Leonard Kalkwarf doesn’t necessarily think of himself as being creative. But his career tells a different story. After a lifetime spent tending to his flock, the retired minister is now indulging his passion for history and writing.
Kalkwarf intended to study history in college, but the summer after high school graduation he felt a call to the ministry. He decided to study philosophy at Central, with the intention of becoming a theologian and pastor. After two years, he had second thoughts and switched to business administration, but returned to the ministry path, graduating with a major in philosophy and a minor in business, “both of which have served me well over the years,” he says.
A rewarding career as a minister followed, included a graduate education capped with a Doctor of Ministry degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1980. Kalkwarf pastored churches across the East Coast, and he served as president of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America. But his interest in history remained.
In 2015 he published “Exploring the Libraries of the U.S. Presidents,” which takes readers along on the road trip he shared with wife Beverly while visiting all 13 presidential libraries in the U.S. He also previously published “Dear Craig,” a series of 15 letters written to his grandson in which he shared his faith.
Kalkwarf also produces a quarterly television program for the in-house TV station at his retirement community of more than 2,000 people. The program grew out of his interest in presidential history, and each episode focuses on a different president.
Looking back on his Central education, Kalkwarf views it as “the starting point for my whole life. I really appreciated the education I got there.”
How has creativity been important throughout your career?
A lot of my creativity came out when I was in the ministry in terms of trying a different approach when I was preaching. Instead of a regular narrative sermon, I’ve done many of what I call first-person sermons. I try to put myself into the shoes of the person I’m speaking about. I speak in the persona of someone else, for example Biblical personalities such as Pontius Pilate, Joseph of Arimathea or Barabbas.
What do you still want to accomplish?
I’m currently writing a daily devotional book, with one devotional for each day in the year. I hope to have that published in about a year.
What is your goal when writing about history?
In all my work, I find it helpful to come at things from a different perspective. I try to give people a different perspective on the libraries, and I try to provide an indication of what my perspective is on visiting the libraries. For all of the presidents who were alive during my lifetime, starting with Herbert Hoover, I try to indicate some of my reaction to things I remember about them.