The summer 2020 issue of Chimes included “One robe, two stories,” about Donald Keuper ’54 (M.Div.), whose family honored his life by gifting his pastoral robe to the San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS), with the “the sincere hope that this robe might be used by young pastors at the Seminary, or at your discretion, perhaps given to a deserving student.” The eventual recipient of Keuper’s robe was Heather Johnston ’20 (M.Div.), and the story included letters exchanged between the Keuper family and Johnston. The Chimes editorial team received several responses to this story, excerpts from which are included below:
What a wonderful read in this current issue of the Chimes. … My husband, Bob, began at SFTS in 1953, and I came in 1954. We were married in Stewart Chapel on March 4, 1956, with David Essler officiating. Bob had a remarkable 33-year career in the U.S. Navy, 26 of which he served as a Navy chaplain. After his military service, Bob served three churches as parish visitor. He also volunteered for 10 years at Camp Pendleton giving a Sunday evening service for students at the School of Infantry.
I admired the letter written by the Keuper family about Donald’s robe, and I would be more than happy to gift Bob’s robe and hood for an SFTS graduate. Bob and I always talked about the professors we had at SFTS, all of whom were deeply devoted to their calling and always available to students. We were so blessed to be at SFTS, and every bit of learning we gained at the Seminary was put into use during our careers.
—Genece Oshanyk Warren ’56
On November 8, I turned on the TV, and the reporter was instructing everyone in Paradise and the surrounding areas to evacuate immediately. When we got to the main road, it was pitch dark with flames on both sides. … I felt God’s presence and quickly began to pray, thanking God for my family and friends, the opportunity to go to college and seminary, the churches in which I had served, and all the people who had touched my life. … We lost everything in the fire but our memories.
We eventually found a house in Santa Rosa, and I discovered the Presbyterian Church of the Roses, where I was invited to become parish associate for pastoral care. The first time I preached there, I realized that I did not have any robes, as they had burned in the church where I was volunteering in Paradise. My nephew, Brad Davis, contacted SFTS to inquire where to purchase one for me and was told they had robes that had just been donated for such purposes. On Christmas morning, I opened a mysterious box, and in it were two robes and a stole, along with a precious note from Jana Childers, who had been my homiletics professor when I went to SFTS in the 1990s, offering me her old preaching robe! How amazing and good our Lord is!
—Lynne Vandercook ’94 (M.Div.)
It is my pleasure to donate the clergy garment belonging to my late husband, Bob, to a student at San Francisco Theological Seminary—Bob would have liked that! Our mission work brought us to Window Rock/Fort Defiance, Arizona; Taiwan; and Liberia, West Africa. In between mission experiences, Bob served Covenant Presbyterian Church in Danville, North Carolina, and Plainsboro Presbyterian Church in Plainsboro, New Jersey. He retired from the church in 1990, and I am delighted to send his clerical robes to an SFTS graduate who can make use of them.
—Lavonne Slusher, widow of Robert Slusher ’57 (B.Div.)
I teared up when reading how other graduates and their families also have wanted to gift their robes to SFTS. It’s like ripples across a pond, and it touches me so much that it began with our donation of Dad’s robe. Right now, when the world is in such turmoil and everyone is so physically distant from each other, something like this tells us that there are still threads that bind humankind in wonderful ways. What a blessing. … Thank you for starting the ripples that I hope will benefit more of the deserving students at SFTS.
—Carol Abigana, daughter of Donald Keuper ’54 (M.Div.)
Learn more about SFTS and the U of R Graduate School of Theology. If you are interested in donating your pastoral robe for an SFTS student, contact Molly Widdicombe, director of development, at 415-451-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org.