Thursday, 7 May 2009

On children's ministry: or, where to find the most impressive person in Princeton

A place like Princeton is full of impressive people. While I was there last year, you could meet local scholars of tremendous intelligence – people like Peter Brown, Jeffrey Stout, Robert Jenson, Bruce McCormack; or you could go and hear visiting speakers like Talal Asad and Jacques Berlinerblau.

But I must admit, the most impressive person I met in Princeton was a kindly old chap named Tom. He was a volunteer teacher each week at the church Sunday school. I must confess I was surprised when a friend told me that this man was none other than Thomas Gillespie, the former president of Princeton Seminary.

When I heard this, I replied: “He used to be president of the world’s greatest seminary. But now God has finally entrusted him with a real ministry!”

I like to think that all his decades as a pastor, scholar and seminary president – all those years of speaking and writing and teaching and managing a billion-dollar endowment fund – all this was simply God’s way of preparing him for something truly important: to tell the children stories and sing with them and help them with their colouring pencils and glue.


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