kids. That still remains our only downside after eleven years as Pilgrims!
So we sold our condo (the market more than tripled over the seventeen years we lived in Chicago to our great benefit!) and headed for California on Feb. 1, 2005!
Chapter Six: We moved into our home at Pilgrim Place (610 W. Eighth St.) on Ash Wednesday, 2005. And we attended our first service at Claremont UMC where our OSL friends, Bob and Rosemary Davis were pastor and deacon, that very evening. That congregation became a Reconciling Congregation (open to LGBTQI persons) in 1993, has a refugee house (the first family occupants were from El Salvador), and is strongly committed to peace and justice ministries!
2011 Christmas Display Orlando Vigil, 2016
Meeting our Refugee Family, LAX, 2o11
Still a Deacon Choir
Dwight sings in the choir, works on interfaith issues and preaches when asked. For six years, he planned and led a wonderful Easter Vigil. I chair the Sustainability and Faith task force, read scripture, preach when asked and we both help serve Eucharist from time to time.
It is hard to believe that we have been at home here for eleven years. We love having a guest room which we share often. Our home with its studio, its fireplace, and its lovely patio/deck is very comfortable! We often entertain OSL for compline, the Patient Advocates and Petterson donors during Advent, our covenant groups and lots of friends and family from far away!
Palm trees & flowers all year! PP dining room and weekly produce sale
We never dreamed we would love living in Southern California, but we do! The Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena, the Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, wonderful musicals at the Candlelight Dinner Theater and dance and theater productions at the Claremont Colleges just a mile from our home, as well as the LA Phil and the Ahmanson Theater in LA provide us with great cultural opportunities.
The Metrolink to Union Station in LA just takes 55 minutes from Claremont to the heart of the city. Then there is the Norton Simon Museum, the Getty Museums and so much more. Pilgrim Tours (via chartered bus) take us to many sites both near and not so near! The beach is an hour away, the desert is two hours away, and it just takes us twenty minutes to be in the mountains in the Angeles National Forest! The Inn in Mt. Baldy Village gives us our mountain fix and offers great meals beside a roaring, open fireplace! Our favorite get-away is Roughley Manor in Twentynine Palms (we’ve fallen in love with the desert!) and during our first summer to not be in the Black Hills, we’ve discovered the Little Red Cabin in Idyllwild!
Angeles National Forest 20 minutes from Pilgrim Place
Manor at Twentynine Palms—The Farmhouse is our favorite place.
Pilgrim Place is an intentional community with about 350 residents. It began as a home for retired missionaries and now includes persons who have spent their lives in church or non-profit institutions where they worked for the common good. The application process requires multiple references, essays but not the GRE! We are now a CCRC (continuing care retirement community) and struggle with what it means to be needs blind and to remain true to our mission while also being financially viable!
Dwight served for six years as president of our Petterson Museum Friends’ Board, plays keyboard in the Pilgrim Pickers, served on the library committee, and has been a significant contributor to our Eucharistic Circle liturgy development. I have been on the Health Services Advisory Group, on the leadership team for Eucharistic Circle, and participate in the Environmental Concerns committee.
Life is very full here—lectures by amazing world leaders, movies, our annual festival to raise money for the Resident Health and Support Fund (almost a quarter million dollars raised each November), weekly movies, a weekly verspers service, the gathering of a Eucharistic Circle every Tuesday before our noon community meal, lectures and forums sponsored by Health and Wellness, International Concerns, Women’s Perspective, Inter-religious Concerns and much more. We work on issues fostering peace and justice. interfaith concerns, LGBTQI concerns, ending the death penalty, climate change, gun control, homelessness, immigration issues, economic justice, an end to torture and war, and so many more issues that are of deep concern and require both study and action on the part of many in this community!
I coordinate the Patient Advocate Program with another pilgrim—we have over 80 trained advocates who accompany pilgrims to doctor’s appointments, the ER, and who offer support and help in navigating the health care system. Janet and I have led workshops at California’s Leading Age state conference and have offered training to other facilities and to the Pasadena Village.
This is a community where we offer our presence and support to one another. We have multiple levels of care (independent living, assisted living and a health services center). We offer palliative care and hospice.
