Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gerald Ford and Virginia Seminary, Some Reminiscences

My good colleague, Dr. Robert Prichard, professor of church history, has compiled a few short notes about President Ford and his association with our neck of the woods. The Immanuel-Church-on-the-Hill that he refers to is the parish church up here on Seminary Hill. The parish has a history of sharing our seminary chapel, Immanuel Chapel, with VTS. Here are Bob's reminiscences:

[Ford] was an active member of Immanuel-on-the-Hill for many years, which meant that he often worshipped in Immanuel Chapel. He continued to attend Immanuel while he was Vice President. Matters changed after Nixon's resignation, however. On the following Sunday he showed up at Immanuel with the full contingent of Secret Service agents. The then rector of Immanuel, Bill Dols, rushed home from vacation to preach on that Sunday, much to the disappointment of his assistant, Patricia Merchant Park. The following Sunday, Ford started attending St. John's, Lafayette Square.

One of the stories that was still circulating about Ford in the early 1980s was that he had been around the seminary enough to notice that the grounds crew stacked and stored wood from the trees that are cut down on campus. In those days they did so on the wood lot where the Hadlers and the Edmondsons now live. One day someone at the seminary saw that a strange car was parked in the wood lot and went to see who it was; it was then Congressman Gerald Ford filling his car with fire wood.

The Ford children went to George Washington High School (today a middle school). In the early 1970s son Michael Gerald Ford (b. 1950) confused the Diocese of Virginia's Commission on Ministry by beginning study at Gordon-Conwell Theological School without going through the appropriate channels for postulancy in the Episcopal Church. I was in the ordination process from Virginia at that time, and overheard several confused conversations among commission members about him. I believe that Michael Ford pursued ordination in another denomination and currently works in administration at Wake Forest.


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