Remembering One of the Family

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Apr 06, 2010 by Natalie Corbin | 0 Comments

In late February 2010, Dr. Bruce Shelley went home to be with the Lord.  Although Dr. Shelley is no longer physically present, his legacy continues on within the Denver Seminary community and beyond. 

When the seminary campus made its move from the Hampden campus to its current location, Dr. Shelley shared some words with the faculty and staff.  These words are printed below in tribute to both Dr. Shelley, and to the 60th anniversary of this school.

Farewell to a Special Place

by: Bruce Shelley

One morning last October a graduate whom I knew rather well called me to make sure that I would be here when he and his family arrived in town. They had lived in an apartment on the fourth floor when they were here during the late-seventies, and their children had played in the sandbox out in the courtyard. Knowing that this day was coming--they wanted to cross the country and return to campus one more time--before the wrecking crews arrived.

So Ed Reule, his wife, Terry, and their twenty-something son and daughter flew in from Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Francisco two weeks later to say goodbye to the rooms and hallways that had become for them Holy Ground. Kent Quackenbush arranged for them to see their old apartment and I led them over to the bookstore and through Hannay Hall--and when we returned to the quietest place on campus--the library--the five of us were laughing and crying so much--creating quite a disturbance, I’m sure--Jeanette France had to come at last and threaten to evict us from the Holy Place.

We are all saying goodbye today and we dare not say it lightly.  We are in fact saying more than goodbye. We are raising something of a memorial here.

The sanctity--we know--is not in the soil. It is in the time that we have spent here--in what has happened here and in the ways God has appeared here.

Do I hear some asking, “Well, What happened?”

This moment is sacred to some of us because the seminary grew up here! We passed through crazy, unpredictable adolescence…and into responsible adulthood here.

We received full accreditation here and translated the New International Version of the Bible here.

We heard, John Stott, and Jill Briscoe, and Charles Colson here…and Martin Marty, and Bill Pannell and scores of other internationally know speakers. I even received--upon my retirement--my best wishes from Snoopy’s Creator here!

And the staff through all these years has played a leading role in this story filled with so many laughs and no few tears. I have a special admiration for the maintenance staff here at the seminary, perhaps in part due to the fact that my own son David, who’s now a pastor in Greeley, was on the summer work crew in the early days of this place, and he lived to write about it. This is what he told one audience a few years after the experience:

“Now remember to water the plants and don’t forget to feed the dog,” they said, pointing to a list of daily tasks as they walked out the door. My parents and my sister were heading east for a three-week vacation.

I patted them on the shoulders as they climbed into the Chevrolet for the third time…At last I waved as they drove down the street, then turned to go inside…

“Another eight hours and you can go home,” I told myself as I arrived at the apartments my crew was to be painting. I had been doing the same thing for six weeks and anticipated the usual monotony.

But this was to be special. As I was spreading the drop cloths in one corner of the living room, I heard a startling crash, followed by a grunt. It was a sound I hadn’t heard but had feared all summer. Wincing, I peered over my shoulder.

Pete, who had previously been on the ladder trimming around the ceiling, was now on the floor next to the ladder, as was a gallon of light blue latex.

“That looks nice on the dark blue carpet,” I said to Pete, who only mumbled something about remaining joyful through trials.

As he picked up his short, stocky frame I thought fast enough to throw water down to keep the paint from drying on the rug, then ran to get the water vacuum.

“Hey, what took you so long?” Pete pressed when I finally returned.

“I couldn’t find a machine,” I said.

“What do you mean? They always keep on down in the storage room.”

“I know. I had that one,” I said. “But as I was running across the courtyard with it, I let the cord trail behind and Wayne ran over it with the lawn mower.”

By lunchtime the apartment had a clean carpet and about one brushful of new paint on the wall. As I was halfway through my chicken salad sandwich, Pete came in with a grim expression.

“Cheer up, Pete,” I said. “At least it hasn’t been a dull morning.”

These were the same days when we were welcoming more and more students from distant places here. We began to understand Pascal’s dictum--“The heart has its reasons which Reason knows not,” here. And we say “good-bye” to friends and colleagues here. Let me name a few:

Jim Cummings, who taught missions--and, knowing that he had only weeks to live--stood in this very chapel, and announced his coming death, and spoke of November’s falling leaves returning come Springtime…and Easter.

Mrs. Hazel Hannay--after whom the Administration Building is named, along with her husband, was a gentle unassuming little lady who lived in a village in the upper Hudson Valley, a long way from Broadway.  It was she who sent this young, 28-year old, first-year professor his first volumes of English Baptist history here…perhaps Bunyan, perhaps Spurgeon…one or two at a time wrapped in the old brown grocer’s paper, and tied with old-fashioned farmer’s binding chord.

Bob Alden, who taught Old Testament, returned home one day, after climbing another fourteener, (although he had climbed them all) and laid down to rest, and, at fifty-seven years of age, passed immediately to Greater Heights.

And time forbids me to speak of many, many more.

In short, we have suffered losses, had deep thoughts, and even deeper longings here. And where was God in it all?

If C.S. Lewis is right--and I, for one, think he is--God--though we seldom noticed at the time--was in the longings that we shared here. Heaven was in the community that we shared…and like Moses on the mountain, we have been standing all this time--though we may have been totally unaware--standing, on holy ground.


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