Alum Spotlight: The Rev. Noël Robinson ‘86 and the Rev. David Robinson’84

February 1, 2024
Alum Spotlight: The Rev. Noël Robinson ‘86 and the Rev. David Robinson’84

From Noël Robinson, M Div ’86, and David Robinson, M Div ‘84

Noël says: We were asked to say how EDS shaped us. When I arrived in my 40’s, not sure how I was going to deal with school and studies so long after college, I heard someone use the word “ontological” as if it were part of everyday conversation. I vowed then to never use big theological words when more commonly understood words would work. I’m sure there were other shaping events – my whole time there might fall into that category – but that has served me well. Seeing what David has written I have to say yes to that and too much to add here.

After ordination to the Diaconate I served at St. Michael’s, Bristol RI, and was ordained priest there. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, M Div ‘84, preached, and Carolyn Gibson Jones, M Div ’85 and Alan Kittleson, M Div ’86, were among those present. From there I went to the Diocese of Albany, and was the first woman Instituted as Priest in Charge of a (tiny) parish north of Herkimer. Lots of small church and ecumenical experience there, and Hospice Chaplaincy, too. I was Rector of St. George’s, Lee, MA, and served on several diocesan committees. I started Hispanic Ministry there with the help of the late Sherm Gagnon, Diocesan Hispanic Missioner, and the fantastic people who came to worship. Then to NH and two Interims up in the North Country, and finally back to RI to serve as Assistant at St Luke’s, East Greenwich, then to a partnership of Ascension, Wakefield and St. John’s, Saunderstown; and lastly, Associate for Pastoral Ministry at Emmanuel, Cumberland. Now I serve as a Chaplain to Retired Clergy and am on the board of Episcopal Charities of RI.

And, much to my surprise, about two years ago I had a call from David Robinson, whom I had seen a couple of times since EDS, along with his late wife Connie Wiegmann Robinson, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. Connie was in late-stage Alzheimer’s, and the only facility that would accept her during COVID was in Newport. Connie had become uncommunicative, and less and less present, as the disease took its toll. David and I had lunch several times, met each other’s kids and grandkids, and marveled at the “coincidences” that led us both here. Neither of us was looking for anything but some time with an old friend, but it had become more than that.

We met with Bishop Knisely, Bishop of Rhoe Island, who was understanding and supportive.

David says: I had completed a successful Naval career before attending seminary. Success in the Navy was measured by how well you accomplished missions. “Creativity” was not a major factor. Studying at EDS opened up a new way of thinking for me. I was challenged daily in lectures and group discussions. I began to experience life in a new and exciting manner. The faculty pushed us to think outside of our comfort level, but they stayed with us to guide us on this new journey. To this day I still think of how Carter Hayward, Gene Goetchius, John Skinner, Owen Thomas, Jerry Neyrey, Stanley Marrow, Dieter Georgi and others who helped me to better understand who I was and where I was being called. A field education experience with David Ames, chaplain at Brown University, solidified the path that I would follow.

After graduation I went to Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School, Bloomfield Hills, MI, as Chaplain, Philosophy/Religion department head, and member of the faculty. I was ordained priest at Christ Church Cranbrook, and Connie and I were married there. She taught math, and we took up running and ran many half-marathons. It was an amazing and fulfilling life for both of us. We bought a retirement home on the Eastern Shore of MD where we spent our vacations, and where Connie was ordained. After Cranbrook we served several parishes, separately and together, and taught adult courses at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. When Connie’s disease progressed, we moved to a CCRC in PA. When that CCRC was no longer able to provide the necessary care, I applied to facilities from ME to VA, and the only facility that would consider admission during COVID was St. Clare’s here in Newport. My daily schedule was an early morning swim at the Y, visit Connie, and go home. At a clergy clambake I learned that Noël was also in RI. After eight years of suffering, Connie died in June 2023, and Noël and I were married in December with Bishop Knisely officiating. Now we are fitting two households into one in Newport, RI. Did I mention the cat?

Words can’t describe the emotional rollercoaster these two years have been for us. It may sound corny, but we believe that the strong theological foundation we got at EDS helped us weather the stormy times. Noël’s grief work with hospice was a help, and our first ministry together may be leading a grief group.

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