This final installment (perhaps just for now) remembering the principled stalwart Baptist Historian Dr. Richard Weeks actually harks back to his early days – student days. I find this booklet entitled “The Life Story of Humility” to be fascinating, and so obviously reflective of the character and devotion of a man who most folks only knew as their teacher, professor, and friend.
Please let us know if you enjoy this look into how the grace of God shaped him for years of fruitful service.
Dr. Dick and Uncle Elmer with “Humility”
I have been able to learn from his daughter that there are important facts and information about his pre-seminary days that may be of interest to those who loved Dr. Dick. Stay tuned.
Much later in my ministry I had the privilege of following Dr. Weeks as the teacher of the Baptist Heritage course at Maranatha Baptist Bible College in 1988. In the spring semester of that year Dr. Weeks suffered a stroke that led to his retirement. I came to MBBC as VP of Administration to replace my good friend Jim Munro and was also given the assignment of replacing Dr. Weeks in the curriculum. He had taught Baptist History and Baptist Polity since the founding of the college, but in the fall of 1988 those courses were combined to a single course entitled Baptist Heritage.
I inherited Dr. Weeks’ class notes and benefited greatly from them as I fashioned the combined course. From his class notes I learned of the clear distinction that he drew between the teaching of Baptist successionism, which he rejected, to his view that he called Spiritual Kinship. He believed, from his lifelong study of the historical record, that there were Baptistic like churches down through the ages since the 1st Century churches
Unique to Dr. Weeks’ teaching was that he developed the acrostic BRAPSIS to enumerate the Baptist distinctives. While many teachers have used the word BAPTIST or BAPTISTS to teach the distinctives, Dr. Weeks felt those acrostics did not reflect the logical flow of one distinctive into another.
In 2013 the Maranatha Advantage publication honored and noted Dr. Weeks’ singular contribution to the distinctive Baptistic emphasis of the college:
“He created a list of what he thought the key Baptist distinctives were, without trying to force them into the acrostic grid,” Dr. Saxon commented. “He also established an order to these distinctives, considering not so much that some distinctives are more important than others, but rather that some distinctives tend to flow out of other distinctives.” “From the foundational beliefs—the Bible as the sole authority of faith and practice, and a regenerated and immersed church membership—flow the autonomy of the local church, the priesthood of the believer, and soul liberty,” Dr. Saxon explained. “In essence, these become the pillars for the two ordinances and finally, the two separations (separation of church and state and separation ethically and ecclesiastically).”
Dr. Weeks was quoted as saying, “Yes, true Baptists are different! We are different because of certain important beliefs and certain important doctrinal emphases.”
I remember that in the early 1980s, on one of my visits to Maranatha, I went to Dr. Weeks’ office to ask him a question. Upon entering his office, I quickly realized it was partially a bookstore devoted to selling used books inexpressively to students. Dick Weeks was a certified bibliophile, and he had created a pipeline for British booksellers of theological books to supply Maranatha students at very reasonable prices.
I wanted to ask him a question about a large volume that I had purchased for a few dollars at a used bookstore. I queried, “Dr. Weeks, have you heard of book entitled, A treatise upon Baptist Church jurisprudence, by Marshall?” He immediately shot back, “Does it have an embossed insignia that looks like a star on the cover?” I replied, “It does!” With a twinkle in his eye, he told me that I had made a very valuable purchase. When I retired in 2014 I gave that book to a colleague who is a historian and someone I knew would value the treasure.
Another aspect of Dick Weeks’ personality and contribution was his love for athletics. He was well known for his enthusiastic support for the Maranatha sports teams. In recognition of his steadfast loyalty the Maranatha Athletic Department Hall of Fame posthumously inducted him in 2004. The college publication at that time gave this explanation:
“Though short in height he was large in stature as the legendary cheer person at Maranatha athletic events. No one else could whip up the crowd like Dr. Weeks when he would charge around the gym wielding his “Spirit Sword” bringing the students to their feet. For this trait he was ushered into the Maranatha Athletic Department Hall of Fame in 2004. The citation for his induction includes these words, “Dr. Weeks’ spirit and enthusiasm for Maranatha Crusader sports were contagious. Whether in Chapel, pep rallies, on the field or on the court, Dr. Weeks would cheer faithfully and fervently for the Crusaders. From his stocking cap and letter jacket to his ‘Spirit Sword’, Dr. Weeks exemplified the true meaning and spirit of Maranatha Baptist Bible College Athletics.”
In 1993, in the months before Dr. Weeks died, I went to see him at the nursing care facility in Freeport, Illinois, where he was residing. For almost two years I was part of a four-man team that served as rotating interim pastors at a church a few miles north of Freeport. I visited him on two occasions that I remember. The first time he was rather bright and sunny and we enjoyed some good fellowship remembering earlier days. The second time I visited he was in a definite declining physical state.
I remember going back to Watertown and telling Dr. Weniger, President at Maranatha and long-time my boss. “Bud, if you want to see Dr. Weeks you better go soon. I don’t think it will be long before he goes to heaven.” As I remember, Dr. Weniger did take the time to make that trip.
Dr. Weeks’ memorial service was held at Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown, Wisconsin where he had worshipped and served. My recollection was that it was a blessed service of remembrance and rejoicing. Dr. David Cummins, a kindred spirit and lover of Baptist history, was one of the speakers. He told some warm stories about Dr. Dick that brought laughter and fond memories to the gathered friends, colleagues, and former students. It was one of those joyous memorial services I lovingly remember.
Dr. Weeks was a rare blend of genuine scholarship and spiritual mentoring. He was a choice servant of God who was short in stature, but who demonstrated a fidelity and devotion to a big God. He loved His Lord; he was devoted to his wife who was the consummate helpmeet, and to his daughter who has endeavored to faithfully carry on his legacy. But finally, all can say, he poured his life into the students. All of them.
I consider it distinct honor that he was my friend. Ps. 71:18
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, 1957, my sixteen-year-old life was permanently altered. On that afternoon I returned home from school to find our living room filled with friends of my dad. They gracefully informed me that my dad was taken to heaven the day before in an airplane crash in Northern Ontario.
Included in that group were Myron and Thelma Cedarholm, Pastor Vernon Lyons and his assistant John Musser, and Pastor Richard Weeks. Dick Weeks had been a close friend of my father since enrolling as a student at Northern Baptist Seminary in 1941. That was the year of my birth, and the year my father became Senior Pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church at the age of twenty-nine. This was the seminary church, and where many of the faculty and administration were members and leaders.
Dick Weeks, six years younger than my dad, began to develop a friendship with my father during that time. Fifteen years later that relationship grew when they both served as pastors on the south side of Chicago. My dad was at Marquette Manor Baptist Church, and Dick was at Donald Smith Memorial Baptist Church of Oak Lawn. It was natural for me to see these close friends rally to our home on that traumatic day. I don’t remember too much about that afternoon, but as I reflect over the years, I realize how blessed our family was to have faithful pastoral friends come to our side during our time of need.
(To the right the parsonage at 3411 W. 71st, Place, Chicago, IL.)
