Rev. Edward E Kester and Rev Susan Kester
With Accompanying Notes for 50th Anniversary Celebration
Ed was born in Wabash County, Indiana, and after a short stay with mother Grace and father Max E. Kester, at the maternal grandparents (Aaron and Ethel) Schmalzried’s farm near Urbana, moved to North Manchester where he grew up, was baptized and confirmed at First Untied Methodist Church. It was in this church that Ed grew in faith and understanding, became MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) President and later, Wabash District MYF President and North Indiana Conference MYF Vice-President.
Call to Ministry, College and Early Ministry
Throughout his youth, he participated in many activities at Epworth Forest, including summer camp and Youth Assembly, but it was at YoPeMiCa ((Young Peoples Missionary Camp) sponsored by what was then the WSCS (Women’s Society for Christian Service) that Ed responded to his call to Ordained Ministry at age 16 and was endorsed for ministry by his church. After graduating from Manchester High School Ed attended one year at Butler University on a Debate Scholarship, then returned to Manchester College where he received his B.A. with a double major in Sociology and Peace Studies (1969). While in college he served as Assistant to the Pastor in South Whitley’s United Methodist Church (1966), and then was assigned by Bishop Richard C. Reins, as an Approved Supply Pastor to Salem United Methodist Church (1966-69) near Bippus, Indiana, and his paternal grandparents’ [Homer and Abby (Reed ”Strobel”) Kester| historical homes as well as nearby one room school house where they received their education. He received his License to Preach in the Summer of 1968 through studies at DePauw University. Following his first year of seminary Ed was ordained Deacon by Bishop Mueller, at the North Indiana Conference’s Annual Conference held at Purdue (1970).
Shortly after transferring to Manchester College Ed met Susan Keirn who was the MSM (Methodist Student Movement) President. The MSM met at Ed’s home church, where the pastor kept finding reasons to send Ed and Susan to various conferences together. The result was engagement and marriage in 1968, (and a celebration of 50 years of marriage coming up on June 15).
While attending Wesley Seminary, which sits adjacent to The American University in Washington, D.C. Ed also coached debate at the Hurst R. Anderson Forensic League of American University (1970-71) and then became the Administrator of the After-School Enrichment Program and Summer Day Camp of Saint Paul United Methodist Church, Silver Spring, Maryland. Under Ed’s leadership the program grew and developed to care for over 100 children, which then necessarily meant it had to move to a larger church, Woodside United Methodist. By 1973, Ed had only a few classes to finish in Seminary, but the children’s program had grown to the point either he had to become the full-time administrator or resign. In a recommitment to pastoral ministry, Ed resigned and accepted a student appointment on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a four-point charge south of Cambridge, Maryland on the Honga River at Crapo, and Andrews, Robins, and Golden Hill. These churches were among the descendants of those Methodists who first heard the Word from Francis Asbury and Joshua Thomas (Parson of the Islands). The people of this parish were wonderful people who endeared themselves to both Ed and Susan in their ministry, though the water-based culture of the Chesapeake Bay region was far different from Northern Indiana.
Full-Time Pastoral Ministry
The Peninsula-Delaware Conference welcomed the Kesters to service, and moved into full-time in Galena, Maryland (a two-point charge including Kennedyville). Ed was ordained an Elder in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference in 1975 by Bishop James K. Mathews. Following appointments included Queenstown’s three-point charge with Wye of Charmichael & Graysonville; Hurlock’s two-point charge Unity-Washington with Wesley, and then in Delaware, Georgetown’s Grace with McCally’s Chapel.
Other ministerial activities included District Mission Secretary and serving as the youngest member to ever serve on the Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry. Ed also taught extensively in Schools of Christian Mission both at the conference and regional level, often as a team with Susan. He also served as a mentor to others in the process of completing their journey to ordination as Elder. While at Georgetown Ed began and completed all his class work at Drew University School of Theology for his Doctor of Ministry degree, while events conspired for his ministry to take a far different turn.
As a part of his continuing education program Ed had volunteered to work with the Seaford Delaware Methodist Manor House a Continuing Care Retirement Community under the Peninsula United Methodist Homes. After just one year of service and Just weeks before the Georgetown congregations planned a welcome back party for the Kester family, Peninsula United Methodist Homes President called to say he had spoken to the Bishop and they would like Ed to consider becoming an assistant administrator at the Seaford Manor House. He has just days to consider. After much prayer and some real trepidation, Ed felt and Susan agreed that this call to ministry beyond the local church was God’s call.
