In Memoriam

Douglas J. Schuurman (1955–2020)

We give thanks for the life and work of Douglas J. Schuurman, one of the founding leaders of the contemporary conversation on calling and vocation. Doug passed away on the evening of Saturday, February 15, 2020. Many in the NetVUE community will be familiar with his important book Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life (Eerdmans, 2004) and with the more recent collection (co-edited with Kathleen A. Cahalan) Calling in Today’s World: Voices from Eight Faith Perspectives (Eerdmans, 2016). Much of his life’s work was devoted to the task of “retrieving and reforming the Protestant concept of callings for modern times.” He also contributed to theological explorations that broaden the range of women’s callings, serving as co-editor (with Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Annelies Knoppers, Margaret L. Koch, and Helen M. Sterk) of After Eden: Facing the Challenge of Gender Reconciliation (Eerdmans, 1993).

Doug was a beloved member of the St. Olaf College community, where he taught for thirty-four years. He was instrumental in helping launch a new program on vocation at the college as part of the Lilly Endowment’s initiative of Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV). He also served as the college’s Lilly Vocational Scholar in 2003–2004.

In addition to his work as a teacher and scholar, he contributed significantly to church-based discussions for laity, publishing answers to questions posed by church members about issues of faith and calling for The Banner. These included reflections on such questions as “Do I go to college or not?”, “How does calling relate to Christian hope?”,  and “What are our callings when we reach retirement?” His most recent reflection addressed the question “What makes us believe God is calling us?” and included an anecdote about an act of kindness that came at a crucial moment in his life.

Doug’s contribution to Calling in Today’s World articulated a Protestant perspective; his chapter is titled “To Follow Christ, to Live in the World.” Invoking the example set by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he wrote:

Having callings is not to seek one’s self, even one’s “authentic” self. The point is to love God and neighbor by taking up the cross in the self-sacrificial paths defined by one’s callings. . . . [But] it is also the case that there is much joy in serving others in and through one’s callings. . . . The freedom that comes from a life of faith brings genuine fulfillment of the deepest desires of human hearts. (80)

Doug died at home surrounded by his family, listening to a recording of the St. Olaf Choir singing “O, Day Full of Grace.”  There will be a celebration of Doug’s life on Saturday, June 27, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield, Minnesota.

Here is a link to his obituary with more details about his life and impact on the college. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends, and to the St. Olaf community. We also feel greatly blessed by Doug’s significant contributions to the work in which we are all engaged: helping undergraduate students explore and discern their many callings in life.

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