Volunteer Ministries is Saddened by the Death of Carl Bade

Carl and Marie Bade

Carl A. Bade, a towering figure in the life of the United Church of Christ, died Saturday (Oct. 21) in Pottstown, Pa.  He was 92.

He leaves a great professional and personal legacy, beginning with all he achieved during 37 years of employment and a lifetime of service with the United Church of Christ and its predecessor bodies and as an active member at Shenkel UCC.

Among other things, he initiated UCC Volunteer Ministries and A Christian Ministry in the National Parks and laid the groundwork for UCC/Disciples Global Ministries’ strong relationship with the Waldensian Church in Italy.

But it’s not just what he did but how he did it.  Ask for testimonies about his character and influence, and you’ll hear phrases like “Without guile but still politically astute,” and “Deepness of spirituality, gentleness and strength,” and “He taught me the importance of being present with people where they are, both literally and on their life journey.”

Born Dec. 6, 1924, in St. Louis, Mo., Bade was active in the St. Louis Youth Federation of the Evangelical and Reformed Church as a youth.  He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.

Following the war, Bade participated in international work camps in northern Italy and helped build Agape – the Waldensian Church Center in 1950 and later served on the Board of the American Waldensian Society.

“There is a direct line that can be drawn from that work to the current strong relationship of Global Ministries with the Waldensian Church in Italy,” said Mary Schaller Blaufuss, UCC Global Sharing of Resources Team Leader, based in Cleveland, Ohio.  “Today the Waldensian Church is one of Global Ministries’ strongest partner churches, with vital ministries with refugees and a witness to the social justice impact a smaller church can have.”

Carl Bade and Betty (Heron) Kreiger

Bade earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, worked as a truck driver and a social studies teacher, and then joined the Board of Christian Education and Publications of the Evangelical & Reformed Church as Youth Associate.  From there he moved into employment with the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries (UCBHM).

Carl Bade and Marie Hoefer were married Sept. 11, 1954, and moved to Pottstown, Pa., to initiate the E&R/UCC Volunteer Service Program.  Carl worked alongside volunteers to build the Volunteer Training Center buildings at Fernbrook Center (later an outdoor ministries site, then sold a few years ago).

One member of the first class of volunteers was Betty Kreiger, then a recent high school graduate who heard about the program from a friend.  She helped paint during the two-month orientation, then was assigned to Fellowship Center, a ministry of Carl Bade’s home congregation in an impoverished area of St. Louis. 

The experience “helped me realize how some people live, how people could be sharing and how I could use whatever abilities I had to help,” she said.  Kreiger’s daughter Susan Royer confirmed, “He knew that to send people out to places where they wouldn’t have gone would be transformational.”

Kreiger spent three years at Fellowship Center, then returned to Pottstown where both her family and the Bades were active at Shenkel UCC and became close friends.  Carl was “very kind, had a good sense of humor, was intelligent,” she said.

Carl Bade

Later, two of Kreiger’s granddaughters, Ariel (Royer) Ackermann and Whitney (Pardun) Johnson, joined UCC Volunteer Ministries.  Ariel recalled how Bade “encouraged my interest in the Middle East and listened with interest and intelligence as I shared of my experiences, no doubt reflecting on his own but too humble to interrupt.”

Susan Sanders of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, who served the UCC in several capacities before retiring in 2014, first met Carl Bade in 1976, “the year he placed me as a UCC volunteer at Bethany Children’s Home in Womelsdorf, Pa.”

Sanders recounted how Bade kept the Volunteer Services program alive despite ups and downs in funding, “mostly by his tenacity and force of spirit” and even while also carrying other responsibilities with the UCBHM.  In the early 1980s, he won an expansion of the program. 

“A second position – Associate Secretary for Volunteer Services – was created.  I was the lucky person to be called to serve in this new role,” Sanders said, then to succeed Bade when he retired in 1991.

“Here are three things I learned from Carl,” she said.  “Pick your battles.  Share responsibility.  And be present where you are.  He would always peer out the airplane window to survey the location, and would always set his watch to the correct time zone.  He told me it was important to be present with people where they were – both literally and on their life journey.”

Steven Miller, now Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., met Bade in 1990 when he (Miller) was hired as UCC Hunger Action Director.

“I immediately knew this was someone I needed to get to know,” Miller said.  “He was for me a unique combination of ‘a person without guile’ but still ‘politically astute.’  There was no naivete in his approach to his work and the operations of the various entities of the conference and national settings of our church. 

“Neither was there any nurturing of grudges.  Rather there was a deepness of spirituality, gentleness and strength, and an appreciation for his sense of being called by God to serve.  He always exhibited a vision of God’s wholeness for the world that kept his eyes on the prize.”

“He worked hard.  He was effective.  He was not, however, solely defined by his employment.  To his credit he always maintained a family, community and church life beyond his work.”

In retirement, up until last month, Bade volunteered as a board member of Prisoner Visitation and Support, “a model of prison ministry that embodies the accompaniment theology of the UCC,” Blaufuss explained.  An ecumenical group, “it has continued to be a platform for volunteers to visit prisoners with long sentences or in solitary confinement.” (www.prisonervisitation.org)

Throughout their 60+ years in Pottstown, Carl and Marie have been active members of the Schenkel UCC. Marie directed the music program for many years and Carl sang in the choir.

Bade is survived by his wife Marie; sons Stephen (Kim), Paul (Sherry) and David (Tammy); two grandsons, and two step-granddaughters.  A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 12, at Shenkel UCC; details are pending.