Connections have always fascinated me. Maybe it’s because life is a random stream of stuff constantly thrown at you that makes a mockery of any plans you might try to implement. Me at Nashotah House? Really? Nevertheless, these events shape us and everything that happens thereafter is seen in light of them. So when connections occur amid this continual flux, I sit up and take notice. For example, I had never thought of moving to eastern Pennsylvania. Now, around Christmastime, I find myself not far from Bethlehem. Bethlehem was so named because it was founded on Christmas Eve by Moravians who’d settled in the area. Although not counted among the most numerous of Protestants today, Moravians had a profound effect on the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. In fact, he met Count Zinzendorf, whose name appears on this handsome plaque in historic downtown Bethlehem, at a pivotal moment in his own spiritual journey.
Having grown up Fundamentalist, the United Methodist Church would not have been our choice, although we had unwittingly attended one of the Methodist offshoots—the Church of the Nazarene—from time to time. In one of those unplanned things, we found ourselves in Rouseville, Pennsylvania, where the only Protestant church was United Methodist. Once ensconced in the UMC it was my plan to become a minister in that tradition. That led me to Boston University School of Theology where I first learned about the Wesley-Zinzendorf connection. It was also there that I met my wife. And subsequently joined the Episcopal Church. Why? John Wesley had been adamant that his followers not drop out of the church in which he was an ordained priest. I was only following instructions.
Had that not happened I would never have had my first, and so far only, full-time academic job. Nashotah House was conservative, and I was not. We nevertheless had a connection. Growing up I’d barely heard of Wisconsin, let alone planned to live there. When Nashotah no longer required my services my career had to change as well. None of this was in the plan. Who plans to move to New Jersey? And now everyone thinks of me as an editor, a fallback position if there ever was one. Since I work in New York City, moving back to my native Pennsylvania wasn’t really on the agenda. An outside agent led to that. So I find myself near Bethlehem in the Christmas season, staring at Count Zinzendorf’s name, which I first heard of in a seminary now far away. Connections, even with those long gone, are always worth noting.