I have been a member of a Church of Christ exclusively throughout my entire life. I’ve attended services and meetings for other groups and fellowships, for one reason or another, but that was usually done so for convenience, concession, or curiosity. This family story is not only about my church etymology but my personal spiritual journey as well.
Part One begins with my earliest recollections of church attendance in areas across the country. These churches varied greatly in size, location, and theology. This journey of reflection takes me through my quasi-independence of leaving home and going on my own to attend worship at the local Church of Christ.
Part Two of this church history picks up with my choice of churches during my college days. That journey would take me from York College in York, Nebraska, to Tomah, Wisconsin, to Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas. It also includes getting married and making church choices for my new bride and myself. Stay tuned for that post a few weeks or months from now.
Very rarely in my life have I had the opportunity to pick the church I attended or placed membership. That didn’t happen until I was older, and even then, there were really very few real choices for me. It was only after Donna and I married and moved from our home and college days in Searcy that we had any real choices of where to attend worship with like-minded saints.
I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, and like most children, I had no choice as to where I attended church, or if I went at all. I was awakened Sunday mornings and told to get dressed for church. I did so because my mother, Polly Shaner, was the driving force to me and my siblings for our spiritual development. Had it been up to my father, we would probably not have gone at all, or bounced around until…well, we would not have gone to church. My father got up and attended service with us, but only because my mother insisted he do so. In my very early years, my dad was not a Christian, and he didn’t get baptized until I was about three or four years old.
My mother grew up in Phil Campbell, Alabama, in a very conservative, Independent Christian Church/Church of Christ, Stone-Campbell movement congregation. I’m not sure how conservative and strict my mother’s church life was while she was still at home in Alabama, but I do know that after her family moved to Peoria, Illinois, they attended a Church of Christ in mid-town Peoria. Like many Churches of Christ at the time, it was a sect, or sub-group, of the mainline Churches of Christ. At that time, they were a very dogmatic, conservative, non-inclusive, non-cooperative church that we would know now as a Non-institutional Church of Christ. In perhaps a more derogatory term, this group was often called an Anti-Church because they were simply against almost everything related to church activities and ministry that any other church thought was good. This group seemed to be fixated on what they called “sound doctrine.” That is, they were fixated on whatever they determined to be the Biblical “final say” on any theological, cultural, and spiritual practices or decisions. They were the classic, “We know everything, and everybody that disagrees with us is going to straight to H-E-double hockey sticks!” kind of church.
The non-institutional churches’ most telling and well-known doctrines were no-kitchens in the buildings and no financial support for group children’s homes for foster kids and orphans, or anything that resembled a cooperative ministry effort with other congregations. These kinds of churches were also known as Uncooperative Churches of Christ, because they felt no other church group or congregation held any sway, influence, or authority over them, and thus could not tell them what to do. Of course, that didn’t stop them from telling everybody else what to do or believe! These churches loved to criticize everybody else, usually in their various brotherhood newsletters.
Needless to say, my mother grew up in a very conservative church setting. My mother was a very loving and humble Christian woman who was living her life as best she could by what she had been taught was the truth while growing up. I really believe that if my mother had ever been allowed to “peek behind the curtain” to see what was going on in the men’s business meetings, or the preachers’ offices of those Churches of Christ, she would have run away as fast as she could much sooner than she eventually did. I know there existed in those churches a lot of goodhearted, honest, truth-seekers who were living what they thought was the way of God. They practiced church the way they had been taught. They were a product of their upbringing and their church environment. It’s all they knew.
The Churches of Christ I grew up attending were primarily in the north and sometimes very different from the Churches of Christ in the south. The church experience I had growing up, unlike my mother’s, was not your traditional Bible Belt Church of Christ, even though the Church of Christ name was on the building. However, there always seemed to be a tension there because many of the northern churches were heavily influenced by the members that had come from a southern church. Most of these members were corporate or military transplants and were not native Northerners.