After graduating from Northern, Dick Weeks went on to earn a master’s degree in history at the prestigious University of Chicago. He also completed all the residency requirements at Northern for the Th.D. degree. My father had earned that degree in 1943, but by the late 1940s the seminary had fully embraced denominational loyalty. Because Dick Weeks did not remain loyal to the Convention, he was deprived of receiving his degree, although he had fulfilled all the requirements except for the completion of his dissertation.
Recently Dr. Weeks’ daughter, Ruth, wrote these words of explanation to me:
“He had finished all his ThD residence work…and was working on his thesis while pastoring the church plant in suburban Oak Lawn, which he helped start. He was almost done with the thesis, but not quite…….so he applied for an extension, as did others in his cohort. Extensions were granted to the other applicants, but not to him.
“He felt it was because he had left the ABC (Convention), and helped start the CBA of A. There was no way for him to start over – he thought God’s call to be a seminary professor was forever lost to him. It was a tough time. Sometime in the early 60s, Central Seminary published his thesis in a little booklet, entitled “The Keys to the Kingdom.” Around that same time, Pillsbury gave him the D.D. I’ve always looked at that conferral as the righting of a wrong, rather than an “honorary” degree. I think many of those in the CBA felt the same.”
Many years later I became aware of a little booklet that supplied invaluable insight into the formative ministry years of Dr. Weeks’ life. That publication, entitled The Story of Humility, came into my possession and it tells the account of his summer ministry exploits while a seminary student. The story told by classmate Elmer Strauss begins with this introduction, “It was a cold January evening in 1944 when Dick knocked on my dormitory door. He came in, ‘plunked’ down on the bed, and said, “Elmer, do you have any plans for the summer?”
The booklet then unfolds the adventurous tales of summer ministries by a team of Northern students, led by Dick and Elmer. For several summers they tramped all over the sparsely populated western Dakota regions as a gospel team. Especially intriguing is the account of how they acquired a 1931 Model A Ford automobile they named Humility as their transportation to traverse the rough dirt roads of the still wild Dakota west of the WWII years.
It is hard to believe that on U.S. Highway 18 the pavement abruptly came to an end and became a single lane of mud ruts. They recount this incident, “Two cars on the edge of the pavement had stopped and their drivers were putting ‘ice chains’ (better known as mud chains in the Dakotas) on their rear tires.” They go on to say, “Actually we didn’t have to steer the car because the ruts were so deep, we couldn’t get out of them.” As they journeyed westward, they would often need to get out and literally push the car forward in excessively muddy spots.
Their ministry escapades are worth reading. (Dr. Dick – Part 3 will be a link to “The Story of Humility.”) Their summer ministry of several years grew into a Bible teaching and memorization organization for children called The Challenger Club that lasted for many years. It was conducted by several members of the ministry team via old fashioned snail mail correspondence.
Years later I became involved in a noteworthy experience with Dr. Weeks during the week when Dr. Cedarholm resigned from the presidency of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in April of 1968. On Thursday afternoon of that fateful week, Fred Moritz and I were going about the campus listening to the many people milling about asking questions and discussing the events of the week. Fred and I had been dorm mates in college and were reconnecting after being in the ministry for several years. Fred said to me, “Let’s go see what Dr. Weeks has to say.” I thought that was a great idea and so we headed across the campus to the little gym where Dr. Weeks had been assigned his office. We were familiar with that building because part of one semester it was our temporary dormitory while Clearwaters Hall was being built.
We entered the small hallway and knocked on the door of the only office in that building. We heard a “come in” and opened the door to find Dr. Weeks behind his desk, and Dr. Peter Mustric sitting in a chair in front of the desk. We said something like, “Oh, excuse us, we did not know you were busy,” but Dr. Mustric said, “No, come in boys. We are about to call Dr. Clearwaters, and we’d like to have some witnesses.” Or something to that effect.
I knew Dr. Mustric well. In fact, my pastor, Bud Weniger, and I were house guests at that time with him at Cedarholm’s presidential residence on campus. Dr. Mustric was an interesting individual. He was an optometrist, hence a Doctor of Optometry, who then went into the ministry. In addition, he was a bachelor, and pastor at the First Baptist Church of Rockford, Illinois, which was an influential church at that time.
He was tall, dignified, and professional, but always friendly and gregarious. He proceeded to place a call to Dr. Clearwaters while Fred and I sat in on one side of the phone conversation. All I remember was that Dr. Weeks kept writing out questions for Peter to ask the good doctor on the other end of the line. After a while Doc Clearwaters evidently got rather animated and raised his voice so that Peter pulled the phone from his ear, and pleaded with Doc to calm down. He explained that he was only asking questions to gain an understanding of the disagreement.
It was a surreal experience for two young guys in the ministry. Fred was pastor in Oregon, Illinois, and I was an assistant pastor in Normal. Illinois. We never forgot that encounter. As weeks and months played out Dr. Mustric and Dr. Weeks wound up on different sides of the issue that brought Maranatha Baptist Bible College into existence. I know that on that day they were just two friends trying to find common ground for service in the Lord’s work.
As a senior in high school my pastor, Bryce Augsburger, took me to the college days retreat at Pillsbury College. It was at that time I first met the new president of Pillsbury, Dr. Monroe Parker. He visited our home later that spring for a meal while preaching at Marquette Manor Baptist in Chicago, where my father had been pastor until he was taken to heaven about 18 months previously. I remember telling Dr. Parker that I was going to Pillsbury and would form a quartet to travel in ministry. I remember that he wisely cautioned me to focus on my studies and allow the ministry opportunities to develop as I matured in college. Well, maybe he was even a little more forceful than that. He put me in my place, and I deserved it.
But I did form the quartet within the early weeks at Pillsbury, and it included friend Hugh Rodman from my high school quartet, and Roger Creamer, another acquaintance from the Chicago area. We traveled all over Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin during our freshmen year. One of our great privileges was accompanying Dr. Parker to meetings in South Dakota. I will never forget him stuffing peanuts in Coke and teaching us that southern delicacy. We had a ball with him!
Dr. Parker was not a big man, but he was muscular; compact and powerful in body, spirit, and spiritual dynamism. Once at a student activity event he performed a tumbler’s handstand and popped back up to the amazement of the students, and probably to the consternation of his wife and the faculty. It was through his athletic prowess that he acquired his nickname “Monk” when he was a football player in college before transferring to Bob Jones. In his autobiography, Through Sunshine & Shadows, he tells the story how his nickname was changed from “Mon” to “Monk” after he was kidnapped by a rival team that shaved his head as a prank. He said the name stuck, and I always heard him called Monk by his close friends and peers, like Evangelists Fred Brown, Jim Mercer, and others.
Dr. Parker was primarily a preacher, but he was an accomplished scholar too, holding a Ph.D. in Old Testament. He was the student of Dr. Charles Brokenshire, an outstanding linguist with an education featuring Princeton and the U. of Chicago. I once had a class with Dr. Parker that was called Lives of Great Preachers. We read some books, but the course mainly focused on Dr. Parker’s recollection of personal interaction with people like Billy Sunday, Homer Rodeheaver, and scholars like Brokenshire and some notable liberals who he knew from graduate study at several institutions of higher learning.
