John CarrJohn Lynn Carr left a big impression, with a big booming voice, a quick mind, a pastor’s heart, and a generous spirit. That big impression now becomes the source of consoling memories and reflections.

James T. Laney, Candler’s former dean, first met John at Yale when John was a first-year student. Laney asked John to serve as his associate minister at First Methodist Church, Wallingford, Connecticut. In later years, Laney followed the career of his young associate, marveling at the new churches he started in Ohio and Indiana and his work as teaching theologian at a large church in Ohio, where he developed educational opportunities for 3,000 adults each year. In 1976 Laney asked John and his wife, Adrienne, a Christian educator and graduate of Union Theological Seminary, to join the Candler faculty.

John’s work focused on the pastor as educator and adult education, especially teaching the Bible. He worked with Candler’s Institute for Church Ministries and directed continuing education for the school. In addition, he and Adrienne developed a program for marriage enrichment that served hundreds of seminary couples. They co-authored nine adult education programs that have been used by small groups around the globe.

In remembering, Laney writes, “I think of John’s beautiful voice, his smile and warmth, his love for the church, and, of course, for Ad…I think of them together with all the new energy, vision and drive they contributed to Candler and the church through the years. He was much beloved and was a blessing to me and to us all.”

Chuck Foster, professor emeritus of religion and education at Candler, met John in the mid-70s when the Carrs moved to Columbus, Ohio. He notes that John’s ability to draw on Christian tradition to think theologically in the midst of the disciplines and practices of Christian life was among his most significant contributions to the church and theological education. 

“I experienced that creative spirit directly as a member of the faculty of the Methodist Theological School in Ohio in a course we team-taught that introduced students to Christian education, pastoral care, and church administration in the context of those ministries at First Community Church,” says Foster. “It was a lively interdisciplinary clinical learning experience for all of us.”

At Candler, the Carrs gave leadership to new initiatives for integrating theological education and ministry practice and strengthening the school’s program in Christian education. “Their impact on Candler was and is still significant—from introducing colleagues to new teaching strategies, to building bridges between the school of theology and local churches, to encouraging the linking of theory and practice across the curriculum, to creating hospitable spaces for conversation among students, staff and colleagues in the classroom, in their home, and in their mountain hideaway,” says Foster.

Alongside Adrienne, John’s generosity was legendary. Through the years, I and hundreds of others experienced the expansive hospitality of the Carrs at their mountain house or over a meal or on horseback or at a Braves game or at their fishing hole. As an associate dean in both Admissions and Development, I had many opportunities to witness John and Ad’s daily acts of kindness to students, colleagues, and to the school itself. For years, they served as advisors for new students beginning the MDiv program at mid-year. From the design of the name tags, to course registration, to the provision of meals and hours spent in guiding these students, John and Ad together paved the way for their success.

Their investment in the Candler community and interest in sustaining the collegial spirit for which the Candler faculty is well-known led to their gift providing a faculty lounge in Candler’s new building. They were involved in many steps of the design and relished frequent updates about the role this gift plays in continuing to build community among the faculty.

John and Ad were avid travelers, keeping up friendships and making new friends throughout the world. Their own teaching was enhanced by what they learned from others and they wanted the same for their faculty colleagues. The establishment of the John Lynn and Adrienne Kelly Carr International Travel Fund brought this desire to reality. Annually, this endowment provides travel and study funds for Candler faculty to visit developing and non-Western nations and assists in increasing the internationalization of Candler’s educational programs. 

Chuck Foster remembers both the personal and the professional positive impacts of John’s life. “As I reflect on our friendship and collegial collaboration through the years, I am filled with gratitude for the gift of his presence in my life, his sense of humor, his ability to give order to complex ideas, especially those that crossed disciplinary boundaries, and his ability to think strategically about ministry in ways that honored both our theological traditions and the lived experience of congregations.”

In his teaching, in his writings, and in his daily interactions, John Carr, the son and grandson of Methodist clergy, knew his work was that of “Good News” and kingdom-building. I am grateful beyond measure to have shared his earthly journey and benefitted from his generous friendship.