The last few days have been bittersweet as I have received comments and reflections on Glenn Bannerman, who died at his home at Highland Farms in Black Mountain on Friday, October 30th. The same day, a colleague of mine confessed to being a little shocked by the news. That may seem strange to you – Glenn was in his nineties, after all – and yet I understood. In the moment I couldn’t think of anyone over my lifetime who had been a more constant, enthusiastic, and relentless presence in Montreat as Glenn Bannerman had been, and now he was gone.
Glenn’s impact on recreation programing in Montreat is unsurpassed. Both the Montreat campground and the Fourth of July festivities bear his founding and formative imprint. Glenn didn’t introduce Montreat to square dancing, but under his leadership “Friday Night at the Barn” became a summer institution, a step-back-in-time so fun and wholesome that a newcomer would rub eyes in disbelief at the Hokey Pokey-ness of it all. (“These young people actually want to be here?!”). Over the decades these dances and parades and games attracted…what, a couple hundred thousand or so? Put your own number on it. Glenn’s invitation to Montreat met them all – on the road and field, at the door and on the dance floor.
Significantly, Glenn shaped generations of recreation professionals from his post at the Presbyterian School of Christian Education and Union Presbyterian Seminary. (A wonderful tribute to Glenn’s legacy as a teacher can be found here.) To this day countless numbers of pastors, teachers, and leaders hear his voice in their heads as they plan:
- “Recreation has a purpose beyond play, and a good leader helps everyone understand that purpose.”
- “Don’t use food in recreation events. Food is for people who are hungry.”
- “A well-designed event invites everyone to participate and makes it possible to do so.”
With simple principles and his own example, Glenn demonstrated how recreation was more than a diversion or break from transformative pursuits. Just like worship and prayer, recreation could be a deeply theological practice through which God acts to shape individuals and communities.
He will be missed, most especially by his wife, Evelyn, and a large family, and he will be missed by all who have loved him and those who have enjoyed recreation in Montreat. Our hearts and prayers are extended to all, as is our thanks to God for the life of this very special leader and his presence in our midst. And let’s look forward to the day when we can celebrate Glenn’s legacy in ways that I think Glenn would prefer – with a good bit of play and a good bit of dancing.
This month in Montreat, around the conference center we continue to press ahead with various programs and events.
- Our October conferences blended virtual, hybrid, and in-person gatherings on topics as a varied as evangelism, antiracism, and a program with John Philip Newell.
- Our Personal Sabbath program is attracting increasing numbers of participants at Assembly Inn.
- Here’s a reminder that this year, due to COVID, we are changing the format of our annual College Conference to offer campus ministry retreats with lodging discounts and retreat curriculum. You can read more about that here.
- Finally, COVID isn’t shutting down our annual Thanksgiving Dinner event, though it is distributing our usual crowd out into the community. We are offering two unique ways to celebrate Thanksgiving in Montreat this year. We are running an all-inclusive package from November 25th and November 28th, and a special Thanksgiving Grab and Go meal. Both have limited capacity. For more information including registration, click here. Our traditional Thanksgiving offerings have been cancelled but we look forward to resuming our traditions in November of 2021.
And as we approach the holiday season and ponder the learnings as well as the losses of the past year, my prayer is that we find a way to appreciate every single day that is behind us and to greet the days ahead with hope and joy in the full knowledge of God’s abundant love for us all!
More to come,