Oh Oberlin: John and Anne Elder

John and Anne Elder were a presence in my life from as far back as I can remember. That, undoubtedly, is aided by the fact that they arrived (back) in Oberlin the year after I was born. Oh, and that John came back to minister in the church in which I grew up.

Arriving in Oberlin according to their own stories, they – as members of the so-called  “Silent Generation” – met while attending Oberlin College in the early 1950s. That’s not a description they necessarily lived up to. They traveled to Asia, moved to Massachusetts and had five children while helping the Democratic Party to power. John ran for Congress.

After a brief year in Rochester, N.Y., they came to hear that First Church in Oberlin needed a minister. John was interested, and the family returned.

I would have wanted to talk to John and Anne anyway (she had to leave early from the interview and surely could be the subject of an hour on her own), but after talking to Rev. David Hill last fall, it occurred to me that these two are on opposite sides of an inflection point: John, in his own words, as mainstream protestantism was already in decline and David as churches experiment with social media as a way to reconnect.

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