My father, Dave Shaner, born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, was not raised as a Christian. His family attended a variety of churches, but never settled into any one church. That was primarily because of indifference or the “what-can-church-do-for-me” mentality by his mother. When my parents met, my mother refused to even go out with him unless he went to church with her. My dad enlisted in the U.S. Navy in January of 1952 and married my mom just three months later while on leave after finishing bootcamp in April 1952.
As a family, we were transferred around the country often. Every time we moved it was my mother who took it upon herself to find a Church of Christ that she thought was doctrinally sound enough for our training. In the south, it was easier for her to find like-minded churches. Not so much in the north. We attended churches in Millington, Tennessee, and Pensacola and Jacksonville, Florida. However, I have no recollection of those churches. After all, I was not even two years old at that time. Once my father completed his obligation and got out of the Navy in 1956, we moved back to Peoria and once again attended the Church of Christ there.
In late 1956, my father, facing underemployment, with a wife and three children under age five, reenlisted in the Navy and was immediately transferred to the Brunswick Naval Air Station in Maine.
My mother was now trying to find a church without the help of her parents, brothers, and sisters, who were all steeped in conservatism. The first church I remember attending was, the Jordon Ave. Church of Christ, in Brunswick, Maine. What I most remember about the Jordan Avenue church was its building. It was a very old, New-England-style church building that had changed ownership and denominational groups several times since the early days of our country’s founding.
One of my Chicago-area church friends, John Wright, had been the preaching minister at the Jordan Avenue church from 1973 to 1975. He recently told me that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow taught Sunday school there while Longfellow was a student at Bowdoin College in the 1820’s. One of Longfellow’s classmates and friends, Nathaniel Hawthorne, attended with him. I hope this building is on the National Register of Historic Buildings. It should be, because it’s an amazing example of the kind of place where many church groups met after arriving in this country from Europe and other parts of the world. For a more detailed description and history of this building, please click on this link: http://www.lifeatshutterspeed.net/shutter-clicks/the-brunswick-church-of-christ
Even in the late 1950’s, the Jordan Avenue Church of Christ building looked like a pristine image of a classic early American protestant church building. It was complete with carved, hand crafted, polished wooden pews that semi-circled an elevated pulpit area that seemed to cry out REPENT YOU SINNERS!
This was the first church we attended outside the southern brand of Churches of Christ, and where little or no other choices existed. The congregation either suited my mother’s choice in churches. I really didn’t know the church’s theological position of conservative or progressive issues, nor was I even aware of such a thing back then. I guess the church was at least conservative enough for my mother to exhale.
She seemed happy to be there. While the church had many native-to-the-area members, many of the church members were there because they were stationed at the Brunswick Naval Air Station. Thus, my mom had friends at church who were also young Navy wives and mothers. She seemed to find fellowship that felt like family. We attended every time the doors opened for Sunday School, worship, and other events.
Brother Herbert Morangue was the minister. He wasn’t like the preacher at the church in Peoria. He had a warm, loving, and inviting presence to all who walked through the doors. He was my first impression of a preacher that everybody seemed to revere. My family attended this church until the Navy sent us packing in the summer of 1962.
When we were transferred from Brunswick, we didn’t really want to leave. My mother was comfortable at our church and in our little neighborhood. My brother, Dave and I had a rag-tag group of boys we played with from early morning until dark. My sister Brenda was two and a half years younger than me, and my sister Julie was born here, bringing the child count to four. My parents bought their very first off-base house in this location. Located at 14 River Road, it was a three-bedroom, 1-1/2 bathroom, one-car garage cottage. It was only $14,000, which was a lot of money for them at the time.
