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  • Aram Mitchell

new gig, long strides

[I wrote this for the newsletter at The BTS Center where I am now working as the Director of Partnerships & Formation. How cool is that?! You can read the full newsletter and learn more about my new place of employ here.]

My father’s father died 16 years ago this month, but his stride lives on. I use it every day when I take my dogs to the trail by the river for our morning walk. I park my car at a trailhead by a bridge that reaches up and over the Presumpscot River, not far from my house. The dogs and I pile out of the Subaru and follow the trail down under the bridge and alongside the river. The cold of recent weeks has the river iced over almost entirely, with only a thin stream of exposed flow down the middle.

Walking parallel to the Presumpscot River we usually disturb a bunch of ducks that spend their days among the folds of the river’s banks. One morning last week I looked out to see a dozen ducks in the middle of the river, perched at the new edge, where the ice met the flow.

My Grampy Mitchell loved ducks. I remember pictures of mallards in his office, where I slept on the pullout couch during summer visits when I was growing up. Grampy spent his entire professional life, except for a stint as town Mayor, in education. Before he retired he served as the President of a Bible college in New Brunswick, Canada. When I was a child, before we moved away, I would walk everyday after school to the college campus and head up to the President’s house on the hill. Later, as a teenager, in the summers I would walk with Grampy alongside the Saint John River on his daily three-mile jaunt, quickening my pace to keep up with his well-practiced stride.

Grampy Mitchell explored the edges of theological education and of leadership formation at a particular time in a particular context. With ebbs and flows, freezes and thaws, and seasons of change those edges have shifted. Margins are always shifting in the natural and ideological worlds. Boundaries are seldom as static as our abstractions aim to make them.

Now that I am grown my walk is my own. My worldview and theology differ in considerable ways from those that my grandfather held. My approach is different. But there is continuity as well.

As I begin to live into my role as Director of Partnerships and Formation at The BTS Center I aim to bring something of my Grampy’s stride with me, sauntering with purpose along the edges. And it is not lost on me that I am joining an organization that bears the legacy of the former Bangor Theological Seminary, with over 200 years of institutional commitment to theological and spiritual exploration on the margins. It is not lost on me that, with my colleagues and with you our community, we are stewards of that long stride.

I look forward to walking with you all as we see where this trail leads.

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