The Second World War shattered whatever remained of confidence in inevitable human progress, overturned previous assumptions about who has power in this world, and threatened the existence of human life with weaponry never before imagined.
In my lifetime and vocation, confronting such issues as these caused radical restructuring of most ministers' work.
God loves us with a fierce, unwavering, unconditional love. Were it not so, none of us could survive much less flourish.
Mel Schoonover 51
What is the most significant event that has occurred in your profession or field of study during the 20th century? What lesson do you take away from that event?
The Second World War. It shattered whatever remained of confidence in inevitable human progress, overturned previous assumptions about who has power in this world, threatened the existence of human life with weaponry never before imagined. In my lifetime and vocation, confronting such issues as these caused radical restructuring of most ministers' work. For me, human liberation and equal rights movements impinged on everything I did as a pastor, teacher, counselor. A boy from Indiana had to think and act globally as his ministry brought him contact with people from every group and nation. That is a new experience for most clergy.
Personally, what is the most meaningful life lesson you have taken from your vocation or avocation?
God loves us with a fierce, unwavering, unconditional love. Were it not so, none of us could survive much less flourish. We humans, in my experience, are experts in judging one another's failures; we hardly need God to punish us and make us miserable. We are eminently skilled in developing "hells" to prolong our misery; we hardly need God to create such places, conditions, and circumstances. Despite our infinite capacity to screw up, God never gives up on us. God's love is never defeated, although we do our best to thwart God.
What person(s) or mentor(s) have had the most significant impact on your life? Can you describe how that person affected your life?
I have had many mentors through the years, and need them still. Every stage in my lifefrom childhood to old agehas required new ones. Some stand out more dramatically than others. The "older brother" pastor who shared his learnings and longings with me unreservedly, and helped me develop from adolescent superiority to young adult maturity. We were friends and confidants for forty years. I miss his communications still, for to the end of his life he was seeking new wisdom, understanding, and truth and willingly took me on the journey with him. Wabash's J. Harry Cotton challenged my intellect more than anyone else and modeled what the discipline of the mind might look like. A rabbi a few years older than I helps me now discover how to grow old with some grace.
In your experience, what is the greatest misconception the public has about your vocation (or field of study) or the people in that vocation?
The assumption of many ignorant folk that ministers are "out of touch" with "real life." I challenge you to spend a day with me as I agonize with a young couple who have lost their only child to some disease for which there did not seem to be a name much less treatment. To talk endlessly with someone determined to end his own life. To celebrate joy grounded in acceptance and love with people who are denigrated by many Wabash graduates or their kind. To prowl the "mean streets" of cities abandoned by "good people" and find signs of grace and hope. To listen intently as people tell you the stories that add up to the grandeur and misery of humankind. To sip cocktails in fine restaurants with people young enough to be my children who are bewildered why their lives are so messed up when they earn more in a week or two than I have in my entire life. And my experience in repeated among most of the ministers I know. We are really not "wimps"we are too fatigued to waste what little energy we have left on defending ourselves to people who have little to defend in their own lives.