Festschrift: A volume of writings by different authors presented as a tribute or memorial especially to a scholar. (Merriam-Webster)
Last Saturday (December 6) we were in Vancouver to be part of an event at Regent College, my theological alma mater. It was an event to honour W. Ward Gasque, who with James Houston, Carl Armerding and others had helped to start Regent College in 1969 (https://mosaic.regent-college.edu/blog_articles/2124). Before Regent most seminaries existed to equip clergy for the church and scholars for the academy. Regent sought to equip all of God’s people for all of life. Graceworks, in conjunction with Regent College Publishing, published a Festschrift for Ward. Susan Phillips from New College Berkeley and myself were the co-editors and Bernice did the heavy lifting of putting the book together. Ward, together with his wife Laurel and daughter Michelle, had blessed so many lives. It was our joy to honour my mentor and friend with the Festschrift.
I was privileged to study at Regent from 1981 till 1985. Regent was my second choice. The first school I applied to rejected my application, worried that with my poor grades in dental school, I would not be able to cope academically in their programme. Regent, my second choice, said yes. In retrospect I can say without hesitation that Regent was where I was meant to be. With its concern for integration, formation and community, it not only prepared me for ministry, it prepared me for life.
I first encountered Ward when he was assigned to be the main supervisor for my ThM thesis. He was a New Testament scholar and I did my thesis on the Pastoral Epistles. I remember that often we would discuss the finer points of New Testament exegesis over pizza and cider. After those sessions I had to go home to take a nap to digest all the good stuff I had received. All of you who have done a Master’s thesis or a doctoral dissertation know that a good supervisor makes all the difference. Ward was a sure guide for my work. But he was much more than a thesis supervisor. He was a friend and mentor. In the 30 years since, Ward has encouraged me, helped me believe in what God could do through me, run interference when I was in trouble, and opened doors of ministry for me.
We are who we are because in our lives, along the way, key people decide to invest their lives in us. Ward and Laurel are two key people who did just that for me. Of course what they did for me they did for many others. Preparing the Festschrift really brought home the fact that Ward and Laurel have touched so many lives for Christ, both through their scholarship, their personal ministry and through the institutions that Ward helped start or revive.
It has been 30 years since I left Regent but I continue to see Ward’s influence in my ministry, in my commitment to teach the Bible, and my commitment to relational ministry. Indeed seeing lives changed through authentic relationships is the heart of Graceworks. One key way we honour those who mentor us is to pass forward what we have learnt from them. This is the call of 2 Timothy 2:2 — “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (NIV). The other way is to thank them. And that is why we were in Vancouver in winter, to be part of an event that did just that. How do you honour your mentors?