Monroe Parker was definitely a preacher, but he was also a leader, excellent administrator, and engaging personality. He was fascinating because he incorporated a slight lisp into his blend of cultured rhetoric and fervent evangelistic preaching. He could teach the Bible with theological clarity and expositional depth. Over many months he preached in college chapel a series on the book of Genesis. He dealt knowledgably with all the grammatical and historical issues in the text, and yet found evangelistic fire in every passage that he expounded. As students we respected his fervency and passion. No one went to Pillsbury during that era that was not impacted by Dr. Parker.
Years later I heard a Baptist World Mission missionary tell how Dr. Parker accompanied him to speak with bureaucratic officials about an issue they were encountering in country. The missionary said that even though he had to translate all of the good doctor’s communications, the national officials realized and recognized Dr. Parker’s statesman capabilities. Resolution was achieved because of Dr. Parker’s gifts of leadership and communication. He was a formidable person, but also very interested in students and common people everywhere.
I had several occasions to learn of his directness as an administrator, but also witnessed his personal involvement in rescuing students from their immaturity. As a sophomore I became drawn into an incident where I was nearly shipped. I was on the basketball team, but was injured and went to the Twin Cities on a Friday night when our team was playing. Dr. Parker noticed I was not there and wanted to know why? I went to participate in a ministry activity in Minneapolis, but became an unknowing participant in breaking the rules by being in a vehicle without meeting proper chaperone requirements. In that car was the daughter of the chairman of the board – which complicated the matter.
Dr. Parker was not happy with me, but he made sure that I got enough demerits to bring me very close to expulsion, but able to keep my nose clean for the remaining few weeks of the semester. In a later year he believed that I was the source of campus discontent that reached a pastor who was being critical of him. On that occasion he called me into his office and confronted me in a stern manner. I assured him that I was not the source of the criticism, and he took my word for it. I gained more respect for him because he came to me personally and directly. That was Dr. Parker – he was straight up with conflict and problems. I benefited much by learning how to handle conflict from that experience.
About three years after graduating I confessed to him that after leaving the college I heard and listened to criticism of him based on information I came to realize was untrue and not possible. He was very gracious, and let me know that was the kind of misinformation we had to deal with in ministry. Once again, he taught me a valuable lesson in grace and restraint. He was a man of principal and character.
I cherish this note he inscribed when he autographed my copy of his autobiography Through Sunshine & Shadows.
And he was his own man. In 1975 I hosted the 55th annual meeting of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship at Faith Baptist, in St. Paul, just after joining the FBF board. Our people did a magnificent job providing for all the guests in our newly expanded church building. One of the men furnished a lounge where the speakers could relax and fellowship together.
During that time I was in a group of board members and Myron Cedarholm got talking about pulling out of speaking at the Tennessee Temple commencement. He was telling this small group that he told Dr. Roberson that he felt he would need to warn the graduates in that ceremony about certain current issues. Dr. Roberson told Cedar that they didn’t do that kind of thing at Temple. He just didn’t like to criticize. So, Dr. Cedarholm graciously backed out of the speaking engagement. Dr. Parker was sitting there, and said, “Well, I wondered why Lee called me so late to speak at their commencement.” And Dr. Parker went and preached.
Monroe Parker was his own man. He was respected by leaders and people in many different camps. He was a man who ministered in and among varied groups that made up fundamentalism in his era. He triumphed through the trial of losing his first wife in an auto accident, and losing his second wife Marjorie in 1981. God then brought Ruby into his life in 1983. We became closer friends with Ruby after Dr. Parker went to heaven, because she was from Wilson, NC, about 20 miles from where we lived in Rocky Mount, NC. I preached a number of the times in the church where she and her first husband worshiped and served faithfully. All of these connections and memories are blessed.
In 1985 Dr. Rammel invited the FBF to hold its annual meeting on the campus of Pillsbury College. I was not able to attend that meeting because it was during the time that our family was moving to northern Virginia to take up my new duties with AACS. It was during this meeting that the historic photograph of the four presidents of Pillsbury was taken. I treasure that picture and keep it among my memorabilia.
Cedar was a character. He was full of enthusiasm, responsibility, loyalty, and determination. Doc was equally a unique character. He was shrewd, brilliant, scholarly and definitely determined. I was enriched knowing both them in a very close and personal way.
As I come to the conclusion of my thoughts I desire that the reader contemplate two things for me.
First, I would like you to offer any corrections of fact that you might see in my account. I wrote strictly from my remembrances, not from reading what others have written about the two men or the institutions/organizations that they led and influenced.
Second, I would really welcome thoughts and anecdotes from your experience with either man, or about them both. I am not interested in rehashing the past, although I have offered a few opinions in my discourse about the history surrounding the conflict between the two men. Insights and perspectives are welcome; placing blame and recrimination are of no interest to me. I’ve struggled enough in the past over the fallout of these conflicts and I do not need to go there again.
Lessons & Thoughts
I appreciated his commitment to the local church – in doctrine & practice.
I appreciated his clear, consistent & non-sensational dispensational emphasis.
I appreciated his reasonable and vigorous advocacy and defense of Biblical Christianity.
I wish he would have traveled and promoted Central Seminary.
I wish he had been dedicated to working more with other leaders.
I wish he had built coalitions rather than focusing on differences.
I appreciated his deep and personal interest in people — youngsters, pastors, church members and me.
I appreciated and marveled at his enthusiasm, energy and commitment to his ministry, friends and organizations that he represented.
I appreciated that he accepted me for who I was, and that he grew to respect my convictions, decisions & relationships/friendships.
I wish he had been more careful and nuanced about some of his positions.
I wish he would have let others share the load – delegate more.
I wish he had slowed down and preserved some health and energy for the end of his life.
It was in the backdrop of all of this I accepted the call to be pastor of Faith Baptist Church, in St. Paul, Minnesota, in November of 1970. The church had been established under the Planting and Watering Program of the MBA. However, the previous pastor Joel Kettenring had been a professor at Pillsbury who left the school a year before the split. His desire was to remain friendly with both sides of the conflict, but that was not easy to do. I endeavored to do the same thing when I arrived at Faith, and I kept up that spirit for my eight year pastorate. Our church had several different strains in the membership, but all were willing to follow my leadership of being open to both Pillsbury and Maranatha. But the church did not sever its relationship to the MBA, although we avoided being drawn into conflict.
As the ministry at Faith grew we emphasized the independent nature of our church polity and we opened up the church to schools, mission agencies, and other churches that were consistent with that independent Baptist orientation. I also reached out to churches within and without of the MBA orbit when I established an area-wide youth roller skating activity during my first year. That monthly ministry drew 30-40 churches from Minnesota and Western Wisconsin for an evangelistic thrust that especially helped the small churches.
After several years I determined to host a one-day Youth Conclave in the Twin City area. This event was fashioned after the annual state-wide conclave that I had administered in the Normal, Illinois ministry. The MBA held an annual youth rally, but it was not well attended and was not utilized by the few larger churches in the association. The Youth Conclave I organized was scheduled for the spring and the MBA rally was always held in the fall. Our first Youth Conclave was a smashing success with over 300 in attendance and with several MBA churches included.