Before we left Brunswick, my dad was told there was a good chance of being transferred back in nine months after going back to the Millington Naval Training Center near Memphis for more classes. Even with several weeks’ notice, they were simply unable to sell our house before we left. As the time to leave drew closer my parents decided to continue to make the payments on the house and hoped to move back to Brunswick after the nine-month assignment to Millington. They even left most of our furniture and belongings in a storage facility. So that they wouldn’t be paying both rent and mortgage payments, they decided my mom and the kids should return to Peoria to live with her parents. Free of charge of course. My dad planned to commute back and forth from Memphis to Peoria on the weekends. When I say commute, I actuality mean hitch-hike. There never seemed to be a fear of any danger in doing so as long as my dad wore his military uniform while traveling.
We moved to Peoria in the late summer in time for me to start third grade. We also returned to the Peoria Church. I was eight years old and started to experience firsthand the difference between two congregations of what was supposed to be a unified Church of Christ. I had such good memories of our church experience in Brunswick, and while I missed my neighborhood buddies, I REALLY missed the church we left behind.
The church in Brunswick preached and exemplified peace, love, and joy. The church in Peoria shouted their favorite theme of, “We’re right, and all of the denominations that don’t agree with us are WRONG and doomed to hellfire and brimstone!”
Just three weeks later, Thursday, September 13, 1962, became a day I will never forget. We had gotten into a routine and were somewhat settled in. School was hard and home was chaotic, yes—but then the sky fell in! About 10 p.m. I was awakened in what seemed like the middle of the night by my other grandmother, my dad’s mother. My mother had answered a knock at the door to see two Illinois State Troopers standing there. They told my mom that her parents, my grandparents, Claude and Mattie Hines, were killed in an auto accident. On their way home from a gospel meeting that was being preached by my Uncle Tiny, a drunk driver crossed the center line on a two-lane country highway and hit them head on!
The most confusing thing to me was being awakened to hear this news from my other grandmother. My dad’s mother had been called to come get me and my siblings to keep us a couple of days until further details became clear and arrangements had been made. I’m sure this was to get us out of the way for the time being. The ironic thing was that I rarely saw my two grandmothers together, but I had seen my dad’s mother earlier the same day when she came by to tell us that she had another granddaughter that day. My cousin Jennifer, my dad’s sister’s baby, was born on Thursday, September 13, 1962.
As with most traumatic events that happen in our lives, the memories are so etched in our minds that we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. The news of these two events were swirling in my mind. For some reason my mind went back to a sermon I heard shortly before leaving the church in Brunswick. Herbert Morangue was teaching about the circle of life. I remember hearing about the brevity of life, and the certainty of death. Still very much in shock I had an epiphany. In my mind all I could tell myself about what happened that day was, “One dies and one is born, and life goes on.”
Over the next few days, the members of the Peoria church streamed into the house, supplying my mother’s large extended family with food and condolences. My grandparents and most of my mother’s family were members of this church. This was the first time I saw members of this congregation exhibit any kind of emotion or compassion outside of ranting and raving about sin and doctrine. I’m sure they were good people who stepped up in times of tragedy to their members. It was good to see them actually doing good things.
A few weeks later, my mom was still an emotional wreck. And with no grandparents to live with at no charge, we needed to vacate the house they had been were renting. Now more than ever, my mother needed her immediate family, her husband and children, to all be together. It was decided we were moving to the Millington area. In Millington, my dad was stuck with paying rent and a mortgage payment. And did I mention that my mom was pregnant with my youngest sister, Lisa?
Near the end of September 1962, we moved to Raleigh, Tennessee, a suburb of that was near the Naval Training Station. We rented a very small four room, two-bedroom, one-bathroom house that was on the property of a large cattle farm. We knew we would not be there long, just until the end of May, so we were willing to make it work. My mother was now feeling the physical stress of leaving her home in Brunswick, moving in with her parents, the death of her parents, and now moving again with four children and another one due in January. We attended the Union Avenue Church of Christ in the city of Memphis, but it was the only time in my life we did not attend every time the doors opened. My father remained unenthusiastic about going to church, and my mom just didn’t have the energy to take us on her own. I have very little memory about us attending the Union Avenue church, even on Sunday mornings, but the times we did go was such an ordeal that it was not very enjoyable, which was no fault of the church.
While living in Raleigh, I didn’t like my school and didn’t fit in very well. We were rent and mortgage poor, and we didn’t have any friends. My mother was pregnant, with four children at home. My parents set up a crib for Lisa in their bedroom, but the other four children shared one room with two single beds, the boys in one the girls in the other. Because we were so poor, we could barely afford groceries, and it seemed like we ate pinto beans and corn bread almost every night. Life seemed unbearable. Add to this mix the fact that my mother’s niece, Tommie Martin, was pregnant without the benefit of marriage. In 1962 it was still a family shame and often the young girl was sent to live with a family member until the baby was born. Yep, Tommie came to live with us in Millington. She slept on the couch. Worst of all, we didn’t attend or enjoy church. We couldn’t wait to “ship-out” and return to Brunswick.
Near the end of my dad’s training classes, he received his orders, and although they were close to what he had been promised, they weren’t exactly what we wanted. Instead of being moved back to Brunswick, he was sent to Newport, Rhode Island. He was being transferred to the U.S. Naval War College. Newport was a little over 200 miles from Brunswick. In Brunswick, we had a house and most of our belongings. Plus, moving back to Brunswick would get us out of paying rent, mortgage, and storage fees. It was decided everybody except my dad would move back to Brunswick, except this time there were five children in the clan. My Dad would once again try to get home on the weekends by hitch-hiking! They agreed this would be done until my parents could sell the house and move to Newport.
Throughout this time, my dad was very little help to my mom, and she needed a lot of help managing the household and the children. There were two neighborhood teenagers my mother had befriended who helped her babysit and manage us kids when they were available.
By now I was nine years old and in the fourth grade. I could see the calamity of chaos that was the life of the Shaner family at that time. Through it all, my mother stood tall spiritually (ha ha—she was only 4’11”), but she handled everything like a seasoned warrior in the family battles. One of her main objectives at this time of our lives was to make sure we were all at worship services and Bible classes every time the doors opened. I could see her faith in God and how much she loved our family.
The fall season came and went with no sale of the house. We stayed there through the winter of ’63-’64, still no sale. By the late winter of ’64 my mom and dad just couldn’t do the separation and travel thing anymore. My dad went to the bank that held the mortgage to see what could be done to get out of the house. Many years later, my dad told me that he was actually behind on the mortgage payments when he went to see the banker. The loan officer made an offer my dad felt he had to take. The loan officer offered to personally buy the house with nothing down, pay off the delinquent amount my dad was behind on, and simply take over the payments. My dad took that deal very quickly and before he even left the bank, the papers were signed. When he told me about this many years later, I suspected it was not a very ethical transaction that was offered and that today it might have been considered criminal. Maybe it was then as well?
When we arrived in Newport, we lived on Aquidneck Island, a three-town island, in the Narragansett Bay of Rhode Island. The city of Newport (where the U. S. Naval Base was located), was on the south end of the Island, almost sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean. Portsmouth was on the North end and was closest to the mainland. Middletown, where we lived in Naval housing on the base, was well, in the middle, between the two towns. The only way off the island by car was to drive to Portsmouth and take the ferry to Fall River, Massachusetts. As soon as we arrived, I was enrolled back in school in what was my fourth school system in two years. I honestly have credited these two years as the pivotal point of me moving from an above-average student to a below-average student. I just couldn’t keep up with the changes. The school I arrived at in Middletown was further advanced than what I had left in both math and English. The new teachers told my parents they would have to get me caught up at home. Helping me study and get caught up fell in my mom’s lap, and with five kids at home, that just didn’t happen. I particularly suffered in math and reading, and to this day and I am bad in all three! Haha!
There was only one Church of Christ on the entire island. The church was located in Middletown, where we lived, but it was called the Newport Church of Christ. It was located at 215 Forest Avenue. Actually, when we moved to the area, the new church building was being constructed on this address. We started attending this congregation when they were meeting at what was called, “The Grange Hall.” Though my mother had never been there, she did not like that congregation—or so she thought. She was only told that it was one of those “liberal northern churches.” Much to her surprise, and to my delight and the shaping of my future in Christianity, that church turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of our lives. The preacher was a wonderful minister named Eugene Armstrong, and the fellow Christians were warm and receiving.
Soon after we started attending this church, their new building was opened. I am proud to say my family was among the list of the first families to walk through the doors on our first Sunday of worship there. The other church members were almost all other Navy families from Churches of Christ from all over the country who set aside their historical and geographical church differences and came together to worship God. This was such a refreshing concept to my mom!
My mom soon discovered there were acceptable differences in Churches of Christ throughout the country. She soon discovered that the Newport Church of Christ was not the typical Church of Christ she knew. But it was not nearly as bad as everybody in her family told her it would be. In fact, it was quite the opposite. This church was what I now know to be a mainstream Church of Christ.
We attended the Newport Church of Christ from Spring 1964, the middle of my fourth-grade year, until Summer 1968, after I finished the eighth grade. This was the church where my brother Dave and I were baptized by the local minister, the aforementioned Gene Armstrong, on the final night of a gospel meeting in November 1965. I have no recollection of who actually was preaching at the meeting. It wasn’t the gospel meeting that called me to become a Christian. It was the fellowship of the saints at this congregation, their preacher, and of course, my mom. I remember looking out of the baptistry after I entered the water and over at my softly weeping mother. I really believe my brother and I getting baptized, and my mother realizing that the spiritual lessons we were learning from the teachers and preachers there at the Newport Church, completely and finally released any lingering doubts about this congregation being the place where she and her children belonged. We never went back to an ultraconservative, judgmental, and exclusive church fellowship like the one she had left behind.
Gander Brook Christian Camp (https://www.ganderbrook.org/about) in Poland Spring, Maine, was the Christian Camp of choice for the Newport Church of Christ to send their children to. The church adults served as staff and management at this wonderful place. I attended Gander Brook each summer from 1964 to 1967. I made friends at this camp who later became some of my college friends and professors! To this day, I have friends and former students who are actively working at Gander Brook each summer. The camp experience is one I would not have have had if my family never left the legalistic, conservative, non-cooperating church, and started attending a different fellowship of God’s Kingdom, like the Newport Church of Christ.
Only twice in my life since attending the Newport Church f Christ have I ever met or re-met anyone who attended this congregation. One was Tim Randolph’s mother. Tim was my son Aaron’s best friend and roommate in college. His mother, Joyce Bowman, was a childhood church friend of mine from the Newport Church of Christ. I knew Joyce from the early sixties until I moved in 1968. Joyce and I reconnected on the Harding University campus when we were both there visiting our sons. I was so excited! And Joyce Bowman? She had absolutely NO recollection of who I was and claimed she had never heard of me. The more she thought about it, she said she faintly remembered my sister Brenda, maaaaybe.
Our next family church stop was in the summer of 1968. My dad got transferred to the Glenview Naval Air Station, and we lived off base in the small town of Vernon Hills, Illinois. Glenview was a northside suburb of Chicago, and Vernon Hills was a westside suburb of Glenview. One of the differences in this move was that it was probably my dad’s last tour of duty before he retired from military service. Glenview was also only about 150 miles from Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of my parents. These two facts made it feel like we were going home and the retirement process was beginning. So we knew when we left Rhode Island there was no going back. We loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. . . er, I mean, the Chicago area to look for housing.
As fate would have it, or as God’s providence provided, the nearest church was only about a mile up the road from our house: The Libertyville-Mundelein Church of Christ. It was during our first visit to this congregation that I realized just how small our fellowship was. Yep, we walked in and saw a family that were good Christian friends of ours from the Newport Church of Christ back in Rhode Island! The Smith family had two children, Kenny and Connie. Kenny and Connie had not only attended the Newport church with us but also attended Gander Brook Camp with us.
