Casting Bread
After Almost 32 Years, the Rev. Diane Kessler Is Retiring from the Massachusetts Council of Churches

By Michael Paulson
Boston Globe
October 15, 2006

How did you wind up as an "ecclesiastical diplomat," to use your phrase, rather than in a church?

I had taken a course when I was in seminary on religion and the political process, which was offered by the head of the research department for [then Massachusetts House] Speaker Tommy McGee. Our fieldwork was that we got? assigned to some new, green state representative as free help during the year, and I got turned on to the relationship between the political process and ethics.

Is it the council's goal for all Christian denominations eventually to merge?

No, but it is that they will more fully recognize their unity in Christ than they do now, so that there won't be barriers with ministry, as there are now, or the brokenness at the Eucharistic table. Unity does not mean uniformity. There would be breathing room for rich diversity, but issues that now divide the churches would be resolved.

You have led efforts that buck the popular culture, such as trying to reschedule kids' sports away from Sunday mornings. Why?

Sometimes the best thing the churches can do is to be a countercultural voice and offer institutional support to individuals and families who are struggling with these issues.

You have also worked with Cardinal Bernard Law, who was your friend. How do you think about him now?

One of the things that saddens me about his departure, or the manner in which he departed, is - as often is the case in situations like this - the good that someone does fades from memory, and what people are left with is whatever the disaster was. He did many good things here, and I think that slipped from public view because of the reasons for, and manner of, his departure, and that makes me sad.

Why, after Oberlin College and Andover Newton seminary, did you choose ecumenical outreach work instead of becoming a pastor in a church?

I graduated from college in 1969. There still were very few role models. Even though my denomination is the United Church of Christ, and it ordained women, there were very few women who were ordained. I really just predated what was a radical transformation that happened in the life of the churches in the mid-1970s, so when I was in seminary, there were far more men than women. Most of the women who were there were on a Christian education track, and it never occurred to me to be ordained. It was actually only after I came here; I was ordained in 1983.

Why retire now, at 60?

I'm tired. I need to allow my mind, my body, my spirit to lie fallow for a while and just breathe and see what creative possibilities surface when I have that space.

What about having fun?

I'd love to take a course in French cooking in Provence.


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