Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, April 5, 2018


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…

Recently I saw Eunice’s obit, and Frank is already dead, so this story is safe to tell.

Frank and I were in theological school together. Most seminary students in those days were straight out of college, but we had a few second-career students. Frank was one of them. He wasn’t much older than the rest of us, because his first career had been short, but he and Eunice were definitely more mature than the rest of us. Their children were already in school.

Well, they were more mature in that way, but not in others. Eunice had grown up in a very conservative denomination. It was no small thing for her to marry out of the faith—that is, to a Methodist, one who decided to be a preacher in that faith, even. Methodists were pretty conservative themselves in those days, especially when it came to alcohol and tobacco and sex outside of marriage [nobody even thought about the possibility of drugs], but we no longer forbade dancing—especially if it were round or square—or card playing or going to movies. Those, however—dancing and card playing and movies--were the unholy trinity of sins in Eunice’s background.

Most of our seminary students were already appointed to be the pastor in small churches in WI and IN and IL and MI, some even as far away as MN and IA, because they were married, and beginning families, and needed the money, because wives didn’t work in those days, and even if they did, there were no jobs for them in those small towns. Childless wives who were school teachers or nurses were excepted from the “no job” rule, but usually not from the “no job within a thousand miles” rule.

The distances from those little towns were too long for daily commuting, so students—all male—stayed in the dorm during the week and went home to wife and family, and church, on the weekends. It almost worked. The weekends were long. We had no Monday classes, and got out at noon on Friday. It was still hard on families. [1]

So the seminary made an occasional attempt to include wives. There was an annual experience—during the week, of course—for a couple of days, when wives came to campus, went to classes with husbands, had a banquet in the cafeteria, and had a night free for a good time. For most, that meant going to a movie--a big deal since there were no theaters in their little towns of residence.

That’s where Eunice faltered. She agreed with the Methodist contention that there was nothing wrong with movies, as long as they featured Doris Day. The first year, though, she had gotten all dressed up—the way you did for movies and church in those days--but got so sick before movie time she couldn’t even go. The next year, she made it to the movie but got such a bad rash after that she had to go to the doctor. [2] You can take the girl out of fundamentalism, but it’s hard to take the fundamentalism out of the girl.

So we could not but laugh in our last year when Frank told us that their children were old enough now that Eunice could take a job. No job available in their little town, of course, but it didn’t matter, because she was a traveling saleswoman, going from store to store, and gas station to gas station, and pharmacy to pharmacy. With the trunk of her Methodist preacher’s husband full of her products. She was selling condoms.


1] I just could not stand to be away from Helen and our two little girls in Cedar Lake, IN all week so I commuted daily, 65 miles each way. Took four hours, because it was up through Hammond, IN, through Chicago, into Evanston, in the days before multilane controlled-access highways. But when I told the congregation that I had graduated from seminary after three years there and was receiving a “full time” appointment to the Wesley Foundation campus ministry in Terre Haute, most of them said, “We didn’t even know you were in seminary.”

2] We learned in Carroll Wise’s pastoral counseling course that the three physical areas where emotionally-caused illnesses are most likely to show up are gastro-intestinal, skin, and breathing. It’s too bad Eunice didn’t get to try the movies a third year; she might have gotten asthma and hit the trifecta.

No comments:

Post a Comment