Ministry Beyond the Local Church at United Methodist Affiliated Ministries
After beginning a ministry of administration at the Methodist Manor House as Assistant Administrator, Ed passed state and Federal tests to become a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator in Maryland, Delaware and later in Pennsylvania. He moved to other PUMH facilities serving as Acting Executive Director, then Assistant Executive Director at Cokesbury Village, Administrator at the Layton Home, Executive Director at the Methodist Country House, and as PUMH’s Corporate Purchasing Manager. During his work Ed led facilities to accreditation by the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission and recertification of healthcare services by the Joint Commission.
In 1993 Ed left Peninsula United Methodist Homes to become President and Chief Executive Officer of what would become Wesley Affiliated Services, the retirement homes, healthcare and senior housing programs of the Central Pennsylvania Conference. With locations in Mechanicsburg and Tyrone Pennsylvania. At Wesley Affiliated Services Ed led the Continuing Care Retirement Community to accreditation and recognition by his peers, he received the award of Administrator of the Year from the United Methodist Association (Senior Care Homes). Ed also was a Fellow of the American College of Health Care Administrators.
As Wesley grew strategic planning looked to the future and found a partner in Asbury Homes (the Homes of the Washington Conference) to its south. Upon merger of these homes corporations Ed became the Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of the new Asbury Methodist Homes. When the initial integration of the new organization was complete Ed took a leave of absence while working as a consultant with an HMO focusing on senior care, an endeavor he had served as Chairman of the Board for two terms when in central Pennsylvania, and which both Wesley and Asbury were members.
In April of 2000 Ed was offered the position of President and CEO of Methodist Retirement Communities (MRC) in the Texas Annual Conference and appointed to the position by the Peninsula Conference Bishop. Later Ed would move his Conference Membership to the Texas Annual Conference where it still resides. Under Ed’s leadership the services throughout MRC expanded to include Alzheimer Units, Home Healthcare, additional housing units and HUD facilities. At the time Ed left MRC at the spring of 2007, Ed was serving as president of 13 different corporations under the MRC umbrella, including an off-shore Insurance Company (NFP Insurance in Grand Cayman) Approximately 2,000 people were being served by a staff of over 600 full and part-time workers in six locations across East Texas (Galveston, La Porte, Huntsville, Bryan/College Station, Lufkin and Texarkana).
With the Annual operating budget of over $46 million and assets of over $42 million, MRC was ranked as the 62 in the American Association of Homes for the Aging’s top 100 not-for-profit Continuing Retirement Communities.
Return to Pastoral Ministry and Retirements
In 2008 the Kester’s moved to Odenton where Susan accepted a position on the Baltimore-Washington Conference’s Extended Cabinet and Ed was appointed to serve as pastor of Dundalk United Methodist Church. While at Dundalk Ed retired from the Texas Annual Conference June 1, 2009, and in 2010 retired from active ministry due to health-related issues. In January of 2010 the Kester’s moved to Fort Wayne and later were appointed to Simpson UMC part-time in the fall of 2010 through summer of 2014. During this time Ed’s participation ebbed as his health was in decline and July of 2011 he lost use of both kidneys due to oxalate neuropathy and began dialysis.
Return to Better Health
By the summer of 2015 Ed’s general health had worn down with the toll of dialysis. While being registered for possible transplants at Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor MI, University of Toledo OH and at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne no opportunities had presented themselves until University of Toledo called some 7 times in early 2015. Each of these offers was for a deceased donor kidney, and Ed was either not first in line or there were other complications preventing his receiving a transplant.
Then after a long pause with no offers, Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne called with an offer of a kidney which Ed was first in line for and which was a good match. The kidney came from an altruistic donor. We would learn a year later the donor was a then 29-year-old young woman, named Genie Walters. Since that time Ed’s health has returned, and his strength and stamina greatly improved. This miracle of new life has since been matched by the miracle of our granddaughter, Honor Grace Carol Kester-Haney. We now live together in one home as we help to provide loving care for our granddaughter and support for her parents as they seek to move forward with their lives.
• Highpoints Chronology
o Many are evident above, not repeated here.
o Hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. speak weeks before his assination at Manchester University.
o Marriage to Susan
o Birth of Caroline Suzanne, her graduation from High School and College
o Susan’s call to ministry
o Susan’s achievements
o Caroline’s overcoming and/or persevering through many health issues
o The Birth of Granddaughter
• Memorable trips
o Christmas trip in New Mexico
o Paul’s Final Missionary Journey (Trip through Italy, Greece, & Malta)
o Hawaiian Retirement Cruise
o From earliest days as teenager listened to WLS in Chicago and the Grand Old Opera from Nashville on transistor radio. In those days as rock and role began and country soon thereafter began to go uptown.
o Loved Hank Williams “House of Gold” and then there was Johnny Cash and later Willie Nelson. In Gospel Music the Imperials and the Statesmen. But then, the Righteous Brothers for “blue eyed soul” and the DooWop music; later The Band as they backed-up Bob Dylan and then on their own. The folk music of Peter Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, & the Weavers. And lots more of my eclectic tastes in music since.