I had invited my good friend Evangelist Paul Levin to be the speaker for the occasion. Paul was a personal friend from the Central Illinois area, and he had previously held evangelistic meetings for me at Faith. At the end of the day Connie and I took Paul out to dinner and then he asked if we could take him to the evangelistic meetings at Fourth Baptist, where his good friend Ron Comfort was preaching. So after dinner we headed for north Minneapolis. After the service Ron asked if we could go out for some fellowship. When we got to the restaurant Ron told us that Doc almost fell out of his seat on the platform when he saw us come in to the back of the auditorium. Ron wanted to know what caused Doc to be so exercised on that evening. We told him about our Conclave that day and explained that Doc must have seen that event as a threat to his leadership in Minnesota.
Sometime after that our assistant pastor, Wayne Vawter, finished his course of study at Central Seminary and graduated with his seminary degree. Wayne was from my youth group in Normal, and I had enticed him to transfer from San Francisco Seminary to join our church staff and complete his studies at Central. Wayne was a top-notch student and was an excellent representative of Faith Baptist Church while a student at Central. But Wayne was a graduate of Maranatha, and he was a member of that first student body in Watertown that left Pillsbury for the new school. He was a perfect person to help establish the principle of appreciation and respect for Doc and Central Seminary in spite of any differences of opinion on past issues.
At Wayne’s graduation an interesting and humorous incident occurred that further illustrates Doc’s personality and spirit. After the commencement ceremonies I was circulating around the auditorium foyer talking with friends and acquaintances. As the crowd thinned – my son Chad and I happened to encounter Doc. The Doc was still wearing his academic regalia, which included a large medallion that hung around his neck. Doc greeted Chad and me in his typical charming way. Chad looked up at him, and pointing to the medallion, said, “What is that?” Doc could be very gregarious with precocious children, and he responded, “This is the symbol of being President Emeritus of Pillsbury College.” He then followed up and said with a twinkle in his eye, “And you’re going to Pillsbury some day, aren’t you?” Chad in all of his mischievous naiveté said, “No, I’m going to Maranatha!” The Doc didn’t miss a beat and he said, “Well, that’s a good school too.”
Before I left St. Paul in 1978 I was able to persuade Dr. Rammel, then Pillsbury’s president, to bring the college choir to Faith for a concert. Several years before that I had invited him to come to our church, but after initially agreeing to come he later declined. I am quite sure that Doc discouraged him from coming to our church. Then in the final months of my pastorate I was able to take about 40 men to the MBA annual Men’s Retreat. This was a first for our church and was the opening of better relations with the state association in the years following.
A few years later I had moved on to the position of Executive Director of the American Association of Christian Schools and we opened an office for AACS in the Washington, D.C. area. In 1986 Faith Baptist in St. Paul invited me to participate in the 25th Anniversary celebration for the church. At that time I reached out to Faith’s pastor, Chuck Johnston, to see if he could secure an opportunity for me to speak in Central Seminary’s chapel during that week. This would be my opportunity to close, in an important way, the breach that existed between me and my seminary alma mater since my days in St. Paul when my independency had placed me on the outside.
On the day I arrived for chapel I was thrilled that 86 year old Dr. Clearwaters was at the chapel service that day. As soon as the Doc saw me he made a bee-line for me and treated me like a long-lost son. He took me to his office – at that time mostly ceremonial – and talked to me about my ministry, and asked about “his old friend” Al Janney. Al was the president of AACS and my boss. Al Janney was also one of those gifted men who had risen to the top of the independent Baptist movement. Time can heal wounds and I was glad for that.
During my years at Faith Baptist, and later at AACS, I made many trips to the Maranatha campus, and many to Pillsbury. Actually, during my time in St. Paul we went to the Owatonna campus for athletic events or student programs, partly due to the fact that my sister Priscilla was student at the college. But never was there an invitation to speak in chapel or teach a class at Pillsbury. At Maranatha I was asked by Cedar to come at least yearly to preach in chapel and teach the preacher’s boy class.
When I became connected with AACS I conducted annually a national basketball tournament for Christian schools on the Maranatha campus. Still through all of these years I endeavored to keep a good relation with Pillsbury and Central. Several times I reached out to the leaders of both institutions with offers to help them in various ways. I was directly involved in the establishment of the American Association of Christian Colleges and Seminaries. Dr. Cedarholm and Dr. Rammel were the two who made the motion to form the organization and to officially repair the institutional breech that had existed since the beginning of Maranatha.
I must say that during the years of Cedar’s administration at Maranatha I had some differences or minor incidents with him. Back in the early days of the 70s Cedar, and his administration, became very conscious and reactive to what they believed were threatening influences from the beat-nick, hippie culture that was sweeping America. Some of the reactions were understandable; others left me, and many other Maranatha supporters, scratching our heads. One time I showed up to preach in chapel wearing new wire-rimmed glasses that my optometrist had prescribed. They were light and wearable – but Cedar evidently considered them sinister and problematic. I simply took them off when I preached. Another time, he didn’t like the dress shoes that I wore that were smooth toed zipper-boots. That time I held my ground and didn’t go shoeless.
I never took offense to these attitudes and tendencies that Cedar had about fashions fads and cultural clashes. I could certainly see that students could go to excess, and I gained some appreciation for the difficult task that Christian educators face to resist truly unbiblical influences and trends. Still it was a time when reasonable institutional standards were sometimes elevated to a level of spiritual importance that caused lines of demarcation between scriptural commands and declared institutional standards to become blurred.
Finally, I had a difficult disagreement with him that was not resolved until many years had passed. Cedar had originally strongly lobbied against my dating relationship with Connie. He thought I should date around at Pillsbury and he later thought that Connie should attend Bible college for at least a year before we married. I keep a hand written letter from him where he waged that argument. But he was wrong – and I knew it at the time. Still I always respected his fatherly concern and did not reject him with bitterness. Connie won Thelma over way before she won Cedar, but in the end he came to realize that my Connie was God’s special gift to me.
Doc & Cedar
I’ve come to realize that both of these men were gifts to me and to countless others. They were human, and therefore fallible, but they were gifted men of God who blessed the lives of many.
In the winter of 1966 there was a conflict brewing between the Doc and Don Nelson at 4th Baptist. Nelson, my primary mentor and influence on me at the time, was a different breed of pastoral staff member. He and the Doc had been very close, but Don’s penchant for dramatic escapades and occasional conflicts with parents tested the tranquility of the church on several occasions.
Ultimately, Nelson decided to seek a new area of ministry and he was offered and accepted a teaching position at Bob Jones University. But after a trip to the campus in Greenville Nelson determined BJU was not a good fit for him. However, he had already announced his proposed leaving and that resulted in a tenuous situation back at 4th. It is very difficult for an assistant, albeit a controversial one, to walk back a resignation without adding fuel to an already simmering fire. (Years later Don nursed Doc back to health in Florida, when the Clearwaters were on vacation.)
