Dicy McCullough column: Catching up with Dr. Rob
Four Months Later ...
This past April, I wrote an article about Dr. William D. Robertson’s retirement from a career of public school education. In that article, I shared his thoughts about the profession. Now that school has started back, I touched base with him a few weeks ago on how it feels not to be returning to the classroom and what he’s been doing with his time.
“It’s strange, this not-going-back-to-school thing. With the world of education having been my life for thirty years, I suppose I was somewhat institutionalized. Therefore, it was a shock to my system having so much free time suddenly thrust upon me. Although I miss my students, I have been able to do so many things in my retirement that were an impossibility before. Sufficiently cleaning the house, spending more time with my family, doing some house maintenance, you name it — I’ve been able to attend to some areas of my life that I greatly ignored for many years.”
Although Dr. Rob has indeed missed his students, he’ll be the first to tell you there are aspects of education he does not miss. “Teaching was fine in and of itself, but it was all the other mess inundating and overwhelming teachers that I don’t miss — the paperwork, the endless in-flux of new programs and initiatives, and, of course, the constant struggle with lawmakers in Raleigh to get the bare minimum of resources on behalf of students, while keeping the General Assembly from stripping teachers of everything they’ve earned.”
In his spare time, Dr. Rob has been writing and grape vining articles in newspapers and other venues across the state addressing the treatment by state lawmakers of North Carolina educators and their students. Passionate about this issue, he explained, “With the General Assembly’s recent quest to hurl North Carolina racing to the bottom of the nation, education-wise, our state truly is becoming the Un-Education State and a national embarrassment ... so, there’s plenty to write about!”
April’s article revealed Dr. Rob had written a novel and was starting a new part-time job at Grace Lower Stone Church on Old Beatty Ford Road. Excited about the potential of his novel, “Icy Shadows,” Dr. Rob has been conferring in the last few months with the CEO of a regional book company and is proud to say those talks have been extremely positive.
In addition to writing, Dr. Rob is enjoying his music directorship position at Lower Stone, saying the moment he set foot in the church, he not only felt welcomed, but was astounded by the magnificent antiquity of the church. “From the building’s architecture to the chronology of events experienced, Grace Lower Stone Church is so amazing it was featured in a movie by an independent film maker, premiering recently at the Gem Theatre in Kannapolis.”
Wanting to see Dr. Rob in his role as music director, I stopped by Lower Stone one Wednesday night to visit. His enthusiasm and love for the music, the church and its people were obvious. We talked for a few minutes and then the Rev. Spencer Swain, the pastor of Grace Lower Stone Church, entered the sanctuary, joining our conversation. Talking for a few more minutes, Dr. Rob then began choir practice.
As sounds of joyous praise filled the sanctuary, Rev. Swain invited me on a tour of the church. Just as Dr. Rob had been astounded by the magnificent antiquity of the church, so was I. It was as if you could reach out and touch the ancestors of old sitting in the pews, listening to the preachers of their day. The simplicity and design of the structure, both inside and out, added to its charm and classic beauty.
During the tour, Rev. Swain shared how blessed everyone felt to have Dr. Rob as their music director. He said, “Since Dr. Rob lived in the area, there was an immediate connection with church members. The fact that he could sing, lead and play all at the same time was the “icing on the cake.”
Rev. Swain then went on to explain how the book of Psalms talks about music bringing people into worship. Sharing a funny story from earlier this summer, he said that is exactly what Dr. Rob does.
On Sunday mornings, Dr. Rob knows to conclude the prelude when Rev. Swain goes to the pulpit. One Sunday morning, engrossed in the music, Rev. Swain didn’t go to the pulpit, so Dr. Rob kept playing, improvising as he went. Thinking it must be time to start, Dr. Rob finally brought the song to a close. Loving the music, but amused he forgot the time, Rev. Swain said, “Amen, let’s go home.” With a twinkle in his eye, Dr. Rob teasingly replied, “I was wondering if you were ever going to start, I was getting tired over here.” Everyone in the sanctuary laughed. In addition to having Dr. Rob as music director, Rev. Swain shared there are lots of other wonderful things happening at the church, including donations and a group effort for various community projects and ministries. “I can’t explain all of what’s happening, except to say, God has shown me how important it is to have a ministry of giving, loving and serving in the community.
If you don’t know who lives around you, then how can you meet their needs?” Excited about the future and the direction God is leading, Rev. Swain concluded by saying, “As we serve, he will provide.”To think I traveled all the way from West Rowan to Grace Lower Stone Church on a Wednesday evening to see a retired colleague in his new environment, but came away with so much more. It’s exciting to see a church facing the future with a renewed determination to minister not only through music and spiritual teachings, but also through Christian love.
The founders of Grace Lower Stone would be proud to know their church, although built over two hundred years ago, is still making a difference in the community today. If you get a chance to visit on any given Sunday morning, don’t be surprised to find a sanctuary full of people singing, worshiping and praising God who will agree.