Peacemaking lost a champion this week – our dear friend, Charles Siburt. Often those who come to learn peacemaking ask, “Is there anything else I can do with these skills?” And when they do, I would hope that they would see the impact a peacemaker has in those chance moments when he conveys his care and concern for someone else.
I hope you enjoy this article from Lori Anne Shaw, assistant director of the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution, as she shares her memories of Charles Siburt. Charlie truly understood the broader role and responsibility that comes as peacemaker.
I could never have a conversation with Dr. Siburt without him trying to help David and I plan our life. No matter how much I asked about Judy, his kids, his grandkids, or his treatment, he would never end a phone or email conversation without asking about our plans for the future. When I could not deliver a solid answer (which was most of the time) he would start walking me through problem solving and goal setting exercises. It was just his routine. He could not help himself. Not because he cared so much for me. Though I think he did. Not because I was so important or special to him. Though he made he feel that way. No. He did it because that is who he was – a lover of people and a master problem solver.
Dr. Siburt’s influence spread over three generations of my family. As the minister at my home congregation, he worked with my grandfather who was an elder. My grandfather remembers Dr. Siburt being in graduate school and teaching the elders ideas he learned. My grandfather credits Dr. Siburt for teaching him several practical communication techniques that he used in business and still uses with our family and in church leadership. Dr. Siburt was the preacher my dad and aunt grew up listening to on Sunday morning. He married my parents and often remarked that he was at the hospital when I born. As long-time family friends, my grandparents reminded me that if I needed something while I was in Abilene, I could always call Charlie and Judy.
I felt Dr. Siburt’s influence most in my immediate family when David landed a spot in Dr. Siburt’s mentoring class. Our second year in ministry at a small church north of Abilene, he helped David (and I) soak up so many positive learning experiences. Every week David came home with an insightful sound bite of Siburt wisdom. He had so many good sayings. With high expectations for ministers and for churches, Dr. Siburt had no trouble labeling selfishness and immaturity. There was no excuse for “sloppy agape.” If some feathers had been ruffled in our congregation, he’d remind us that “the anxious minority doesn’t rule the church, they are just the loudest.” Ideas of that caliber stick.
A few months pregnant with our first child, life all of a sudden felt very real. Decisions needed to be made. We asked Dr. Siburt for a quick meeting. David was choosing whether to continue in ministry, pursue a Ph.D. in Old Testament, or go to law school. After agonizing over this decision for a year, we were refreshed (and stunned) by Dr. Siburt’s practical and plain response, “If you want a job, then be a minister or a lawyer. You will do well either way.” Of course. Why had we made it so hard?
The next year we moved to Waco for David to start law school at Baylor. We soon learned that there was nothing half-done about being loved by Dr. Siburt. (No sloppy agape, and he wasn’t kidding.) He continued to follow up with us. We were not in Abilene. David was not his student anymore. Yet, Dr. Siburt was totally unobligated. We knew he was doing the same thing with countless other families and churches. That was just who he was – a lover of people, a master problem solver, and serious about disciple making.
Lori Anne Shaw has been the assistant director for program development at the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution since 2007. She is a mediator focusing primarily on serving local non-profits and university faculty, staff and students. Additionally, Lori Anne is a trainer for the biannual Residency Session and 40-Hour Basic Mediation Training. She edits the monthly newsletter The Peace Partner, maintains the website, and implements marketing and fundraising strategies through targeted mail, email and social media. Lori Anne serves as an online course facilitator for the Master of Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Program facilitating Negotiation and Mediation, Managing Conflict in Schools, Managing Conflict in the Workplace, Communication and Conflict Theory, and Advanced Mediation classes. Her research interests include conflicts surrounding gender roles in religious contexts and family mediation outcome research.
She and her husband, David, live in Waco, Texas and have two children, Maci and Cade.