‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘is for Clarke and Wendy Oler.
Clarke was the Associate Rector for Pastoral Care at All Saints Church Pasadena when I began attending in 1987. The church’s Covenant Program was the pathway to membership. I signed up.
At the core of the All Saints ministries was small group interaction. The Covenant Program, directed by Clarke, was no exception. We met weekly as a group of the whole, often fifty to sixty people or more, then in small groups of eight to ten. Each small group had a facilitator.
A soft-spoken, gentle, and grandfatherly man, Clarke was an excellent guide, making a point to learn everyone’s name. The program meetings covered a variety of topics of the faith with lectures by knowledgeable speakers. Clarke often filled in with stories from his many years of ministry. I was particularly interested to learn that as the rector of an Episcopal church on the upper east side of Manhattan, Clarke served his large congregation by zipping around the city on a motor scooter to avoid the inevitable traffic snarls.
I was pleased when Clarke asked me to become a small group facilitator. Group facilitators met before meeting with their own groups, doing the same work as small group members. Wendy, Clarke’s wife, was a small group facilitator. She was a beautiful and loving woman. We became friends.
Clarke and Wendy’s son, Kim, a musician and composer, wrote a setting of “‘Blue Green Hills of Earth.” The song, inspired by an image and words of one of the Apollo astronauts, became the All Saints hymn. Seated next to Wendy on a Sunday when the congregation was to sing Blue Green Hills, a note in the bulletin caught my eye. The congregation and the choir would alternate singing the verses. I pointed out the note to Wendy. “Listen,” she said. “I’m the grandmother of this song. If I want to sing all of the verses, I will.” And she did.
All Saints was the right place at the right time in my life. It was an uplifting spiritual experience made deeper and richer by Clarke and Wendy—an exemplary partnership—who I had the privilege of knowing and of calling my friends.