I just got word that Carl Resener, the former director of the Nashville Rescue Mission, passed away today. He retired from mission work in 2000.
There are three things about the man that stand out the most in my mind.
He was mostly a ghost around the mission. It was a rare occurrence for homeless people to see him around the mission, except for the Sunday Sermon, which he always preached. All the other 13 sermons given at the mission each week, one required to receive lunch, and one required to receive a bed for the night, were given by other staff members. When Resener arrived each morning at the mission, he made a bee line for his office, and when he left for the day, he made a bee line to his car. And if you dared to stop him to talk about something, while he went to or from his car, you’d get a mostly cold shoulder from the man.
He also had a regular turnover in staff. The mission often hired exceptional chaplains and management personnel. But these people, always looking to improve conditions at the mission, would run up against the brick wall of Carl Resener, when trying to implement changes to the mission system. Frustrated, these people would soon find employment elsewhere, where their talents would be more appreciated. The only staff members with longevity at the mission were those people who made no effort to improve things, and only did what they were told. Resener was the quintessential fundamentalist christian, holding to the belief that, because he had God on his side, he was complete in his work, he needed no other help, and nothing ever needed to change.
Lastly, of all the poorly given sermons I was forced to attend, so to receive food or a bed for the night, Reseners was by far the most boring, sleep producing, and mind grating. That’s when I got into the habit of not eating lunch on Sundays.
Oh yeah, he also said that the work of AA was bad for people because they did not require people to declare Jesus to be their “higher power.” He also denied the benefits of the science of Psychiatry.
Yes, I know that some people have this superstitious belief that it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead. But really, these were the obvious features of the man, at least from the perspective of a homeless person who had to endure his “work in the name of Jesus.”