In the midst of this time Doc or the leaders of the church – or both – gave Nelson time to sort out his future ministry options. Subsequently, Nelson received a call from Littleton, Colorado, to become pastor of the Caley Ave. Baptist Church in the suburban Denver area. During the four months that all of this was transpiring I was called upon to step in as a substitute for Nelson in leading the very large youth program that Don had built over nine years of ministry. That wasn’t a problem to me because I had already been serving as Nelson’s chief lieutenant anyway. Still it was a dicey position for a 24 year old to occupy.
However, that winter, I was contacted by Bud Weniger, at that time a young pastor in a growing church in Normal, Illinois, who was seeking a youth pastor. In the middle of this troubled time, one of the seminary professors approached me to say that I should hold my options open because I was probably going to be asked to be the next youth pastor at 4th Baptist. I knew that I did not want to be in the midst of an unsettled church conflict, or to follow the man who was a legendary youth pastor. The Lord rescued me when I received a call from the Calvary Baptist Church in Normal, Illinois about two weeks before the 4th Baptist position became definitely open.
I was very glad to be able go to a new ministry and to basically start from scratch in my first full-time pastoral experience. I remember going to Doc Clearwaters after receiving the call from Normal to ask his advice, or get his blessing. The only question he asked me was whether Calvary could take care of me and Connie with an adequate salary. I truly appreciated his concern and wisdom.
Doc knew the background and circumstances of the church in Illinois. Calvary was a relatively new church at the time that resulted from one of those notorious court cases where he, and my dad, had testified at ten years previously. Doc evidently wasn’t sure that church was established enough to handle the financial responsibility of an assistant pastor. But it was, and God was exceedingly faithful and we had four fruitful years of ministry at Calvary.
A year before we moved to Illinois Connie and I were married on June 26, 1965 in a ceremony conducted by Doc Clearwaters in the Fourth Baptist Church. That evening was also memorable because at 4:00 p.m. WCTS-FM, the radio voice of Central Seminary, went on the air for the first time. I remember going into the Doc’s office before the start of the ceremony and seeing him seated at his desk enjoying the new station broadcasting recorded musical selections. He was listening to a FM radio that my seminary classmate Glen Eveland had procured in quantity from a wholesaler. Doc marketed those radios for a $25 gift to the station and we bought one on the spot.
Many church members and listeners bought those radios in the opening months of the station’s history. I became the first newscaster for the 5:00 o’clock news show and shared that time-slot with Gary Gillmore, my fellow church janitor and seminary classmate. Gary read the sports and I read the news and weather. We would drop our mops at about 4:45 and run to the AP teletype machine and rip our copy just in time for the 5:00 hour.
I also remember that Myron Cedarholm had been announced as the new president of Pillsbury just a few weeks before our wedding. Of course, Uncle Myron and Aunt Thelma were at our wedding – they went to the wedding of every young person they influenced; that was just the way it was. At the reception that night I remember talking to him about his new appointment, and I also remember realizing he had a whirlwind schedule of preaching, traveling and moving ahead of him before the fall term began. I had no idea what the years in the immediate future would bring.
However, it was during those years in Normal that my extended world, the bigger world of family, friendships and ministry connections, went from being predictable and tranquil to being unpredictable and topsy-turvy. It all was wrapped up in the conflict that came to the forefront due to the leadership and personalities of these two indomitable men.
In the spring of 1967 and 1968 Bud Weniger and I made the trek to the Pillsbury campus during college days activities with a group of our church young people. I remember on both occasions we stayed at the Cedarholm’s residence on campus. The large stately home on the northwest corner of the campus had been obtained by the college as the President’s home. Little did I realize that almost 30 years later Connie and I would occupy that home for one year during my short-lived presidency at Pillsbury. But that is another story.
The mid 1960s was a time of tumult and change in what had been the Conservative Baptist Movement. It was at this time that Myron Cedarholm left the position of General Director of the CBA to become the president of Pillsbury. His transition from leadership of the CBA also marked a significant step in the shift among many of the Central Regional CBA churches toward an independency from the association, and an independent spirit in general. Some churches coalesced around the new World Conservative Baptist Mission, and others moved toward the New Testament Association (NTA). Others simply became markedly independent, although most continued relationships with the various state associations that had been part of the CBA. Some pastors found their main fellowship in the annual meeting of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, which had been the Conservative Baptist Fellowship of the late 40s and 50s.
In my opinion, all of this change gave rise to different views of leadership strategy and organizational structure within this increasingly independent milieu of the emerging and changing movement. Doc and Cedar were at the center of these developments. Doc was the leading proponent for the associational philosophy or emphasis of the NTA. Cedar ultimately became more of a rallying point for the more independent spirit developing among many of the churches. Again, in my opinion, these two different strains of thought, or emphasis, would play into the change that would come in the late 60s and into the 1970s.
Dr. Cedarholm inherited the Bob Jones style discipline and demerit approach that Dr. Parker had instituted at Pillsbury. It should be noted that it was Dr. Parker’s system, and not just a Bob Jones concept, because he had been part of the administration at Bob Jones that had structured the disciplinary program. I must say that when I was a student at Pillsbury I was not particularly in love with the discipline system. However, even through my immature thinking at the time I could grasp and appreciate that the goal of the system was to build character. Still, my main thought pattern was thus: I have so many of demerits to spend and so I must spend them wisely.
My experience was that students who were generally in agreement with the school’s spiritual purpose were also students who could submit to the discipline system. Students definitely chaffed who were determined to break the rules and live outside of rules of the college. But there always could be the human aspect involved in administering the rules and confronting potential rule breakers.
I’m not sure how well Cedar understood the discipline system before he became president. I know, from a conversation with Dr. Parker in 1966, that the two men had very little time together during the transition period, but I know that Cedar was committed to backing the disciplinary committee that Dr. Parker had left in place. Thus it was in 1968 a conflict came to head over an action taken by the discipline committee, and backed by Dr. Cedarholm. I really don’t know any of the specifics about the disciplinary action that caused the crisis that followed. I only know about what I saw and heard about the fallout from the resulting clash.
In my understanding evidently the board of trustees urged Cedar to either rescind or review a disciplinary action taken by the discipline committee of the college. After the committee completed its review and reaffirmed their original decision a cleavage opened up that resulted in Cedar’s resignation. All of this transpired a few days ahead of the 1968 college days recruiting event on campus. On Monday and Tuesday of that week I attended an Illinois association meeting in Clinton, Illinois, where the phone calls from Minnesota were hot and heavy. A few days later Bud Weniger and I arrived to a Pillsbury campus that was in turmoil. I don’t want to re-litigate the conflict of that time, but I’d like to add a perspective that can possibly give light to why the new school that resulted from this split fared well in the years following.
At the time of the split I believe the folks in Minnesota, and the churches that remained supportive of Doc, tended to interpret the conflict as being about discipline and board governance. Pillsbury proponents declared and defended the idea that it was a board run school, as opposed to being a president run school. This was especially significant because the Pillsbury board was elected from the membership of the association of churches, and therefore the college was under the control of the MBA.
Another issue that surfaced early, but faded in following years, was the charge that Cedar was a poor administrator. I believe that idea came from a self deprecating remark Cedar made at the time of his investiture, where he was comparing himself to Monroe Parker. That kind of comment and expression was very much in keeping with the Cedar that I knew my whole life. He was always promoting someone else. As the years rolled on the success of Maranatha seemed to dim the force of that charge.
What I do remember vividly from that time period was the fact that hundreds of pastors and churches rallied to support Myron Cedarholm. I attended a hastily called meeting, by Dr. Don Camp in Anderson, Indiana, within days of Cedar’s resignation. At that meeting, attended by about 60 preachers, Don Camp made a strong pitch to Cedar to come to Anderson to establish a college.
The issue for these folks was a desire to have a school that would be responsive to the churches and not be solely under the patronage of the Minnesota Baptist Association (MBA). Whether the discipline issue was a big item to them I don’t know, although I would imagine most of those folks would be supportive of the philosophy of Monroe Parker and Myron Cedarholm – because they knew both of those men intimately. They did not know Doc that well. They knew him by reputation, but Doc had not been in their churches and homes like Cedar and Dr. Parker.
The contrast between the two friends, and co-laborers, was marked. On the one hand Doc was a brilliant orator and disciplined intellectual, while Cedar was a dynamic promoter and consummate people person. They were different, but both were smart with significant educational backgrounds. Each earned Master’s degrees from prestigious educational institutions. Cedar held a Th.M. from Princeton Seminary and Doc a M.A. from the University of Chicago. Not surprisingly the two men were very different in their personalities, gifts and abilities. Those realities should not be unexpected, but they obviously played into the conflicts that developed.
I revered both men in my formative days. I’ve often said that Doc Clearwaters was the most brilliant man I knew up close and personal. He seemed to possess what was popularly referred to as a photographic memory. I don’t know whether that trait came from innate capabilities or from studious discipline. It always was amazing to hear him launch into long passages of epic poetry, or recite segments of scholarly works in the course of a sermon.
He preached without notes, and advocated that practice in both informal and classroom settings. It was said that he had extensive written outlines and notes, but that he always left them on his study desk and entered the pulpit with only his Bible. There were times when you could tell he was rehearsing, or reviewing, his message points while in the middle of a sermon. However, it was not obvious whether he was doing that to aid his memory recall or simply using repetition as an effective tool in his sermon delivery. He was a master at commanding the pulpit with language and timing. Because his services were broadcast for years he had the ability to always draw a cogent conclusion in accordance with the large clock and radio cues.
In contrast, Cedar was more of a barnstorming preacher, to draw on an analogy from the days of touring actors and speakers and later depicting entertaining stunt pilots. For almost 20 years he stormed back and forth across America promoting the cause of church planting and church growth. Sometimes he would preach a series of evangelistic meetings in a revival tent, but most often he traveled from church to church inspiring, motivating and promoting the cause of Christ.
Cedar was constantly in motion until he finally retired in 1983. Doc was much more careful about his health and energy. Cedar spent his energy on ministry travel, preaching, promoting and most of all on people. For many years I never saw him slow down, and it ultimately caught up with him.
During the 70s I would usually travel once every school year to Maranatha to preach for a Monday chapel service. I would leave St. Paul after the evening service and arrive on the campus sometime past mid-night. Never once did Cedar return home to Watertown before we pulled in to the college parking lot. He was always out serving in the churches weekend after weekend.
Doc was more of a homebody and dedicated to his consistent ministry in the church, the MBA, Pillsbury and Central Seminary. I once visited the Clearwaters home before 9 pm and the Doc was already in bedtime attire wearing a very dignified robe. Doc was very careful with his vacation time, and never took time off during the beautiful Minnesota summers when everyone else was going to the lake or on vacation trip. He always took his vacation in February – and went to warm Florida for most of the month.
Both men were fiercely loyal to the local church. Both taught a high view of the biblical importance of the New Testament doctrine of the local church. Doc was very rarely missing from the pulpit of the Fourth Baptist Church, unless it was for his winter vacation time, or because he had invited an evangelist or other guest speaker to preach. He taught local church importance by both precept and example.
Cedar, on the other hand, rarely had the privilege of attending the church where he had his membership. He was always on the go – but, always among the churches. One of the keys to the early growth of Maranatha Baptist Bible College was directly related to the number of dinner tables Cedar had put his feet under in parsonages across America. He knew pastors in an intimate way, and he knew their children just as intimately. He was coaching preacher’s kids, deacon’s kids, and other church member’s kids all across the country about the need to attend a Bible college, and Maranatha benefited in a dramatic way. He was the best recruiter for MBBC’s football program for a number of years – plus the choirs, and the drama department, and other programs at the college.
It was in this contrast of personalities and style that some of the later conflict, I have come to believe, could be traced – or, at least, seen. Doc was the thinker, strategist, leader of organizations and of a very influential local church. Cedar was the doer, promoter, and personal influencer of many pastors and local churches. Both men were consistent warhorses in the battle for the souls of men, but they worked out their ministries in decidedly different ways.
My dad had a unique friendship and relationship with Doc. Our family moved to Minneapolis in the summer of 1946. Dad became pastor of Lake Harriet Baptist Church that was located at 50th and Upton, on the beautiful southwest side of Minneapolis – the city of lakes. We lived in the parsonage at 5248 Vincent Ave. South, which was a comfortable two-story, three bedroom home on a tree-lined street about four blocks from the church.
Minneapolis has an interesting street naming system that features a successive series of alphabets. Therefore, if you knew which alphabet you were in – going from east to west – you could figure out easily where a particular street fit into the grid. Perhaps this system was designed to teach, or reinforce, the learning of the alphabet for school children. It worked for me. I can still recite the street names in my alphabet after sixty years.
As the Lord would have it, my future wife and the pastor who influenced me so dramatically both lived on a street in the same alphabet as our parsonage. The Clearwaters and the Cutlans lived on Zenith, but they were way up on the north side. Another thing we discovered was that both Connie and I had attended the same Saturday morning Children’s Rally in the Billy Graham Crusade in 1950. Both of us vividly remember the service Cliff Barrows conducted that day and his Bible story telling ability. But, of course, as 9 and 7 year olds we did not have any idea the other existed.
It was during this time that my father became closely involved with Doc. They taught together at Northwestern Theological Seminary, and they worked closely together on various local and national boards and committees. In fact, my mother served for a few years on the board of the Conservative Baptist Foreign Missionary Society alongside Doc, and Mrs. Harriet Bratrud who was a prominent member of Fourth Baptist Church. Later in the early 60’s Connie and I attended numerous youth singspirations at Mrs. Bratrud’s large home on the south shore of Lake Calhoun.
Lake Harriet was a growing church and it drew the attention of many leaders in the Conservative Baptist Movement of that day. After over six years of ministry in Minneapolis a large church on the south-side of Chicago contacted my dad about the opening in their pulpit. Dad was president of the Minnesota Baptist Convention, involved in a two-phase building program at the Lake Harriet church, and so he declined to pursue their entreaty to take the Chicago pastorate. However, that church did not give up and ultimately my dad felt that he should at least pray about considering Marquette Manor Baptist Church as the possible leading of the Lord.
