Clarence Langdon to Retire, Join RenewalWorks
December 27, 2013
Clarence Langdon doesn’t quite have the hang of retirement.
He first tried to retire in 2001, when he stepped down after 25 years as rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Park Ridge. That lasted for just a few months, until he answered a phone call from Jim Mathes, then canon to the ordinary for Bishop Bill Persell. Mathes persuaded Langdon to join the staff of the Diocese of Chicago on an interim basis to help congregations find clergy.
That short-term assignment turned into twelve years of ministry at the diocese, including assignments in deployment, a new clergy mentoring program called Fresh Start, and as interim canon to the ordinary when Mathes became bishop of San Diego in 2005. In 2002, he began devoting his attention to Making Excellent Disciples, a Lilly Endowment-funded program that provides five years of pastoral leadership experience and mentoring for newly ordained clergy making the transition from seminary to parish ministry.
Reflecting on his time at the Diocese of Chicago, Langdon counts his work with new clergy as most rewarding. “I loved being a companion to young clergy coming into our vocation and seeing them gr0w and mature, and being with them when it’s not going so well. It’s been really gratifying to export Making Excellent Disciples to other dioceses, and I’m glad that Scott Stoner [of Living Compass] is going to pick that right up and include clergy groups as an integral part of the Nicholas Center.”
Langdon’s commitment to clergy excellence has also extended beyond the boundaries of the Diocese of Chicago through a church-wide clergy wellness program called CREDO, where he has been a member of the faculty specializing in helping clergy with vocational discernment for seven years. “My work with the diocese has helped me connect with people around the church, especially CREDO. It is a wonderful network to be a part of,” he says.
Langdon will retire again on December 31, and, true to form, he’s already got his next job lined up. In 2013, Langdon joined the advisory board of RenewalWorks, a program of Forward Movement, and works as a coach for congregations seeking to deepen the spiritual practices of their members. Langdon says that RenewalWorks’ effort to return the church to its theological and sacramental roots will balance the social justice activism of his early ministry.
“Embracing social and economic justice was central to the congregations I served. I remember with gratitude marching with Dr. King on the south and west sides of Chicago, then going to a church to hear him preach and pray and sing. He had a theologically rooted social vision. In the 80s I went with a group from our diocese to El Salvador and Nicaragua to demonstrate against American military involvement there. These are memories I cherish.”
But along the way, says Langdon, the church drifted from its theological vision. “We won a huge cultural victory in the 1960s through the 1990s,” he says, “but our theological foundation weakened. We drifted into humanism. We don’t want to let go of our social vision, but we allowed it to get separated from its sacramental and spiritual roots. We need to return to equipping disciples through spiritual practices and discipline, and I believe that RenewalWorks can help us accomplish that goal.”
Langdon and his wife, DewAnn, will remain in Prairie Crossing, a conservation community in Grayslake, Ill., while he works with RenewalWorks congregations across the church. After December 31, he can be reached at email@example.com.