Several months ago I was asked to share some recollections of Dr. Amy Gearey Dyer for an article that was being written to be shared with the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) community upon her retirement. (The article was published in the June Seminary Journal – when a link goes up, I’ll post it here.) What follows is what I responded with, finding it difficult to contain my thoughts in a brief paragraph.
In the summer of 1988 I was a parish educator enrolled in “Teaching in the Church,” a weeklong event at VTS led by Amy Gearey and George Kroupa at the Center for the Ministry of Teaching (CMT), housed in the Packard Laird building. It was the first event of many in which our paths would cross, each encounter further influencing my future vocation and deepening my passion for Christian formation.
I recall a deep conversation the two of us had on the dining hall terrace of Camp Allen ten years later at a church-wide Episcopal children’s ministries conference. I was discerning a call to where God was leading me next, and Amy suggested the MACE program at VTS. Graduating in 2003, those four summers of intense study at VTS were so formative in my life, and Amy was always there encouraging, challenging, and pushing me to dig deeper. It was for Amy that I wrote my first theology of Christian formation paper; it was not my last, and I have kept the note she gave me at the end of my second year: “Theology is an evolving process. Keep working on the integration with theology and practice.” Fifteen years later, those words continue to serve me well.
My cohort in the MACE program studied hard as well as played hard, often to the chagrin of the unflappable Amy. There is only one occasion I recall a “shocked” Amy; a classmate showing up in clericals (borrowed from Dean Martha Horne) to our“Group Process” class to be our day’s instructor. The class was in hysterics and Amy was speechless.
Amy’s hospitality and warmth goes beyond the classroom. On the evening before commencement following the Mission Service in Immanuel Chapel, Amy would open her home to all the MACE students (along with those who were part of the graduating cohorts’ faculty) for dinner. It always spoke volumes to me that her being our champion at VTS for the MACE program was so much more than teaching in the classroom. It was about celebrating relationships that would continue for years to come.
My stories of Amy are countless. One of the most recent was attending Jerome Berryman’s 80th birthday party in Denver at the Godly Play North America Conference in June 2017. I was privileged to be able to be with both of my mentors in the same place, twenty-plus years after I met both of them for the first time at an Episcopal Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. Her capacity to care for so many was apparent; she told Jerome, “I wouldn’t miss your birthday party for the world.”
Thank you Amy!