Thus, it was after a successful eight year pastorate in the idyllic neighborhood of southwest Minneapolis we moved to the mean streets of Chicago’s southwest side. What a difference! But as a thirteen year old kid I thought it was an exciting adventure and invigorating. We even had a deacon who owned a hamburger shop – and the first week in our new home he brought us a whole bag of hot & juicy hamburgers.
But that was not the end of the drama. After one year in Chicago, Dr. Clearwaters and the leadership of the Minnesota Baptist Convention were pressuring my dad to return to Minnesota and assume the position of Executive Secretary for the state convention. Here is where I first heard of a slight conflict between my dad and the Doc. Dad told the Doc in no uncertain terms that the Holy Spirit had led him to Marquette Manor, and Dick Clearwaters was not the Holy Spirit – or words to that effect. That rebuff seemed to strengthen their friendship and deepen a mutual respect for each other. Dad was twelve years younger than Doc, but he had matured as a respected thinker and leader among his peers and was obviously esteemed by his friend Dick Clearwaters.
At the same time the Marquette Manor church was growing and I remember that dad was bringing in notable speakers to stir the church for vigorous evangelism and serious Bible teaching. Well known evangelists, pastors and teachers came to the pulpit during those years like R.R. Brown of Omaha, Evangelist Eddie Liberman, Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Charles Anderson (father of Leith Anderson, past NAE leader) and my favorite – Dr. James McGinley. Marquette was a strong church with a large cadre of spiritual men who witnessed fervently, served the Lord eagerly, and supported their pastor faithfully.
A year later – in 1956 – Doc Clearwaters was in the midst of launching Central Seminary after the seminary program at Northwestern was announced to be closing. In the hurried planning for that launch Doc had been talking with my father again and urging him to return to Minneapolis to give leadership and academic respectability to the new seminary venture. Dad, once again, said no to the idea of leaving Marquette church, but agreed to consider flying one day a week to Minneapolis to teach in the opening year. “Consider” was the operational word at that time.
In a rush to announce the new seminary Doc leaked the proposed announcement of George Carlson, Th.D., as professor of Theology and Church History, in some kind of written communication to potential supporters of the new school. This news reached some of the Marquette Manor lay leaders before my dad had the opportunity to approach the deacons about this unorthodox arrangement for that day and time. Because we lived only a few miles from Midway Airport, which was Chicago’s major airport at the time, it would have been possible for him to commute weekly to Minneapolis on Mondays. However, when the Doc took this presumptive action my dad told him “no deal.” On a matter of principle he would not subject the church to the uncertainty of losing their relatively new pastor of only two years to the new seminary. (Photo: Original Central Seminary faculty, 1956.)
I have often said to close friends that my dad, I think, was one of the few men who could say no to Dr. Clearwaters, or disagree with him sharply, and remain steadfast friends. They had worked together on a number of issues and fought some spiritual and theological battles together in the preceding ten years.
The two men had testified together as expert witnesses in several of the notorious court battles with the old Northern Baptist Convention over local church autonomy. Dr. Clearwaters was the expert on church polity and Dr. Carlson was the expert on Baptist History. My dad, I believe, could temper Doc’s powerful personality with a patient and firm resolve, plus balance Doc’s dominating leadership skills with a respectful logic and recognizable graciousness. There was always a mutual respect between the two men.
That relationship and balance came to a halt in 1957 when the Lord took my dad to heaven. It seemed in the years to come that Doc could have profited from a friend who both brought respect and perspective to some of the controversies that came later. But one does not know.
I started college in the fall of 1959 as the third year of Pillsbury College was beginning. The young college had already undergone its first conflict when the original faculty clashed with Dr. Monroe Parker, who was recruited to be the first resident president of the college. Dr. Parker brought an administrative philosophy and institutional approach that had been developed at Bob Jones University over its 30 year history. Dr. Parker had been instrumental in instituting many of those organizational policies at Bob Jones. The resultant change at Pillsbury brought a batch of new faculty members who would become integral to the early growth of the college.
In the fall of 1959 the enrollment at Pillsbury was about 175 students. By the time I graduated in 1963 the college had grown to about 350. That growth continued on for more than another decade when it reached the peak of 700-800. My view is that growth was the result of a number of factors. First, there was the natural constituency of the churches who had been part of the Central Regional of the CBA. This represented probably about a 1,000 churches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska and the Dakotas. Doc Clearwaters was well known and respected within these churches. Second, Myron Cedarholm had been tireless in promoting church planting and growth nationally within the CBA orbit and he became a diligent promoter of Pillsbury.
Finally, Dr. Parker was an amazing promoter and strong administrator. Parker maintained a vigorous schedule of evangelistic meetings and travel in addition to exhibiting a strong leadership presence on the campus. He would often drive through the night to return to campus in time for daily chapel services where he preached and motivated the entire campus community. Under his administration an aggressive program of campus and student activities grew and flourished that included music, drama, athletics and most importantly – student extension activities among the churches.
The Cedarholms had already been a profound influence musically on my life. Music had always been a part of my church life, but it was at the little Baptist church at Lake Nebagamon where I especially remember Aunt Thelma’s piano prowess. She could make that old upright piano sing and ring. Another neighbor at the Lake was the indomitable Don Hustad – then director of the Moody Chorale and later organist for the Billy Graham crusades. I never aspired to be a musician, but I enjoyed singing and it was Uncle Myron and Aunt Thelma who encouraged me to form a quartet in high school.
In my senior year in high school I organized a quartet associated with a high school Bible club organization in Chicago. Two of us from that group enrolled the following year at Pillsbury where we formed a Freshmen Quartet with another acquaintance from the Chicago area and a recruit from Michigan. We traveled all over Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota during that year. Every time Uncle Myron came to campus he would want to know about our ministry exploits. He gave me fatherly advice about staying busy, and about how to juggle my college studies, athletic participation and weekend ministry extension.
I remember one time he visited my dorm room and advised me to take short afternoon naps and gave me tips about doing my laundry. He said that wearing sweaters would allow me to only iron the collars of my shirts and thus save time. Uncle Myron was always practical, and it seemed he was always on a mission. Traveling with him it was known that he’d tell the waitress that we were in a hurry and he would appreciate quick service. But he’d always do that with a friendly and upbeat spirit, and never would he diminish an opportunity to witness. He had the ability to encourage, inspire and be interested in to whoever he was talking.
During this period of my life Uncle Myron always amazed me with his whirlwind preaching. Often I would see him take note paper – sometimes the back of envelopes – out of his suit pocket and jot notes for later reference. I realized that many times these notes became the basis for messages – especially when he was preaching one of his inspirational/motivational messages. He was often called upon to give a report about church planting, or give a missionary challenge based upon his legendary around-the-world mission trip. No one could talk faster and cram more words into a time frame. I would say that he could preach an hour sermon in twenty minutes.
Later my friends who were students at Maranatha in its early days would talk about his rapid-fire delivery and long messages. I would say that they never really heard him in his prime. By the time Cedar founded Maranatha Baptist Bible College he had already slowed down quite a bit. It was during his barn-storming days as General Director of the CBA that he was at the height of his energy and vitality. He was a strapping ex-football player who was a house-a-fire in the pulpit. As he would say: “Keeping on the firing line for the Lord.”