• Political and social action, while in ministry the opportunities for “political action” were often difficult as we were always in a position of privilege and trust that would not tolerate politicization of our office. This doesn’t mean that we have not held and promoted, in our own ways, political causes over the years. Our country is still divided in many ways and it has always been our hope to reconcile people, promote peace, and provide moral leadership which translates into good citizenship and faithful living. There will be people present that are of widely divergent political opinions, even among family members. Most, but possibly not all, are aware of our socially liberal and progressive outlook. Any number would be uncomfortable discussing this.
50th Anniversary Questions
Mother: Rev. Susan Keirn Kester, retired ordained elder in The United Methodist Church
Father: Rev. Edward E. Kester, retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church
• Bachelor’s degree in speech and Drama, Manchester University
• Master’s, all but thesis, American University Washington DC
• Master of Divinity cum laud, Wesley theological Seminary Washington DC
• Appointed by Governor of MD to the MD Commission on Women
• Served a three point charge, was director of Communications for Peninsula Delaware Conference, Executive with denominational Mission Agency responsible for all print, video, publishing and distributing of agency communications and publications, elected delegate to two annual conferences
• Appointed to large Urban Church, first women to be lead pastor of a large membership church in Peninsula Delaware Conference
• District Superintendent of Wilmington District of Peninsula Delaware Conference supervising 63 churches and 63+ pastors
• In Texas Annual Conference was first person to serve as an Interim Pastor, was consultant to the Cabinet and Bishop, helped create Interim Ministry program for Texas Annual Conference, did investigations of clergy misconduct for Cabinet, chaired committee that created the Sexual Ethics Policy for Pastors of the Conference, worked with first year clergy development
• Designed and taught class on Spirituality for Perkins UM Seminary for first year Master of Divinity students
• Created Praxis with Grace, a consulting LLC, that provided training and consultation to local churches
• Co-pastoring with Ed in retirement at Simpson UMC in Fort Wayne, leading the church to share with and eventually giving their property and assets to Getsemane UMC, a Spanish Language Conference
• Currently, sharing leadership for Ministry of Caring for Good Shepherd UMC
Most proud of:
Being a mother of Caroline and grandmother of Honor
50 years of life and ministry with Ed
Creating a 5 County Council that created the first program to provide assistance and shelter for battered women and children on the rural Eastern Shore of MD
Creating a Ministry of Communication for Peninsula Annual Conference that included editing a weekly publication, creating promotional and advertising programs including a launch into television, radio and bill boards and forming a tri-state committee to work in a top ten advertising market in advertising.
Defining Interim ministry for the Texas Annual Conference by serving in as Interim Pastor for a variety of large, medium and small member churches
Most grateful for:
o The opportunity to preach about God’s grace and love, to be invited into the most intimate moments in a family’s grief, illness, challenging problems and celebrations
o God’s grace in receiving a live donor kidney for Ed in 2015 and a miracle granddaughter in 2016
o Celebrating our 50th with family and friends
Music: Ballads and peace songs from the sixties such as We shall Over Come, Where did all the flowers go. Also, Amazing Grace, Once to every Man and Nation, Let there be peace and many other classic and contemporary hymns from the United Methodist Hymnal are favorites.
Issues: We are progressive and in keeping with United Methodist principles we choose to stand on the side of the least, the last and the lost. We believe the Church must be inclusive in every way to be a witness for the salvation of our world through Jesus Christ. We are definitely for sensible gun control, ending the separation of children from their parents who are seeking asylum at the border. We believe the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the statue of Liberty is the statement of who we are called to be as citizens of the United States:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these the homeless, tempest-tossed to [us]. [WE] lift [our] light beside the golden door.”
We pray earnestly that justice, mercy and righteousness will roll down like river over our nation that we may truly stand on God’s side as scripture teaches us.
History: We have seen humans walk on the moon, hybrid and smart cars arise, ecology be made a priority, we have seen medical advances beyond comprehension when we were born, and technology bring our nation past computers, tablets, cell phones to the face of artificial intelligence. We wonder how God will use these for justice, righteousness, mercy and grace in the century moving forward now.