We have an exercise center with a trainer, a swimming pool and spa, a building for arts and crafts, an auditorium, and a dining room where we share the noon meal everyday (with seating computer-generated so that we sit with different folks at assigned places every day). Our table conversations are amazing and we learn to know everyone in this way! Memorial services are often held here on campus.
How blessed we are to have this community of support and care—good friends who journey with us into and through old age! Diminishment is real and one cannot avoid facing one’s mortality when living here at Pilgrim Place!
Chapter Seven: Our life has been deeply enriched by opportunities to travel and to meet amazing people from around the world. Our first trip abroad was a trip to Spain to visit Mark, Virginia and Moriah when Peter and Kristin were still quite young. Our dream when we married (in 1959) was to be able to go to Europe (once). We could not have imagined where we would go and what we would do!
We connected with Father David Fleming when we were in graduate school in Evanston in 1963. His dad and my dad were childhood friends and our families had stayed connected. David was a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago when Dwight was working on his Ph.D. at Garrett-Northwestern. That friendship has grown deep and lasting! We traveled in Europe with David the year Kristin was 16—Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, and Germany! We traveled together in England and Scotland years later. Twice we visited him in India—traveling for three weeks on our first trip where we were blessed to meet and spend 20 minutes alone (the three of us) with Mother Teresa in Calcutta; and team-teaching liturgy to Marianist brothers for the University of Dayton for six weeks at Deepahalli (outside Bangalore). David has visited us in LeMars, Chicago, at the Birds’ Nest and here at Pilgrim Place. Discussing theology, praying together, celebrating Eucharist together, being family for each other… Such joy this has brought into our lives.
We have visited Father David in Rome several times and were blessed to participate in his Golden Jubilee celebration and mass. Dwight read the epistle lesson at his first mass at his home parish (Topeka, KS) in the early 1960’s) and he read it in Rome at his Golden Jubilee. We couldn’t receive Eucharist in Topeka but he and Dwight con-celebrated in India and we received together in Assisi (“Francis would want you to receive”).
Cruises with family and friends—to the Bahamas, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico and from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg and from Rome to Pompei, Ephesus, the Greek Isles and more. We’ve traveled with Father David, Jack Seymour and Margaret Ann Crain, Kathy and Jim Thornburg, David and Diane Hogue, the Claremont School of Theology, Pilgrim Tours, …
Eight trips to Ireland—first to do a mid-program review for my D. Min. student, Houston McKelvey; to teach and lead workshops in Ireland and Scotland, and then to travel with Kristin and Bill, Lois and Mark Bucholz, Paul and Carol Clark (twice) and on our own! We have fallen deeply in love with Ireland! It, along with the Birds’ Nest, are the thin places where our spirits have been deeply fed! Connemara and the Antrim Coast are places we would love to put down roots for a spell (though we probably won’t). Houston and Roberta have become fast friends and we have shared visits back and forth across the years. Garrett brought Houston over to give the commencement address and to receive an honorary doctorate at the time we retired so they were able to join in our retirement festivities!
Mark and Virginia served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine after Caleb’s death. We had a wonderful trip to visit them—Kiev, a long train trip to Kerch, Crimea where Mark served in the public library. He developed a computer center and was named a “National Treasure” for his work there.
We became surrogate families together with friends going all the way back to Westmar College days, Bob and Joan Franklin and their daughters, Sonya and Marcia. We’ve shared more pots of tea than we can count and have shared the joys and the scary experiences of life. For Bob’s 80th birthday, Sonya gave the four of us Bob’s Birthday Great Train Adventure and we travelled together from Claremont to LA to Emeryville (San Francisco) to Omaha! What a wonderful gift to us all!
I was able to travel with seminary students to Japan. I taught a D.Min. course in Alaska, and we have been blessed to lead workshops and preach in many of the churches where our students are serving across the nation.
Dwight has written The Psalms for Worship Today (Concordia Press), Food for Pilgrims (OSL Publications) and has spent decades working on the Order of St. Luke’s Daily Office project which has published a five volume Daily Office, The Book of Offices and Services, and now A Lukan Book of Hours for which he was editor and compiler. He continues to work on a web-based daily office for years A, B, and C of the liturgical year and on another book, A Lukan Book of Feasts and Holy Days. He works with an editorial team for the Order of St. Luke on these projects.