During those days he would trade-in his Pontiac sedan every nine months after he would reach 65,000 miles. Myron and Thelma would be on the road over ten months out of the year. They would stop home in Chicago for short visits to be ready to dash off on the next trip. I worked one summer during college in the CBA office, and Lois Moyers, his secretary, would always breathe a big sigh when he would leave on his next trip because the office could calm down again. She was a devoted supporter of him, but she knew she could not keep up with his whirlwind energy.
My first recollection of Doc Clearwaters was from the Mission Farms Conference grounds on Medicine Lake in suburban Minneapolis. I remember seeing him standing next to his sleek Chrysler automobile in the parking lot near the rustic headquarters lodge on the conference grounds. He was probably in his early 50s at the time, and he cut an impressive figure. Doc always looked good, and in the summer I remember he wore classy two-toned oxford shoes. He impressed a young guy!
Our family evidently was invited one Thanksgiving, probably in the late 40s to the Clearwaters’ home on Crystal Lake in Robbinsdale. I vaguely remember that time, probably because I was out-numbered by the girls that day. My sisters, plus Jane Clearwaters, would have made me the “odd-man out” on that occasion. Today it is amusing to me that the future love of my life was less than two blocks away from me on that Thanksgiving Day. No, we didn’t know about each other yet – but our lives were already crossed in God’s providence.
It was in my freshman year in college that I was drawn into the ministry of Fourth Baptist Church and would be profoundly drawn into the legacy of Doc Clearwaters. A freshman quartet that I organized was invited to sing at Fourth Baptist in the spring semester. It was at that time that I got my first glimpse of Connie Cutlan – who became the girl of my dreams.
Connie says I acted like I was “hot stuff” because I was leader of the group and did all the introducing of our songs that night in the church service. I must have been within the bounds of propriety, because her youth pastor vigorously lobbied me to join their youth group camping trip headed to Wyoming that June. I went – and I was hooked – on both the young lady and the youth ministry of 4th B (as all the young people referred to their church in that era).
The Western Camping Trip of 1960 became the first step in an adventurous ride over the next five years during my remaining college career and the first two years of seminary. Connie and I began a five year dating relationship that was immersed in the 4th Baptist youth ministry. Many times I would have to wake her up from falling asleep on the backseat of the church’s Ford Econoline van after delivering a load of teenagers home following a youth activity.
Even though my time was primarily devoted to assisting the youth pastor, affectionately known as Nelson, I had many opportunities to interact with the Doc during those years. I remember once describing to someone the difference between the leadership styles of Nelson and Doc. I explained that, “Nelson would command and say, ‘Take this to the cleaners!’. Whereas, the Doc would stroll up to me and say, ‘Do you know anyone who could take this to the cleaners for me?’” Both of those scenarios actually happened…and I ate it all up.
Notice I use the descriptor, “the Doc” in referring to Dr. Clearwaters. That was a universally shared title, or designator, for him among the young people and church members. It wasn’t that we were differentiating between “Docs”, but it was a term of endearment or respect. He was “the” Doc at 4th B. No one ever referred to him as Pastor Clearwaters, and rarely as Dr. Clearwaters. We all felt comfortable in calling him Doc…or the Doc, in almost any situation.
Years later Don Nelson would compose a poem that memorialized the spirit of those years which ended with these lines:
Then the “Doc” and Roger and Nelson,
Will know the labor was not all in vain;
As these young people sweep downward,
from Glory To share His Millennial reign.
My first memory of Uncle Myron – and Aunt Thelma – was from Lake Nebagamon. They purchased property several years after the Maranatha Bay community was established and therefore built their cabin after most of the other places were constructed. Actually, the original group did not build traditional structures, but they acquired surplus WWII barracks from an Army base in Louisiana and had them shipped via rail to the northwoods of Wisconsin. After the War lumber was scarce and these units came in pre-framed 16’x16’ sections that allowed the property owners to create adequate summer cabins rather quickly and inexpensively.
However, by the time the Cedarholms’ were ready to build their cabin, they had the opportunity to build from scratch. So they did. Even though they had never built anything in their lives – they built their cabin in the woods from a “do-it-yourself” plan. I remember going down the line to see them building after dark, by the light of a kerosene lantern. I thought they were hilarious – but I was impressed with their determination and energy. They built the cabin and that place became a major part of my life, and the lives of many others.
Every summer my dad would take our family to Lake Nebagamon around the 4th of July and we would stay at the cabin until Labor Day weekend. Dad would go back to Minneapolis for church duties and come in August for his vacation time. I literally lived in the water each week day at the lake. It was there that Uncle Myron first taught me to surf board behind his 14 ft. Larson aluminum boat powered by a 25hp Evinrude outboard motor.
The very next summer he taught me how to water-ski as he pulled me many hours around the lake. In another year my water-ski time diminished because he expanded his teaching capacity to include all of the youngsters in the Maranatha Bay summer community. On one fine summer day over 25 kids and grown-ups were counted waiting in line for their chance to be pulled on skis by Uncle Myron.
That year I got my own 14 ft. Larson boat – or our family did, but I was the ruler of that boat and its 15 hp Evinrude that could pull a skinny 14 year old kid like me. Soon I was the water-ski legend of the Bay because I could dazzle with a slalom ski and I even learned to ski backwards.
But my entire prowess was directly the result of Uncle Myron’s careful and consistent teaching and mentoring. As I got older into my teen years I would urge him to let me pull him on the water-skis because I knew he was a marvelous athlete and skier. But no, he would not hear of it. His focus was on pulling the dozens of youngsters and oldsters who lined up at his dock each day for a ride.
In 1954 my dad moved our family to Chicago when he accepted the pastorate of the large Marquette Manor Baptist Church. Life changed for me as I was introduced to the rough and tumble south-side of Chicago. On the first Monday of October in 1957 my life took a dramatic turn. My dad had left the day before – after the Sunday morning service – on a hunting trip to Canada with the chairman of the deacons. On that fateful Monday we received word from the seaplane base in Kenora, Ontario, that they had lost contact with the small Cessna 180 airplane carrying the pilot, my dad and Mr. Gossage. The next day I came home from school and learned that the plane had crashed and there were no survivors.
It was Uncle Myron who broke the news to me in the living room of our parsonage on 71st Place that my dad was in heaven. The Cedarholms, along with several other close pastor friends, had quickly gathered at our house to support my mother and our family. Dr. Cedarholm preached my dad’s funeral service in what I have often referred to as the greatest gospel service I have ever known. The church was packed to overflowing and Cedar preached a strong message and grown men walked the aisle to trust Christ as Savior.
After my dad was killed the relationship with Uncle Myron intensified as he became somewhat of a surrogate father to me. I remember that once he had taken me to a polo match because he thought that was an experience every teenage boy should have at least once in his life. I also was a regular recipient of his urging to stay busy in sports, music, church youth activities – and not to be spending too much time with the girls. He always said there was plenty time later to spend time with the girls. I didn’t always heed that advice, but I always respected his concern and involvement in my life. I think there are literally hundreds of others who experienced his genuine enthusiasm for mentoring each one of us personally. That was Cedar.