As a Meadville Lombard Theological School alum, one of the regular GA events I attend is the Meadville Lombard alumni dinner. After everything Meadville Lombard has been through this year, I wasn't sure what the mood would be of the room this year. Often the event is a mixture of school pride, nostalgia as we hear 25 years and 50 years in the ministry speakers, and silliness as we hassle the president or scribe and bark (literally--it's a long story) our approval for various statements or motions.
This year, after Meadville Lombard has sold its historic building and cancelled the plans to join with Andover Newton in forming a new theological university, and has now leased space in the Chicago loop area (location still mostly undisclosed, but alums are in the know now). It's been such a whirlwind year that when you go to www.meadville.edu, you land now on their news page -- that's what they're putting first on the web, because it's so significant. Compare that to the front page of Starr King's at www.sksm.edu -- you get the picture.
So what was the atmosphere? We're mourning the loss of 5701 S. Woodlawn -- the Curtis Room, the Stairwell, the Stacks. But beyond that, there's a cautious optimism. I think the alumni are largely glad not to be worried about losing identity in this institution with Andover Newton, and glad for Meadville Lombard to be going it alone and to be self-sufficient. We're also glad that there's now, finally, an answer to the question of where Meadville Lombard's physical home will be, and that it will be in Chicago. Our reservations are mostly around things that have already been in place for a while -- the touch point program and the loss of the strong relationship to the University of Chicago that was there in days past. The touch point program is a big change from the residential program most of us went through, but it's been going on a couple of years, and the students (as well as faculty and supporters) are speaking of it as a strong program that's meeting all their needs and doing what it needs to do.
I was cautiously optimistic heading in. I come out of the Meadville Lombard annual event much more hopeful and with a lighter heart.
President Lee Barker invited us as alumni to come by 5701 this fall and say goodbye to the building. I'm thinking I want to take him up on that. It's only a three hour drive from Jackson to Chicago, so it would be easy to make it a day trip or an overnight trip. They have a very nice blog for sharing memories of our home in Hyde Park, but I think I need to make the pilgrimage.