On Friday and Saturday I traveled to the “north woods” for the 172nd annual gathering of the American Baptists of Wisconsin. Held at Camp Tamarack in Waupaca, the meeting was a blessed time of worship, education, fellowship, and missional endeavors. What a lovely season to be in the “Chain of Lakes” region of the state.
What delighted me most was seeing how many of Central Wisconsin graduates are leaders in the region. About 11 years ago, Arlo Reichter (then regional executive) and Timothy Ashley, an experienced theological educator, began a conversation about offering accessible ministry training in their region. The fruit of the collaboration between Central and Wisconsin ABC was on display at this gathering.
Central alums are pastors, denominational leaders, advocates for mental health, camp director and enthusiasts, staff ministers, interim pastors, and church planters. Some remain bi-vocational and bring their professional wisdom and life experience to the work of ministry. They are our “letters of recommendation” as they faithfully serve.
A 2016 graduate, the Reverend Carolyn Dugan, is leading the camping ministry. She must be related to St. Francis with her love of all living creatures. It is said that when she talks with the animals, they speak back and she understands. I went kayaking with her and nearly had the opportunity to remember my baptism! Thankfully she manages human creatures well, also.
One of the highlights of the gathering was hearing Dr. Ashley teach on the great Isaiah passages about God’s continuing creative work. Expounding these texts with great passion and wisdom, he gave a virtuoso performance. A virtuoso is one who has so practiced his or her craft that the instrument and person are one in their artistry. It struck me how blessed his students and colleagues have been over the years to learn from this master teacher. The biblical texts are so deeply inscribed in him, and his able interpretation awakens others to the riches of Scripture.
Dr. Timothy Ashley and Rev. Maxine Ashley have been essential to the founding and implementation of the site for theological education in Milwaukee. They have given of themselves unstintingly over these years. I am grateful for Maxine’s pastoral formation of these learners; her own pastoral practice is exemplary, and her students bear her graceful imprint.
With the imminent retirement of the Ashleys, there will be a time of transition in the collaboration between Central and the Wisconsin region. How grateful I am for the wise and energetic leadership of Rev. Marie Onwubuariri, Executive Minister, and Dr. John Jones IV, who will now lead the important work of Central Wisconsin. There is no more urgent work that developing leaders for the church and larger community.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving the world (which includes all God’s creatures).