Remarks to Dr Dennis Hollinger

Remarks by Leighton Ford
to Dr. Dennis Hollinger at his inauguration
as the fifth president of Gordon Conwell Seminary

The poet Mary Oliver offers – in three short lines – “instructions for living a life.”

Pay attention
Be astonished
Tell about it

I think those are also pretty good instructions for being a seminary president!

Pay attention
Be astonished
Tell about it

The problem is that most days we don’t pay attention, we’re not astonished, and have little to tell about. And what may we be missing?

Moses paid attention. One ordinary day, doing his ordinary work, in a very ordinary place, he saw a bush burning, and not consumed.

He turned aside to see this great sight – and as we say the rest is – really is- history.

That day Moses knew God in a new way, by His great name. And he also knew himself and his call in a new way.

The old rabbi Zusma used to say that when he stood before God, God would ask him not “Why were you not Moses?” but “Why were you not Zusma?”

Today, Dennis, you join a grand succession of gifted leaders. But you are not called to be Harold or Robert, Walter or Jim or Haddon. You are called to be a man sent from God whose name is Dennis, prepared and called in a unique way to lead Gordon Conwell Seminary at this time in God’s great story.

A few years ago one of our graduates was called to serve as pastor of a church in Vancouver, Canada. He was feeling very intimidated by the challenge of pastoring a historic church whose “glory years” were thought to have been long past. Attendance had dropped severely. The church had cycled through twenty pastors in twenty years.

The church secretary gave him this encouraging welcome: “If this church sinks everyone will blame you, since you were the last person holding the baton”!

Ken and I sat in a car near that church and he asked for some counsel. He recalls my saying: “Ken, remember that God is an artist. He will not lead you to copy others. Seek God for his unique vision for this place.”

Perhaps, Dennis, those words are for you too.

You are going to have a lot of fires to put out in your time as president. And you are going to have many of us trying to tell you the best kind of fire extinguisher to use!

My prayer is that every day you will look for the burning bush. That you will turn aside to listen for God’s voice and look for his vision, in a word of Scripture, the face of a student, the glory of God in a glowing tree on this campus.

That you will

Pay attention.
Be astonished
And tell us about it.

Leighton Ford

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