20 August 2016

In Memory of T. Hartley Hall

T. Hartley Hall was a memorable figure. He served as president of Union Union Presbyterian Seminary when I was an M.Div. student there in 1992-94. I have a few memories of him to share. He was a Southern gentlemen of the previous generation. He was a Presbyterian from a previous generation. He smoked cigarettes constantly (as did many of us in that time) and often expressed concerns about his tobacco company stocks.

T. Hartley Hall (he always used his full name) toured the Middle East with a group of us from the seminary. On the flight over from New York to Iman I couldn't sleep on the plane but he had no such trouble. He put on his eye shades, stretched out his hands behind his back and snored like a baby. He was a loud person even when he slept.

Every afternoon at 4 pm or so wherever we were, on a bus or on a plane he pulled out a small, expensive looking wooden case and put it on his lap and ritually opened it up. The case contained a fifth of high quality Single Malt Scotch with glass cups. If you were sitting next to him he invited you to partake. I did share the cup with him from time to time on that journey.

Another memory was when we were having a spirituality conference at the seminary. We had a guest speaker and were having dinner with the faculty and conference leaders. The conference leader asked us all to describe what we mean by "spirituality." I tried to say something profound as did everyone else. When it was T. Hartley Hall's turn to answer he cleared his throat and I rolled my eyes. I didn't expect much from him. He was not very "spiritual" in my eyes. He then went on to eloquently and briefly describe spirituality as stewardship by which he meant giving 10% of your income and above to support the work of Christ's church. That blew my mind. It was so basic. It took me many years to grow into his definition of spirituality. Come to find out, he was actually much more spiritual than me.

Rest in peace, T. Hartley Hall. I'm glad I got to know you in your prime. You were a mentor to me. I look forward to glad reunion in the life to come.

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