Distinguished Alumnus Award
presented posthumously to M. Ray Schultz July 26, 2005 remarks by Laird A. Thomason
M. Ray Schultz, entering class of 1950, died at his home in Catonsville, Maryland, on July 6, 2005. He was a decorated Navy veteran of the Second World War, innovative congregational pastor, impassioned advocate for integrity and excellence in ministry, and indefatigable supporter of the Disciples Divinity House. Through generous monthly gifts and a planned gift that came early after the unexpected death of his wife Phyllis, the Schultzes established the Melvin Ray and Phyllis Ann Schultz Scholarship.
In April 2005, the Alumni/ae Council selected him as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, to be presented on July 26, 2005. Fellow alumnus Laird A. Thomason spoke on behalf of Mr. Schultz. These are his excerpted remarks.
Ray Schultz participated in the ordination of June House graduate Laura Jean Torgerson just three days before he died. Perhaps, if these two events, the ordination and this luncheon, were reversed Ray would have willed himself to be at that ordination. That is truly where his heart was.
Four years ago at the House luncheon in Kansas City, Ray had the opportunity to comment in response to the gratitude of the House for the significant planned bequest which came following the untimely death of Phyllis Kritzer Schultz. In effect Ray was in the unusual position of being personally thanked for his posthumous bequest. Now he is being honored posthumously, but we know that he died humbled and gratified by this recognition.
Ray's death has only added to my introspection about a career in ordained ministry served in the church. "What has it been all about? Have I made a contribution?" In my thoughts and my own life, the standards of measurement of ministry are associated with two Disciples House scholars who have received this award: Arthur A. Azlein and M. Ray Schultz. The very first Distinguished Alumnus award went to Arthur Azlein in 1979. I knew it was deserved: Evelyn and I served my seminary internship at the Michigan Park Christian Church in Washington D.C. in 1964, with Arthur and Norma Jane.
Arthur and Ray had several items in common in their biographies. Each was a "peasant pastor," as Schultz would say, or as Azlein declaimed, "I just did my job." Both were church historians by training and interest. Both served in the Navy. And both were pastors at heart, committed to the serving the church at the grass roots. Both were leaders, sometimes in front of the troops; most characteristically from the rear. Both were humbled by the ministries to which they were called-and both were deeply affected by this recognition by their peers that their ministry had consequence.
Melvin Ray Schultz grew up in a single parent home on the island part of Wheeling, West Virginia. He left home in 1940 at the age of 17 to enlist in the Navy. Ray served in the Pacific as a Navy Air Crewman. As tail gunner on a bomber, Ray earned a number of medals, which, he observed, said "more about survival than valor."
Upon returning home Ray entered Transylvania College and graduated as its valedictorian. I don't know how or why Ray chose the University of Chicago and Disciples Divinity House, but obviously he wanted the best preparation possible for ministry.
Following ordination, Ray and Mary Helen served rural congregations in Illinois and started a family of three sons. He also joined the U.S. Navy Reserve as a chaplain. Thus, in his words, he was one of the few-two actually-to wear both the black shoes of an enlisted man and the brown shoes of an officer.Ray rose quickly into the senior ranks of the chaplaincy, but he always drew from his experience as an ordinary sailor to meet their needs-and, we can be sure, he communicated those priorities to the officers around him.
While serving his first pastorate in Henry, Illinois, this young minister from an industrial city, educated in the big city, made such a mark that he was recognized as Disciple Rural Minister of the year in Illinois.
They had moved to the larger town of Watseka when House alumnus and then regional minister of the Capital Area, one J. J. Van Boskirk, asked Ray to come to a church in Arlington, Virginia. Joe knew the church and Ray well, and thought it needed the unique qualifications of this "officer" who did not always appear as a "gentleman." The situation called for a smart, tough guy. Who do you call? You know who.
