My friend, Harold Burgess, went home to be with the Lord yesterday, March 28, 2011. I am not sure how long I have known Dr. Burgess, but probably about 25 years. Ours was not a formal friendship. We just kind of ended up at things together. At first, he was a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary and I was a professor at Asbury College. Later, our roles changed and he was Vice-President at the Francis Asbury Society and I was the Associate Academic Dean at Asbury College.
We met at conferences, at academic functions, and more recently at church, and in our adult Bible class, Wrestling with Truth. We both shared a significant interest in the educational work of the church. This again was not a formal interest but a nonformal one. We thought about how the church teaches by the way it exists in the world.
Harold knew everybody, had been everywhere, and was an expert on denominations in the broader Wesleyan tradition. My observations were much more limited but he graciously included me. This was one of his prevailing characteristics — grace. Now by that I do not mean that he did not have opinions. He had a way of letting people know what he thought.
His gracefulness expressed itself as interest. He was interested in me. He wanted to know how I was getting along professionally, he encouraged me in certain directions, he wrote a reference letter or two, he asked me to teach his seminary class a couple of times. All of this was interest based in grace. He had a winsome way of telling me that he believed in me and that he thought that I could be successful in various endeavors.
Another friend of mine, Judy Woolums, used to say that when people pass on to glory some of the “umbrella” of support and protection that they have provided is lost. This is so true for Harold Burgess. The views and the interests that he protected will have to be maintained by others, maybe by me.
Thank you, Harold, for being my friend. For showing me the way. And, for believing in me. I am forever richer for having met and known you along life’s pathway.
Timothy L. Thomas