By Wendy Elliott – 2011
There was one Charlie Taylor story after another at the formal launch of the Charles J. Taylor Centre for Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care on Feb. 8. Those attending spilled out of the Langley Room into the hallways at the Acadia Divinity College (ADC).
Rev. Hank Dixon came the farthest. He is chaplain at Stony Mountain Institution in Saskatchewan. A prison chaplain for a dozen years, Dixon acknowledged he is a “lifer.” He went to jail at the age of 19 for murder and served nine years.
A decade after his release in 1985, Dixon was ordained as a Baptist minister. He is working toward a DMin and told those assembled, “if you want to know Charlie’s legacy, you are looking at it.”
Representing him and his sister Dawn, David Taylor called his father ahead of his time, holding prison marathons over a 40-year period and organizing theological drama.
One of the oft-quoted Taylor phrases he repeated was, “if you aren’t living on the edge then you’re taking up too much space.”
Corrections Services Canada Regional Chaplain, Hugh Kirkegaard, said there is no better example than Charlie of a chaplain going into prisons, hospitals, war zone and shanty towns.
He had two quotes to share: “the longest distance we have to travel is from the head to the heart” and “we are all more alike than different.”
Wolfville resident Dora Crosby, one of the original prison marathoners, called Charlie a mystic who was profoundly affected by the accidental shooting of a schoolmate that resulted in the teenage perpetrator being sent to jail.
Dr. Carol Anne Janzen, who is the chaplaincy liaison at the college, said the centre will build “on the professional and spiritual legacy of the late Dr. Taylor, an Order of Canada recipient, pioneer in clinical pastoral education in Canada, and an internationally recognized leader in ministry to prisoners, their families, and their communities.”
A renewed emphasis on chaplaincy, pastoral care and counseling, she said, will position ADC in the coming decade as a leader in training women and men for specialized pastoral ministries, in hospital, military, prison, extended care, workplace, sport and other life settings.
The new centre “honours the gracious life and witness of Dr. Charlie Taylor, whose most well-known book said it best — Only Love Heals” and a second chaplaincy pioneer, Dr.Dennis Veinotte of New Minas.
Rev. Phill Ferris, from the Westmorland Institution in Dorchester, N.B., detailed how Charlie’s teaching about the power of love affected one inmate and quoted him saying “it isn’t what you have in life, it’s what you do with it.”
Dr. David Watt recalled when he was a student, Charlie saying to him “there’s more to university than playing hockey. He was trying to put me back on track.”
Rev. Greg Doyle concluded the wise quotes of the day by mentioning a prayer prayed by former ADC president Dr. Harold Mitton. He said, “Dear Lord, help me to be what others think I am.”
ADC president Dr. Harry Gardner mentioned that four distinct degree programs in chaplaincy are being set up for September. Rev. Wilma Janzen of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility also took part in the ceremonies.
Dr. Jody Clarke of the Atlantic School of Theology spoke about the work of the centre’s new director, Dr. Tracy Demmons, in the mental health wards of the Halifax area and her skill with the marginalized who have severe psychosis.
Dr. Taylor passed away in 2004 at the age of 86. He taught at the Acadia Divinity College for an incredible 50 years.
An old-fashioned brass bell Dr. Taylor used to ring in the hallway of the college was rung to symbolize the launch.