I wrote Helping a Child Understand Death (Fortress Press), The Religious Education of Older Adults (REA Press), Rituals for Resurrection (Upper Room Books), and Teaching and Learning in Communities of Faith: Adult Religious Education (Jossey Bass).
We have written two books together—Sacramental Living: Falling Stars and Coloring Outside the Lines, and Syncopated Grace—Times and Seasons with God—both published by Upper Room Books. These books were written while we were on sabbatical leave from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
We spent two sabbaticals at the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at St. John’s University and Abbey in Collegeville, MN. The first one in 1971-72 (Westmar College sabbatical for Dwight and leave for me) when Peter was in second grade and Kristin was in kindergarten. We each had our first books published because we were able to live and write in this place. Many years later during a Garrett sabbatical for us both, we spent the fall semester at Collegeville and wrote Sacramental Living. The worshiping/learning communities at St. John’s and St. Ben’s (in St. Joseph) have enriched our lives immeasurably!
Chapter Eight: And now we find ourselves in the final chapter of our lives. We celebrated our fiftieth anniversary in 2009 here at Claremont UMC and at the Birds’ Nest.
And on June 14, 2016, we celebrated our 57th anniversary! We’ve known Pilgrims to celebrate 65 anniversaries and more. But we know that we have been blessed (are being blessed) beyond measure and we know that diminishment comes. Having decided last summer that that would need to be our last summer at our beloved Birds’ Nest was, perhaps, the beginning of this chapter we titled “Diminishment.“
In the past year, Dwight has had a stent to open a 95% blockage in his carotid artery. They found this at his pre-op examination preceding prostate cancer surgery to be done at City of Hope. The stent procedure was followed by pneumonia, hospitalization and then ten days at our health services center. This led us to reconsider the wisdom of major surgery and we were blessed (yet again) that our insurance approved proton radiation therapy at Loma Linda Medical Center—only a 45 minute drive from our home. Dwight completed 45 proton treatments on January 6 (Epiphany—how appropriate for a liturgical scholar!) and after 4 months it appears that the cancer is gone. We are truly grateful!
Now he struggles with bone-on-bone knees and weak leg muscles though he is working hard at the exercise center and in water aerobics to strengthen them. I have fibromyalgia, arthritis and an artificial hip that is working very well! I’ve made an appointment for a hearing test so hearing aids may be in my future!
We have updated our wills, have POLST documents signed by our doctor (with end of life orders), and are arranging to donate our bodies to Loma Linda Medical Center. This does not feel morbid to us. We are excited about all the opportunities that lie ahead of us. And as we age, our family and friends become ever more important to us!
We visited Mark and Virginia in South Carolina last spring and took the train home (Greenville, SC to Washington D.C., to Chicago to LA). We are flying to Milwaukee this month and will visit Kristin and celebrate her birthday with her! In September we will train to Vancouver, have 4 days to visit that city and take a day trip to Victoria and the Butchart Gardens before Kathy and Jim join us to cruise from Vancouver to LA. Family time and time with dear friends has become a real priority for us in the days and months and years (?) ahead.
We plan to continue to be proactive—making decisions before someone else has to make them for us. We are slowing down but we still have lots of living and dreaming and hoping to do. We continue to work for justice and peace in our church, in our nation and in the world. Climate change is a primary concern for me and we are both committed to working for justice for LGBTQI persons in our church and world.
When we were in Phoenix this May to celebrate our great-granddaughter’s high school graduation, I got a text from a couple who were students of ours at Garrett. “We know you are here for family time, but we’d love to get together.” The rest of the family had not yet arrived so Moriah and Mandi were willing for us all to meet for dinner.
In the course of the dinner conversation, Katherine asked what the “I” in LGBTQI stands for. We deferred to Mandi who led the gay club at her high school. She began by telling us that it stands for “intersex.” As the conversation progressed, our former student said, “I wonder how many high school graduates are having this conversation with their greatgrandparents!?! We count it a privilege and a blessing to be able to continue to be open, growing and ever more committed to “doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).
Whatever the future holds, we believe God holds the future. We hope and trust we will be able to walk hand-in-hand into the sunset together. But whatever happens, we have been and are being blessed beyond measure and for that we are grateful to God, to our family, to all our students and parishioners across the years, and to our friends—all of whom have blessed us richly!
I will lift my eyes to the hills, from where does our help come?
Our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth . . .