Wake Forest Career 1993-2003

Campus Ministry

Campus Ministry continued to grow during the 1990s. By 1996, there were fourteen campus ministers, associates, and staff members, plus Ed. He was blessed with these colleagues, and and many of these ministers became good friends.

Campus Ministry 1996 was comprised of: Becky Hartzog, Baptist Campus Minister; Fr Jude DeAngelo and Julie Ostergaard, Catholic Campus Ministers; Fr Bob McGee, Episcopal Campus Minister; Brian and Tiffany Loomis of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; Rev. Steve Gerhard, Lutheran Campus Minister; Rev. Stewart Ellis, Presbyterian Campus Minister; Rev. Tim Auman and Laura Elliott, United Methodist Campus Ministers; Dr. Richard Groves of the Wake Forest Baptist Church; and Gayle Hartgrove and Pattie McGill, Administrative Assistants.

Ed had a great partnership with then-Baptist Chaplain Becky Hartzog.

Gayle Hartgrove was Ed’s administrative assistant beginning in 1996 and continuing through Ed’s retirement in 2003. She was an excellent administrator, and this was important since by that time, the administrative element of the chaplain’s  job had become more demanding.

Gayle worked closely with ‘Brother Ed’ on a wide variety of projects and was the chief organizer for two of the most important events in the chaplain’s calender: the Preschool Conference and for the Moravian Lovefeast. She also scheduled events for Wait and Davis Chapels, supervised student assistants, and attended to all the emailing, since Ed never learned to compute.

Ed Christman and Gayle Hartgrove

Gayle brought joy to her job and fully shared Ed’s love of the students. She truly enjoyed the relationships she established with students, lending them a listening ear, encouraging then, and supporting them. She also directed weddings of several students who served as assistants in the Chaplain’s office.

Ed was also close with his colleagues in the Division of Student Life and his Wingate Hall neighbors from the Department of Religion and the Divinity School, professors and administrators alike.

In 2001, Ed was honored at the Annual Employee Luncheon for his years of service. He and others were inducted into the 30 Year Club.

Ed was honored as a 30 year employee.

Ed was honored as a 30 year employee.

The Ed and Jean Christman Scholarship to Wake Forest University

In 1998, the Wake Forest Ministerial Council established a scholarship for undergraduate students in honor of Ed and Jean. Reverend Charles D. Edwards ’57, president of the Ministerial Council and pastor of College Park Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, introduced the scholarship: “So many of us Wake Forest graduates are so grateful for all that Ed and Jean Christman have meant to us. They have befriended and guided many students over the generations. We invite others to join us in sponsoring the scholarship.”

The Ministerial Council, composted of alumni ministers and other ministers, took the lead in raising funds to establish the scholarship. Hundreds of others have contributed as well. The Christman scholarship is awarded through the William Louis Poteat Scholarship program. This program is awarded to 20 incoming NC students who are active members of a North Carolina Baptist church and who show promise of making a significant contribution to church and society.

Begun in 1982, the William Louis Poteat Scholarship program honors one of the university’s most prominent historical figures. William Louis Poteat was a devout Baptist, a professor of biology, the president of Wake Forest College from 1905-1927, and a strong champion for the freedom of inquiry.

Ed and Jean were quite moved by this honor. Ed said, “God has given me a gift that I did not earn or deserve. I was given the opportunity to serve the students and faculty here, and it has been a joy to do the best job that I could. I should hope this scholarship would inspire its recipients to take full advantage of the opportunity and to be grateful for the bountiful banquet table that has been set before them.”

Jean said, “I feel that the inclusion of my name on this scholarship is a very high honor and signifies that women recipients are a vital part of the Poteat Scholarship Program.”

Gay Marriage Ceremony in Wait Chapel (1998-99)

The Wake Forest Baptist Church (WFBC) had always been a pioneering congregation, so it was not surprising that the congregation was one of the first to consider and then support the issue of marriage equality. In 1998, the congregation approved a statement asked God to bless same-sex marriage unions. It voted to allow its ministers to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies and to allow the ceremonies to be held at the church.

Shortly thereafter, two church members, Susan Parker and Wendy Scott, asked the church to hold their union ceremony in Wait Chapel, the church’s home. The request went to the Chaplain’s office, since Ed as Chaplain had the ultimate responsibility for scheduling in Wait Chapel. This time, he did not automatically put the service onto the calendar but sent the request to President Thomas Hearn, who then forwarded it to the Wake Forest Board of Trustees. After all, though the WFBC and Wake Forest share Wait Chapel, the university is the ultimate landlord.

The Trustees formed a committee to consider the matter. After a few months, their response was sent: a request that the church not perform the ceremony in the university’s facilities. The trustees noted that almost no Christian denominations sanctioned same-sex ceremonies, and there was “no compelling reason” to disagree with this majority. But this was a request only — the trustees also stated that the church was an independent body and that it “is not the intention of the university to restrict the practice of the congregation whatever its ultimate decision may be or to interfere with the content of the church service.”

An unexpected firestorm then occurred about how the issue was to be shared with the public. Concerned about negative publicity, university administrators attempted to limit reporting of the story by the university public radio station, WFDD. A directive was issued that the station limit its coverage to the university’s press release, without any followup interviews with those involved, even with the Wake Forest Baptist Church itself.

The Winston-Salem Journal broke the story of censorship, publishing statements by the Wake Forest Faculty Senate in support of the station’s right to report the news and in support of the Church’s right “in free exercise of that community’s religious faith” whether to recognize same-sex unions. One week later, the University retreated from its directive and the station began to report the story.

As the smoke cleared, the story circled back around to the Chaplain. Ed was asked by a reporter about how the University’s position would affect policy for Wait Chapel in the future. Ed said that he would now schedule the same-sex union if the church asked again. And he did. As Lynn Rhodes, then associate pastor of the church, said, “now Wendy and Susan can be treated like any other members of our congregation who want to schedule the space.”

 Jean’s Work

During these years, Jean worked some as a teaching assistant and as a volunteer in the public schools. For many  years, she was a literacy tutor with high school students and especially with Wake Forest University staff and family members who wanted to improve their literacy skills. She set up her classroom on the formal dining room table in the Christman home.

In 2012, when Ed had a brief hospital visit, one of the staff helping him asked if he was related to Jean Christman. He said yes. The woman told him of how Jean had been her literacy tutor almost 20 years earlier. Jean’s teaching had provided her with many more opportunities, including the job at the hospital.

Final Chapel (2003)

In 2003, Ed got a clear message that it was time to retire. He was sitting in the house at Royall Drive, looking out the bay window, and felt the call to let go.

Ed and Jean in the office the last day before retirement, 2003.  Photo by Kim Christman.

Ed and Jean in the office the last day before retirement, 2003. Photo by Kim Christman.

On April 24, 2003, Ed Christman preached his final Wake Forest chapel sermon.  As a surprise to Ed, the chapel service was moved by Davis Chapel into Wait Chapel, which could accommodate the crowd who wanted to come.

This service included one of Ed’s most memorable sermons, titled “Blowing in the Wind.” Here is the sermon’s finale:

“The spirit blows where it wills, at dedications, at marriages and memorial services, at initiations.  In this chapel and at Davis Chapel people gather for prayer and they sometimes sing quietly or with others or they play the piano, they play the organ, they have found a place of quietness where the spirit blows ever so softly and ever so completely.

“The spirit blows where it wills. It blows in your rooms, doesn’t it? It blows in the library. It blows on the trail to Reynolda Village. It blows in the car with the music playing loudly while you’re on the way to the beach or anywhere else. The spirit of God blows sometimes quietly, sometimes with great force. But the spirit blows where it wills.

“Who among us is going to write the songs, the lyrics, the music that will keep us on fire?  Who among you is going to take a song that hasn’t been set to music and set it to music?  Who is going to write some new songs for our edification to demonstrate that the spirit blows where it wills?  Who is going to teach?  Who is going to preach?  Who is going to get their hands into the mud of life’s goriness?  Who is going to sing?  Who is going to pray?  Who is going to preach?  Who is going to teach?  The spirit blows where it wills.  We do not know and we cannot predict its blowing.

“We can only listen for it in the quietness of our hearts and of our minds.  The spirit blows.  Do you hear it?  Do you heart it in the sounds of silence?  Do you hear it in the noisy street?  Do you hear it when you are walking the quad, especially at night?  Do you hear it?  If you hear it, will you heed it and not be afraid?

“Last week I was in a doctor’s office, and the spirit blows where it wills. I see there a framed picture, a framed copy of words spoken by Nelson Mandela who spent over a quarter of a century in a South African prison. These were remarks that he made at his inaugural address as president of South Africa. ‘It is not the darkness that we are afraid of.  It is the light that we have that makes us afraid because it reveals who and what we can be and what we can do. God has put the light of life,’ he said, ‘into not some of you but every one of us. This is not the time to withhold your talent, your skill, your ambition, your joy so that someone else won’t feel intimidated. This is not the time,’ he said, ‘to live small for you have been given the gift of light of almighty God. Let it shine. Let it shine.  Let it shine.’

“God’s breath breathes on you and on me.  Loudly and softly hear it and live as if it is true that the spirit blows on you and me, now and always.  Amen.”

This memorable sermon reflected his own journey: trust the spirit and let your life speak a unique truth.