Reconnecting with the “Preacher-Man”

Those who have read my quarterly updates during the past 11 years (posted at www.robbritton.net, but are likely to migrate here in the coming months) know that I really like to stay connected with people from the past — my 12th grade English teacher, Mr. Jensen, for example. I also like to try to reconnect. About I decade ago, I tracked down the fellow who married us in May 1978, the Rev. Neal Lloyd. It was not hard to find him, just a quick search on the Presbyterian Church USA website. Back then, I reached out to Neal to report that a) Linda and I were still married, and b) that some of my skepticism about Christianity had disappeared. Back in ’78, I told the Rev. that I wasn’t sure that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and he kindly accommodated my dithering my substituting “son of man.” Anyway, Neal and I had a nice e-mail exchange.

He saved those messages, and a few weeks ago, he sent me a nice note, “You once began a letter to me with these words: “On a stormy night in May 1978 . . .” I kept that letter and cherished it for your willingness to share your spiritual journey with the ‘preacher-man’ who officiated at your wedding. Now I have retired and returned to the home in which I grew up in Wisconsin. The only other wedding I ever officiated at, at the University Women’s Club (or whatever the name was), was our daughter’s wedding in 1994. As I was going through some old files and seeking for the umpteenth time to sort and codify the detritus of 40+ years I came across your letter and enjoyed it again.”

To my great delight Neal was attending a church conference in Fort Worth, and we met for a cup of coffee on August 13. We packed a lot into an hour of chatter — easier for him, I’m sure, because he is really articulate. We summarized our lives over the past 31 years, jobs, kids, spouses, with nice digressions to and fro — including a bit of theology and spiritual matters. He had to leave to get to his meeting, but we agreed to stay connected (he lives not far from Madison, Wisconsin, and I told him I’d drive over when I was teaching there in the fall). We met with a handshake, and left with a hug. What a wonderful fellow, and a reminder that connectedness is so important.

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