(The Rev.) Lauren [Dreeland] Ackland 

A.K.A. Lackland@Gracemadison.org

At college (Radcliffe/Harvard) I majored in Fine Arts, with a specialty in medieval art history. I was married (at Cambridge City Hall) shortly after graduation to Donald Ackland, who had been a “section man” (teaching assistant — and even the rare female ones were called section men in those days!) in one of my classes, and we went to Berkeley to graduate school, where I had planned to get a doctorate in Art History. I ran out of money during the first year and dropped out, going to work for an insurance company in Oakland, but within a few months Donald’s daughter by his first marriage developed leukemia and we moved back to Cambridge to help care for her and her brother. After her death several years later we moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, where Donald had gotten a job in art book publishing. I had worked as a course assistant at Harvard Business School our first year back, but I realized I needed to get a job that paid better than that. In those days of gender-segregated want ads, I noticed that something called a “programmer” got paid the same amount whether male or female, so I went to an employment agency, aced an aptitude test they gave me (see, all that mathematical ability paid off after all!) and went to work for a company that had a training program. I worked for two large companies in Boston and one in Greenwich, and did some work toward an MBA at UConn, but didn’t finish. Not long after I had begun working for a small consulting company in Manhattan in 1976, Donald and I separated. The marriage had been a mistake from the beginning, but my stepdaughter’s illness and then a kind of inertia that set in after her death held it together until then. I moved to the city and began going back to church. I had barely attended since college, but it began to play a larger and larger role in my life. Meanwhile, I lost my job at the consulting company in the aftermath of a tragedy — the owner’s wife was murdered in their Westchester home. I took four months off to try to get some perspective on what direction my life should go. I eventually took another corporate job, but I think the handwriting was already on the wall — I chose the less lucrative of two job offers because that company was across the street from my parish, St. Bartholomew’s, and the other was downtown, a long subway ride away. Indeed, I became ever more involved in lay ministry and increasingly disturbed by the kinds of ethical compromises I found were often expected of those at my level and above in the corporate world. (And this was twenty years before we began to find out just how corrupt some big businesses are — my former company is one of the ones recently in the news.) So in 1979 I approached my rector and offered to work for the church — I thought St. Bart’s might benefit from my management skills. I joined the staff as communications director (at a 65% salary cut) in a move that, it became clear to me in retrospect, was meant to test the vocation to ordained ministry that I was still afraid to acknowledge. Sure enough, by 1980 I was beginning the pre-ordination process and in 1981 I became a postulant for holy orders and a full-time student at the General Theological Seminary, the oldest seminary of the Episcopal Church, located in Chelsea. I also began to date George Hayman, whom I had met (of course) at church. George and I were married in June of 1982, after I completed my first year of seminary. (I kept the name “Ackland” because it had been my name my whole adult and professional life, and it just felt right.) After graduation and ordination in 1984 I became curate at Church of the Ascension in Greenwich Village. AIDS hit our parish and our community very hard, and I spent most of my pastoral time there dealing with its effects. I left Ascension in 1987 to become vicar of St. Alban’s in Oakland/Franklin Lakes NJ, in the Diocese of Newark. My father had died in 1986, and this Bergen County church was only about 20 miles from Congers, where my mother was still living. As an only child, I thought it was important for me to live close to her now that she was a widow. Within two years she had bought an apartment in a retirement community in Annapolis, Maryland, and moved 250 miles away! George and I put a lot of mileage on our cars in the following years. Mother died in 1995. In 1996 I was called to be rector of Grace Church in Madison, NJ. It’s a wonderful parish in a great town and we’ve been very happy here. This past year has been difficult because of 9/11 — two of our parishioners were killed in the WTC (both of them men in their thirties, each with three children under 9) and numerous others were traumatized in one way or another, but the congregation has been wonderfully resilient and supportive. In 2000 George was elected to the Borough Council, the first Democrat elected to the council in Madison in sixteen years, and he was also champion of the Madison Golf Club the first year we belonged (I still don’t play). I serve on a number of boards and committees and am active in the diocese. We have no children, but we do have four cats, and we’re celebrating our twentieth anniversary year by going to Italy five days after the reunion.

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