Life after retirement

Contemplation: After 27 years as a lay minister, a Westminster man considers a call to ordination.

January 05, 1999|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

After 27 years of lay ministry at Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Westminster resident David Miller Davis is contemplating a call to the ordained ministry.

It is a road he traveled first in high school, then in college 34 years ago as a pre-ministerial student at Bridgewater College in Virginia.

But Davis, who retired last week as manager of emergency response and service ministries at the Brethren center, has begun to wonder if the intervening years have been a long detour.

The stirrings began anew last fall when Davis, 56, was invited to a homecoming at the Virginia Church of the Brethren congregation where he grew up as a child.

"I was asked to share the impact of the church on my life," he says. "If the doors were open, we were there."

His parents were active in the congregation, but his father died when he was 11 and the memories were more of his mother, he says.

"She raised three children on Social Security and doing odd jobs," he says. "We did not have great riches, but what we had was more than adequate. She taught me to look for ways to do ministry in the day to day."

If anyone in town was in need, his mother "was there with clothes, food and transportation," he says.

For many in the community near Harrisonburg, it seemed natural that Davis, the third of four children and the only male, would attend Bridgewater College, a Church of the Brethren institution, to prepare for the ministry.

But he did not feel called. Uncertain what to do, he went to New Windsor after graduation from Bridgewater in 1965 and joined Brethren Volunteer Service, a program designed to enable young men to perform alternative service to the military.

Davis had other ideas. He was not looking for alternative service, but believed the four-month program would help him quickly through a transitional period in his life.

But he became hooked, became a conscientious objector, and stayed two years in New Windsor in a voluntary role as a project director for young men seeking alternative service.

"That experience really changed my life far beyond anything I realized" at the time, he said.

After the New Windsor experience, he went to work for a construction company owned by his first wife's father, an experience that prepared him for his return to New Windsor four years later, this time as a paid employee -- director of general services.

His task was to oversee the renovation of all major buildings on the Church of the Brethren's 26-acre campus in New Windsor.

"I planned and oversaw the reworking of every one of them," Davis said.

Over the years, Davis took on other responsibilities at the center in addition to his role as general services director, a job he held until 1997, when he became manager of emergency response and service ministries. In 1981, he was given oversight of personnel, computers, public information and finance.

His most recent assignment meant that he was away from home about 100 days a year -- "more travel than I want to be involved in," he says. "I began to play a tape in my head that wouldn't it be fun to retire at 55 and become a volunteer again."

He met his deadline by four days. He retired Thursday but didn't turn 56 until yesterday.

Underlying this is the question of ordination -- whether to begin again on the path he started in college.

"My stepdaughter is in her last year at seminary" in preparation for ordination in the Church of the Brethren, he says. "I'm watching her experience with interest."

Pub Date: 1/05/99

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