Posted tagged ‘Northern Baptist Seminary’

Richie Bibelheimer…38 Years Later!

July 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                July 30, 2017

                               

A couple of weeks ago I was at church camp as…well, I’m not sure what my title position was! I think I was the “Whatever Person.” When someone said “whatever” it was my responsibility, unless it was a high school girl being flippant and obnoxious when she said the word!

So…as the Whatever Supervisor I was able to float from session to session. At our camp week we have elementary, middle school, and high school camps going on at the same time, so I roamed around making sure things were going okay.

The surprise of the week was reconnecting with an old seminary classmate of mine named Richie Bibelheimer. When I heard that name as the pastor for the middle school camp I knew it was my old seminary classmate. I mean…how many Richie Bibelheimer’s can there be, right? It took me a year of seminary just to learn how to pronounce it, and now 38 years later our paths were crossing again!

Here’s the thing about seeing someone 38 years after the last time you saw him! Your picture of him is still the one from 1979! You still remember him from the era of leisure suits, thinner waistlines, and Chuck Taylor high-tops.

He walked right past me at dinner Sunday night in the camp dining hall. After he passed he called my name clothed in question form. “Bill? Bill Wolfe?” I turned and looked at the white-haired senior citizen who had just passed me by. “Richie, is that you?”

“Yes!”

“Good Lord! Richie Bibelheimer!” There’s one thing about seeing someone almost four decades removed! You don’t want to come right out and say it, but you’re thinking it! “Man, do you look old!”

And the thing is, he’s thinking the same thing about you! The last time you saw each other you were in your mid-twenties. You could still jump and run like a gazelle, you had all your hair, and you didn’t have to travel with a pharmacy everywhere. Now your knees hurt, your face sports a couple of age spots, and the only thing progressive about you are the lens in your glasses.

Time keeps going even when we slowly journey through each day, and all of a sudden you meet an old friend and you realize just how far you’ve journeyed since your last conversation.

The other side of that is our reluctance to think that people change, that they will always be who they were back in the day…some obnoxious, some attractive, some hard to figure out, and some who seem to have it all together. People change, however, despite our tendency to firmly implant them in a distant past understanding. The physical changes are easy to see, despite the attempts to hide them or pretend they don’t exist. It’s the inner changes, the emotional upheaval, and the chaos of life that get blanketed from our view. The double chin is easier to see than the broken marriage. The wrinkled face is much more evident than the loss of a child a decade earlier.

Richie and I looked at one another, came to grips with the march of Father Time upon our lives, and enjoyed the blessing of renewed friendship…38 years later as a Whatever Supervisor and a Middle School Camp Pastor.

38 Years!

July 28, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 28, 2017

                                         

38 is a weird number…illegal for any basketball jersey except the NBA! Rarely…okay, never requested by one of my middle school football players! I went and asked Google who was the best NFL player to wear the number 38 and got George Rogers of the New Orleans Saints. A good player, but not exactly someone who easily comes to mind! #39 is Larry Csonka, that one I could remember!

But today is a special 38. It’s our 38th wedding anniversary. On July 28, 1979 Carol Falettu and I joined hands at the front of the sanctuary of Community Presbyterian Church in Clarendon Hills, Illinois. Much of the day was a blur for me. I knew what I was doing…and yet, I didn’t know what I was doing! You know what I mean? Kind of like when a young boy goes in for his first kiss. He knows what he’s doing, and yet he doesn’t…and back in my day there were no YouTube videos for instruction!

I met her at the front of the sanctuary. My seminary roommate and friend, Randy Saunders, performed the ceremony. Two weeks later I officiated at his wedding. Unfortunately, a few years later he and Marlene split up.

My six groomsmen lined up to my left as I looked down the aisle. David “Hugo” Hughes stood beside me as my best man. A year later I’d preside over his wedding ceremony. A couple hundred people were there…I think! Doug Loomer sang and played his guitar, like we were two flower children merging together. I remember Don Francisco’s “The Wedding Song”, a Summer of ’79 wedding favorite!

Carol was radiant as her dad escorted her down the aisle. I could tell she was nervous and excited, and maybe wondering what in the world she was doing marrying a Baptist minister who was going to move her to Michigan? Just three years before she had been teaching pre-school deaf children in a Victoria, Texas school. She couldn’t have envisioned this day three years later when Rev. William D. Wolfe would promise her the moon…or, at least, his devotion!

I brought…not much into the marriage. A ’66’ Chrysler Newport given to me by my parents, a bunch of seminary books, leisure suits, and a toaster. When I had graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary about seven weeks earlier I didn’t even have to rent a U-Haul to transport my belongings to my first full-time ministry position in Davison, Michigan. Carol was the one with the wealth! She even had a couch, a twin-size mattress, and a twelve inch black-and-white TV! She was loaded! Her Mustang Fastback was hot, just like she was! In essence, we were a two-car family. We didn’t have two of anything else except toothbrushes and forks, but we had two vehicles!

