Monday, May 27, 2013

Mysteries Great and Small

This Sunday the Rev. Jill McAllister, minister at People’s Church in Kalamazoo, did what I thought was an outstanding job of addressing “The Great Mystery”—who are we, where did we come from, and what is the meaning of life?  Several times, she quoted statements by Forrest Church, a leading Unitarian-Universalist minister, author, and theologian.

Those references set me thinking about one of the minor mysteries in my life—did I or did I not, meet Forrest Church back in 1974?  I pondered the question briefly six years ago while writing a passage in 
Forrest's father, Sen. Frank Church (Wikipedia)
my memoir, “Days with the Dads: Recollections of a Small-Time Journalist.” Included was a story about encounters with the Church family. One was a fairly lengthy conversation with Forrest’s parents. Years later, beautiful wife Sandy and I stayed several nights in the Church family home in BoiseID after it had been converted to a bed and breakfast.

Because my memory of the first encounter with the Churches was more concerned with a personal lesson in humility than precisely who all the characters in the story were, I spent no time researching the identity of the young man who was present. Here is an excerpt from the story in my book:

“Merely spotting or exchanging only a few words with a famous person is, of course, nothing like spending a little time talking with one. I've had only a handful of those opportunities. One momentarily inflated my ego, but then quickly took the excess wind out of my young sails.

“In 1974 (while serving as Public Information Officer for the Boise National Forest), I was directed to drive over to the Sawtooth National Forest from my duty station in Boise, hook up with my boss at Redfish Lake, and then attend a meeting with some other people at the lodge on the lakeshore. My boss was Forest Supervisor Ed Maw, a man with many years of service in Idaho and other places in the Intermountain West.

“I got there early, and was the only person around as I stood outside the lodge having a smoke and waiting for Maw. Out of the lodge came a handsome man dressed in western-style clothes. A lovely woman and a young man accompanied him. They came directly to me (I was in uniform), and started a conversation about what my job was, why I was there, and what my thoughts were about some of the National Forest management issues of the time . . . .

“The whole situation put me on cloud nine. Here was little old me exchanging chit chat with members of one of the most prominent families in the state, and Senator Frank Church was among the best-known politicians in the country. He served in the U.S. Senate for 24 years, leading many national initiatives. He was a prominent contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1976, losing out to Jimmy Carter. His wife Bethine, the lady in our little discussion group that day, was the daughter of a former Idaho governor and was engaged in many high-profile activities of her own.

“By the time Maw approached us, I was pretty pumped up about the prospect of introducing my boss to my famous newfound friends. It didn’t happen. Senator Church stuck out his hand and said, ‘Hi, ya, Eddie.’ He and my boss were well acquainted. I was treated to a good dose of instant humility.”

About 30 years later, I read “The Jefferson Bible,” a document the famous president spent years assembling. Forrest Church wrote a lengthy introduction to the work. That caused me to wonder if the young man I met at Redfish Lake was Forrest. I started doing some research to determine that, but other matters intervened and I never got back to it.

Rev. McAllister’s sermon on Sunday caused me to wonder once again. This time, I checked some dates. The research proved conclusively that I could not have met Forrest Church that day in 1974 at Redfish Lake. He would have been quite a few years older than the lad I talked with. It must have been his younger brother, Chase, who Wikipedia tells us still lives in Boise. Forrest Church died at age 61 in 2009.

Although I’m slightly disappointed at learning I cannot claim a personal encounter with the famous cleric, it is always a pleasure to ponder some of the inspirational words he left behind.


Tom Sightings said...

Memory is a tricky thing, isn't it? But it's fun to fish around in there and try to see what we can come up with. And as you've shown, it's usually pretty interesting. Btw, I remember Frank Church, and as I remember he was a pretty good man. said...

Very interesting. Your stories put me in mind of my dad, but you are not old enough to be my dad. Ha Ha. Dad would be 100 this year. Dianne

PS I remember Frank Church. Don't know if I ever met him, but met several members of Congress years ago. Paul Simon is the only one I recall.

Bruce Snook said...

Thanks for another interesting post. I'm sorry I missed Rev. McAllister's presentation. No doubt it was excellent.
Your comments regarding Senator Frank Church brought back a lot of memories of one particular day when I saw him - up close - at a Democratic Party gathering at the Adlai Stevenson home in Libertyville, Illinois. It was a Sunday - September 7, 1969. My wife and I had just moved to Evanston, Illinois in advance of the start of my experience as a divinity student at Garrett Theological Seminary, located on the Northwestern University campus. My wife and I spotted a flyer on a bulletin board at Garrett advertising the event and decided to check it out. And quite a gathering it was - referred to in Chicago newspaper reports the following day as a "Democratic Party love-in" since Mayor Richard J. Daley showed up in what was regarded as significant in the politics of the time. He wasn't the only high profile figure on hand. Others I recall included Adlai Stevenson III, Jesse Jackson with the Operation Breadbasket Choir, Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary (with whom I talked briefly while adding condiments to a hamburger), Ann Landers, and US Senator George McGovern. The day was significant in another way as well since it was the day that another US Senator, Everett Dirksen of Illinois, died. I still recall Senator McGovern making the announcement of Dirksen's passing, speaking from the stage in the backyard of the Stevenson home which was the focal point of the activity. And I remember Senator Church there, near Mayor Daley. It was quite an experience for a young couple from rural St. Joseph County, Michigan who were just beginning a new adventure in a major metropolitan area. I didn't have a chance to talk with Senator Church, but I am thankful for having had the opportunity to be there and witness a bit of history in the making. Thanks, Dick, for stirring the memories!

Dick Klade said...

Wow! Lots of political power at that gathering, Bruce. Coincidentally, I met Richard Hatcher in the early '70s when he toured the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, WI, where I worked. Did a little story about that encounter in my memoir.