The Images of One’s Life
by William A. Decker, editor (July / August 2005 • Volume 21 • Number 4)
My colleague, friend, and former editor of Lutheran Partners, Carl E. Linder, died on May 19. Carl had spent more than 40 years working for the publication arms of the church, including the Wartburg Press, Augsburg Publishing House, the public information office at California Lutheran College (now University), Learning With, a parish education magazine, and Partners.
Over the years, he kept close to his initial calling as a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ordained in 1945, he served four parishes in Ohio and Iowa for 14 years.
In part, his tethering of the gospel and parish life to the world of church publications could be seen in some of the articles he wrote for this column, “Comment.” An example of this is one entitled “Doors,” an article he wrote on parish entrance doorways (July/August 1990, p. 5).
“Doors” reflected a kind of pattern he would use in other Comments. He would come up with an image and utilize it metaphorically. Could there be a relationship between the personality of a congregation and its doorways? he mused. He added that entrance doors come in a variety of styles which may be “symbolic of our diversity as a people of God gathered under the name of the ELCA.” He listed some of the variety which we celebrate. He also listed some things which were contributing to “stress” and “struggle.”
He then shared one way in which he tries to bring some resolution to the obvious tension he is faced with: books. “I find it helpful,” Carl wrote, “to look at the present through the lens of early church history.” Listing two works he had recently read, he added, “these books provide a good account of the birth of the Christian movement, the evolution of Christian ministry, and how the good news of God’s love in Christ was kept alive through it all. The rediscovery of the past has helped me adjust to the present and look forward to the future with hope, curiosity, and even excitement.”
His Comments, too, would nearly always utilize pertinent Scripture.
Finally, he would often illustrate his article with a photograph, many of which were his own.
Our cover in this issue includes two of Carl’s photos. They were first used on the cover and page 24 of the Sept./Oct. 2000 print version, highlighting a rural ministry that was Lutheran, ecumenical, and multicultural in character. In this issue, the cover story also features a rural ministry for rostered leaders.
Among other images he used as metaphors included footprints, a lone seagull, an abandoned farmhouse, and trees on the prairie. He would draw from these images issues close to his heart: the environment, hunger and poverty, sharing the good news of Christ, and facing a changing world and church while remaining faithful to our calling as ministers of Jesus Christ.
After retirement, he acted as Partners’ interim book review editor, providing “In Brief” reviews through the Jan./Feb. 2004 issue.
For myself, I will remember our countless editorial bull sessions the most. Like his short Comments, he was known as one who spoke words judiciously and graciously.
For his memorial service, Carl wanted passages from Romans and the Psalms read. God’s clear word of Scripture rang loud of God’s righteousness and justification through faith in Christ to all of us who believe, even as we sang, to Luther’s melody, Ein Feste Burg, and Grundtvig’s text:
God’s Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way;
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant while time shall last
Your Church may hold it fast
Throughout all generations.
William A. Decker is editor of Lutheran Partners magazine, Chicago, Illinois.