Under Ray's leadership, the Wilson Boulevard Christian Church created an innovative adult education program. They were ahead of most Disciples congregations in calling women as elders, one of whom became chair of their Board. Ray retired from that ministry after twelve years. He had suffered a heart disability while serving his summer sea duty and was given a 5% chance of surviving a year. He was 55.
One of the splendid life lessons Ray has left us is that life does not end with retirement, even forced retirement,-and that last third of his life is really what I think this recognition is most about. Ray had learned the lessons of mortality at an early age in the Pacific. After that near fatal heart event, he lived with the knowledge that his life was precarious, to say the least. And live he did -a life of faithful service in the service of his church (and to the Navy, as he also dedicated himself to publishing stories of unsung heroism).
Ray was a Disciple through and through. He grew up literally at the birthplace of the Christian Church and the influence of Alexander Campbell. He knew his Campbell. Ray shared a suspicion of "clericalism" in the church. For example, he eschewed titles. He would not wear a robe in the pulpit. He held a radical understanding of the priesthood of all believers. You may have noticed over the years his contributions to the Disciple and other journals when apostasy regarding our "historic plea." was broached.
But Ray was an even more avid student of Barton W. Stone. As such, He shared Stone's concern for an order and accountability in ministry. Ray was fully committed to professional ministry that was well prepared to serve congregations-and which should also be accountable to the whole church.
In the late 60s, when Ray moved to Virginia, we Disciples had only just claimed our identity as a denomination. The "Provisional Design" gave to the regions responsibility for the ordained ministry in the newly re-structured church. Details regarding ministry were for the regions to work out. Ray became part of the Capital Area's Commission for Ministry at that time and served for the next three decades. His was the one exception to the region's policy to rotate membership on all of its committees.
Ray labored long, hard, and with distinction, to enable our region to fulfill its responsibilities to our congregations, and to the church universal. Ray took special delight in mentoring candidates for ministry. There are many young clergy out there-and some no longer so young-who experienced his personal care and caring through seminary, ordination, and beyond. Ray's commitment to the ministry of the laity, and to licensed lay ministry, also led to his shepherding the Capital Area's Lay Institute.
Ever an advocate for the Disciples Divinity House, he had a discerning eye for those whom he would encourage to study there. In recent years that was a remarkable group. The fact that John Cheadle grew up in his church, and chose ministry, and chose to attend the University of Chicago, and became the first M. Ray and Phyllis Schultz Scholarship recipient, was a source of pure joy and satisfaction. Over the years, Ray attended and possibly participated in as many ordinations in the region as the regional ministers. So it is appropriate that the last public occasion he willed himself to do was an ordination-following, of course, worship at his neighborhood church.
His church home was The Christian Temple of Baltimore. As you surely know, Christian Temple was established by one of the true giants of our church, Peter Ainslie. As much as anyone, Ainslie kept alive the ecumenical dream of our founders. Ainslie also had a profound understanding of the priesthood of all believers. Numerous Baltimore area congregations were established by elders from Christian Temple who were inspired and encouraged him to go out to establish churches. Now, the reality is, those elders had neither the vision nor the education of their pastor and guide, and few were able to represent Ainslie's broad, ecumenical concept of church. But some of Ainslie's vision and legacy was, I think, embodied in the convictions and concerns of Ray Schultz for today's church. It was fitting that Ray's served his last years as an active elder in the Temple. Out of respect for the ministry and of ministers, Ray's goal was to be the kind of church member he would have wanted in his church. Thankfully, he was given the insight, will, and wit to practice that for many years.
I have said that Ray was a person, almost without pretense. I affirm that, even as I know how much he would have relished to prove-or disprove-that this afternoon. So, on Ray's behalf, and on behalf of those "peasant pastors," whom we each once knew, or now try to be, or who are in formation, I thank you for this recognition of a colleague, not so much for what he did, as for what he represents in the lives and ministries of each of us here. Thank you.
-Laird A. Thomason, entering class of 1966, recently retired from full-time service in chaplaincy and congregational ministry in the Capital Area.