On that wedding day we looked into each other’s eyes, glistened over with moistness, and vowed words to each other that dealt with devotion, perseverance, wanting the best for one another, and journeying hand in hand for the rest of our life together. We were naive’ and completely in love, but not completely naive’! I was marrying the third daughter of an Italian-American father and North Dakotan Mom. In my family “whine” was prominent at the dinner table growing up as we surveyed the dinner of neck bones, green beans, and boiled potatoes. In Carol’s family “wine” was prominent at dinner, and I don’t think she ever had to look at a pot of neck bones!

An unusual union, the two of us, but it’s worked in the midst of church drama and church celebrations, being surrounded by saintly people and people who ain’t! One of those saints, Rex Davis, loved a certain restaurant in Colorado Springs. When he passed away last fall at 95 and I was asked to do the funeral service, his family gave me a gift card to that favorite restaurant. We’ll celebrate our anniversary there tonight, thinking of him and all the other people who have graced our lives in this journey that has more often than not resembled Lake Wobegon comedy instead of Chicago drama!

Three kids, all grown and pursuing their purposes in life…three grandkids, who seem to have more energy than Colorado Springs Utilities…and an abundance, a multitude of friends who we cherish and love!  Marriage is not just two people. It is two people taking the lead in a caravan of hundreds who have journeyed with them.

Both Carol and I would undoubtedly say we have been, and are, blessed! We have now been married sixty per cent of our lives to one another! There will be no “whine”, or neck bones, at our table tonight, but perhaps a bit of “wine!”

One Year Retired!!!

January 22, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 22, 2017

                                       

On January 17, 2016 I spoke for the last time at Highland Park Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, the church I pastored for sixteen and a half years. I went from a long-time pastor to a has-been pastor.

A week after I graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary in June of 1979 I began a position as Minister of Christian Education and Youth at First Baptist Church in Davison, Michigan. For the next thirty-six and a half years I ministered and pastored in churches of Michigan and Colorado.

And then it was time!

This last year has been awesome, not because I’m just sitting around each day watching my toe nails grow! My passions have always been “coaching” and “creating.” Pastoring and coaching have a number of elements that are similar. Creating and sermon-writing are like twin sisters. This past year has enabled me to do a lot more creating, blog-writing…working on a novel…thinking…pondering…conversing. And I’ve also been able to coach middle school football and basketball, coach a struggling small-town church as it navigates the future, and, most recently, coach roomfuls of 7th Graders in the discovery of Social Studies.

I headed into retirement thinking that I would golf more, work on my slice, hone my putting game. Instead, I actually golfed 7 holes all last summer. Yes, 7! A fog bank rolled in on us as we were getting to the 7th green, and then we couldn’t even see the 8th hole!

I headed into retirement thinking that I would read a lot of those theological books that look impressive on my book shelves but have been harvesting dust. (Pause) They are still harvesting dust. I’ve read a lot this past year, but not very much theology. I discovered a new treasure- the public library! Not a week goes by that I don’t go there at least a couple of times. I’m reading history and mystery! Carol has been pleased by the decreasing number of Amazon packages delivered to our front door. I’m currently reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the outbreak of World War 1, Ken Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, and John Sandford’s Escape Clause. I just finished J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, that resonated a lot with my family’s Eastern Kentucky roots.

We headed into retirement thinking that we would travel more, and we have: road trips to Phoenix and Ohio, and a week in Hawaii; an upcoming family trip to San Diego and heading up a mission work team to British Columbia this summer.

Retirement has really been more a refocus. Carol tells people that I am now much more relaxed and less stressed. I enjoy traveling out to Simla and worshiping with the 20 folk at First Baptist Church. They have helped me fall in love with the church again.

Carol and I get to watch and be with the grandkids more. On Saturday nights I’m not worried about the Sunday sermon. This past week I sat on the couch with the two oldest “GK’s” and watched “The Secret Life of Pets” together. It was awesome to laugh with them about different parts of the film. They are a delightful trio…with their two-year old sister.

The hardest part of this past year has been the separation from many of the dear relationships I had with people of my former congregation. As a long-term pastor I’ve tried to keep my distance as the church navigated the journey ahead of them. There is a journey of loss for everyone involved, the congregation and the former pastor and pastor’s wife. I miss the Saturday morning men’s bible study group and the Thursday morning Ageless Wonders bible study. I’ve kept my distance from the Buddy Basketball program I started 14 years ago. Others have picked it up and continued it. I miss the conversation amongst the older saints, and I miss the group of young guys that I “coached” for several years in dialogue about their families and faith.

Retirement is about missing some things and moving on to others. I think the first year of ours have been done well. Thankfully we still have our health. Thankfully I can still talk to my dad every Sunday night on the phone. Thankfully I still have a couple of support groups that help keep me grounded and healthy. Thankfully Carol and I don’t get on each other’s nerves very often. (If Sister Wives is on TV I just leave the room! She did tape my snoring one night on her iPhone and sent the scene to me the next morning while I was substitute teaching. I just want to say, however,  that the film footage was very grainy, so it probably would not hold up in court as evidence!)

Year two of retirement began with a long-term substitute teaching position. What a hoot! Getting to spend most of each day with 120 7th Graders in a portable classroom! I could write a book!

Oh…I’m already writing a book!

I could write another book! Perhaps that will come in Retirement Year Three!