It was the summer of 1968. Big things were happening. The Doors and Hendrix were playing, to my delight, along with the Loving Spoonful and James Brown. The Beatles had come out with their Sergeant Pepper album the year before. It was a musical wonderland.
I had a girl friend. I met her in church! But she wasn’t the important thing happening in the summer. That summer I not only went to Boy Scout camp, I also went on a backpacking trip out of a Presbyterian Church camp. It changed my life.
There was another backpacker in the group from inner city
So we all were afraid of
On the way back from camp we stopped at my grandparent’s house for dinner. My grandmother went into one of her regular rants about those coloreds on welfare who had babies so they could get more money. I spoke up and told my Grandmother that she was wrong, that I had just met this great guy from
Later that summer I watched the Democratic National Convention. At this point I was vaguely against the war. I didn’t care much for the Kennedys but I thought Eugene McCarthy was great. Then I saw the Democratic Convention manipulated by the powers. I watched the police riot. All of a sudden I didn’t understand
In the spring of 1969 I became an Eagle Scout. I went off to Philmont Scout Ranch in
At Philmont you go backpacking for ten days. To the uninitiated this sounds terrible. To those of us who go camping it was a delight. About three or four days into the hike we had an afternoon off and a group of us decided to climb a nearby mesa. It was raining, but not hard. At the top of the mesa there was an abandoned ranch. The other guys went off. I sat down underneath a tree to think.
I probably fell asleep. But asleep or not I knew God had spoken to me and told me to be a minister. Personally I thought God was crazy. But I couldn’t get it out of my head and I kept thinking about how to go about being a minister. I had this weird idea in my head of getting a motorcycle and going around the country preaching. Fortunately I didn’t do that. By the way, I hated speaking in public.
If you have never been in
Anyway I got home and didn’t tell anyone about my experience on the mesa.
While I was away Mom and Dad had been out of town. My greeting when I got home was the news we were moving to
I broke up with my girlfriend, breaking her heart. I got more involved in the anti-war movement. I went to school and church. I went to a Session meeting at my church to ask if we could collect money after church for the American Friends Service Committee to help people who had had limbs blown off in the war. One of the elders complained that this would give aid and comfort to the enemy. The pastor spoke about loving your enemy. The Session voted to allow us to collect the money. And at the end of January, 1970, in the middle of my senior year in high school we moved to
Some of you like John may be too young to remember 1970. It was a mess. There were riots on college campuses. There were sit-ins and demonstrations against the war. And drugs were really, really big. So I had a problem at my new high school. Everyone knew that no one moved in the middle of their senior year in high school. The sports crowd didn’t hang around with me, (hey, there were 2,000 students in the high school!) And the druggies didn’t trust me. I was against the war and the anti war people didn’t trust me. The word on campus was that I was a narc.
I went to church. This congregation had something my old church didn’t have. It had a youth group. I went to the youth group and they accepted me. I guess they figured if you showed up at church with people who looked like parents you probably weren’t a police officer.
This youth group was special. We talked about things going on in our lives. We sang together, we prayed together, we went on CROP walks together; we went to the beach together. I’m sure they weren’t perfect but the accepted me. It was my first experience of what the Church is meant to be: a non-judgmental group of people who simply love you because of Jesus. I loved it.
Not that it changed my behavior. I was still against the war. I hadn’t had a drink yet in my whole life but I started smoking dope.
Oh, and I didn’t mention that I had been accepted and enrolled in a college in
Grace and Peace