The Harvard Magazine came to our house today. We don't subscribe, it just comes. I read the "Personals," the obituaries of classmates, the sports accounts, and often the serious pieces about faculty and the life of the University, itself.
The cover story was called, "1969 Memories and Meaning from a Time of Turmoil." It recalled the tumultuous time of Harvard's student protests of the Vietnam War, their taking over University Hall, and President Pusey's calling the State Police, who came into Harvard Yard with metal helmets, billy clubs, and a battering ram. Blood flowed and many students were carted off to the Middlesex County jail. One of them was Chris Wallace, class of '69 and anchor of Fox News Sunday. He wrote 50 years later, "When I got my chance, I called the radio station and did a report from jail. And caught up in the moment, I signed off on the phone, "This is Chris Wallace in custody."
Novelist Mark Helprin, class of '69, reflected the same decades later, "I felt revulsion at hatred of the American Constitutional system by those infatuated with murderous revolutionary dictatorships."
Of course, I was alive in 1969 and heard and felt something of what was going on in the college at which I had rowed on the Charles River for four years, met and fallen in love with and married Molly Safford, and studied American History before graduating in 1951.
But, in 1969 I was the still the young minister of a Congregational church in far-off Edina, Minnesota. Martin Luther King, Jr had been murdered, and so also Senator Robert Kennedy, running for President, his brother John already having been shot down in 1963. My life and ministry had already been marked by the dark rage of that decade.
We held services after each assassination. We went to the marches, too. We opened "The Colony" as a place for junior high kids, already feeling the effect of drugs in their lives. We reached out to high school young people. We established Alpha House for people coming out of jail. We established the Colonial residence for girls. We sent teachers down to the My-You nursery in Fifth Avenue Church. We established 12 monthly meetings across the Twin Cities to talk and pray about the troubling issues of those times. We established Bible Studies in many parts of town, led by our gifted teaching ministers, Dr Bob Guelich and Robert MacLennan, to hear what God would say to us. We sent mission teams to serve in inner cities, in Appalachia, and other places of poverty. We tried to be a church that cared, and a church that served. Even the City of Edina and its schools called on us to help.
We brought black pastors like John Mickel from Memphis, right after brother Martin's death, to speak to us from our summer pulpit on how they saw the painful issues. The great Pastor-poet Dr. Howard Thurman came soon after, and then Prof. Bill Pannel, teaching minister from Fuller Theological Seminary.
We did what we saw we could do, right where we were, for our town, and for Minnesota, and America. On Thanksgiving Day and Independence Sunday, we taught American history - of Pilgrims and Puritans, and the faith base of this America. We took groups on pilgrimages to Plimoth Rock and to the English places of America's roots, to better understand who we are and why we're here. Like the Puritans of old we were on our own "errand into the wilderness" of our time in tumult.
The conviction has grown that God is our business. That He came in Jesus to show us right and wrong, to show us the life of love and sacrifice, to remind us of the Resurrection victory over all the forces of the darkness and of death.
But, it is ever clearer that even in today's rage and anger, and penchant for change, with a host of bristling issues that are bent on dividing us, Jesus is more than ever the healer of our hearts, the Light of the world, here to lead us out of darkness.
Prayer is our power. Love is our strength. Faith is the overcoming Spirit of our souls. We are still in battle days. All around us is still the "strange call" of Christ to give "Our Utmost for His Highest."
Make this our Hope for these days that will be leading us to the Cross of Victory and the Crown of Easter.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES