Bruce Dillman

With the re-release of “The Lion King” recently, I am reminded of the popular song “The Circle of Life” from the first movie. This song comes to mind for me because my life has come full circle—from ordained priesthood as a Roman Catholic 30 years ago, full circle now to rostered leadership in the ELCA. Friends who knew me back then and my family aren’t surprised because nothing has ever used the variety of my God-given gifts like the wonderful variety of ministry in a parish.

It’s so hard to put into words the thanksgiving I now feel due to how varied, diverse and blessed my life has been. I was born and raised in Louisville, KY and although my mom was Catholic and my dad was Presbyterian, I was raised Catholic. Of course, this meant Catholic grade school and high school, and after a year at Purdue University, I completed my college degree at St. Meinrad College, a Benedictine monastery and seminary in southern Indiana. I began my Master of Divinity at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, MD, but my mom’s health necessitated my return to St. Meinrad to be closer to home. I received my Master of Divinity in 1982 and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

In my four years of priestly ministry I served as Associate Pastor at two different large, suburban parishes in Louisville and served as chaplain at a diocesan all-girl high school. Upon leaving active ministry in 1986, I obtained teacher certification but was unable to find a teaching position. Needing a job, I went to work for the Internal Revenue Service as a tax auditor. I remained for the next 8 years, but was still seeking what I was meant to do with my life. Toward the end of my time with the IRS, I applied for and was given a 2-year detail to teach tax and accounting courses at Kentucky State University, a historically black university. They were the best two years I spent with the IRS and helped me understand that if I was honest with myself, I really wanted to teach.

During this time, Anita and I married in 1992, and looking for a church–a faith community where we could worship–we became members of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Louisville where we both were active lay people for the next 30 years.

Due to a government downsizing, I left the IRS in 1996 and spent the next four years at two public accounting firms. After all, I had already put so much time into a career in accounting, surely I had to keep following this trail. I studied for and passed the CPA exam, and began working financial audits and preparing tax returns. Not happy at the small, regional firm where I was working, I thought I would find happiness at a larger, national firm. But at Arthur Andersen, I found myself sitting in front of a computer for hours a day, and my logical, mathematical mind was being challenged, but the fit still wasn’t right. I did apply for, and was allowed to teach at Arthur Andersen’s national training center outside Chicago, IL and I spent several weeks each year going there to act as a trainer at their facility. I received excellent evaluations from students, so I kept getting invited back, until I finally realized that teaching was what I needed to do, and I had to do something about it.

I renewed my teacher certification and was hired as a high school math teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools where I remained from 2000 to 2016. I taught the first two years at a girl’s residential facility, then the last 14 years at Louisville Male Traditional High School. While there, in addition to teaching at my school every day, I coached boys tennis, and worked on and obtained National Board Teacher Certification in 2008. After obtaining that certification, I mentored candidates working toward that certification, and eventually became a trainer for other mentors as well. Then, I began teaching at-risk students two nights a week.

Retiring from teaching in 2016 and moving to The Villages to be close to our grandchildren in Orlando, I initially worked as a golf course ambassador, then inside the golf shop at Orange Blossom Hills until leaving last year to work at Hope.

Now my life has come full circle and I am back in leadership ministry again, and I am stimulated, challenged and blessed beyond belief. Whether it is quiet time in prayer or sermon preparation; whether it is preaching from the pulpit or presiding at table; or if it is counseling, pastoral care or teaching a class—I am so blessed to enjoy it all. Thank you, Hope Lutheran Church, that together with God’s help, and with joy in openness to God’s will, we can work together in the variety of duties and ministries found in our life together as a parish.

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