It was at the Libertyville-Mundelein church that the direction of our spiritual lives began to take direction and flourish. The Libertyville-Mundelein church actually had a youth group! There was no full-time youth minister, but they had one nonetheless! Frank Lockridge and his wife were volunteer helpers who arranged the kind of spiritual and social activities we would think of as ones a youth minister would arrange today. In 1968, having a full-time, paid youth minister was relatively new in our brotherhood. Even though some churches had them, they were very few and far between.
In 1968, when my brother and I arrived at the Libertyville-Mundelein church, we were both baptized Christians and pretty set on going into some sort of ministry. It didn’t take long for the organic process to happen of us being selected as student leaders.
Less than one year later, at the age of 14, I preached my first quasi-full-length sermon. That opportunity came about because our youth group leader arranged for the teenaged boys to conduct worship services on a Sunday night. Each of the roles in the worship service was performed by one of the boys, and two of the boys preached a 10 to 15-minute sermon each. My brother Dave and I were selected to present those sermons. As the months rolled by and the assignments were handed out, agreed upon, and volunteered for, fewer and fewer of the boys wanted to present the sermons. My brother and I were the only ones who wanted to continue preaching, and thus the trajectory of our futures was begun. Over the next few years, throughout our high school and college days, many invitations came our way to be the student leader and speaker for a variety of youth meetings and leadership roles.
While this congregation was a traditional Church of Christ, for us it was another loving, grace-oriented fellowship. The Libertyville-Mundelein church did not seem to be legalistic or narrowminded but was what I now know as a mainstream Church of Christ. I learned years later that it was probably more conservative than I knew, but measuring such things is always relative to what you were coming from and what you had seen or heard in other places.
Because this congregation also had a lot of Navy families who were coming from two different Naval Stations, they were adept at receiving new families with open arms and hearts. The church needed every man they could muster (no military pun intended) just to function with the needed teachers, worship leaders, and ministry workers.
The Libertyville-Mundelein Church of Christ was led by two or three, maybe at times four, elders. The church was usually barely hanging on to what I learned later was a necessary “plurality” of elders (that is, at least two). In all of the coming-and-going of elders, there was only one man who was an elder both when I got there and when I left. It was here I learned about the good and godly men who stepped up to serve the church. It was also where I learned not every man should consider being, or be considered, an elder just because he was present every time the doors opened.
There was also a revolving door of preachers. The pulpit minister when we arrived was Glenn Martin. His wife’s name was Dee. They had two children: a daughter named Glenda, who had recently married, and a son named Geoff, who was a few years younger than me. Brother Martin, as we called him, projected a Bible-teaching, Jesus-following way of life. The Martins were the sweetest, most kindhearted pastor-ministers you could ever want. They made the transition to the Libertyville-Mundelein Church of Christ a very easy and wonderful experience.
My brother left for Harding University in the fall of 1971, leaving me as the pseudo-leader among the teenagers and youth group. I was recruited to York College in Nebraska and embarked on my next chapter of life in the fall of 1972.
My takeaways from my four short years at the Libertyville-Mundelein Church of Christ:
1. I emerged as a leader. Being one of the few, perhaps only, 14-year-old baptized Christians made me a target for encouragement to step up and be a leader among the other youth group members. Youth ministers were relatively unheard of until 15-20 years later. We had a servant-hearted volunteer leaders. One such couple was Frank and Diane Lockridge. They wanted to be a part of our lives as mentors and friends. These leaders acted as big brothers and sisters, pouring themselves into us in many spiritual and physical ways.
2. I became somewhat evangelistic, although I later discovered inviting people to church was not a personal evangelistic activity. I wore my faith on my sleeve. That is to say, I didn’t hesitate to tell my friends and classmates I was a Christian—sometimes in an almost condescending manner. It’s what I had been taught and seen exampled by my older church friends and family. I invited many to church and probably was a bit obnoxious about the morals of many of my classmates in the late sixties and early seventies. It was many years later that I learned that “example” is a lot more effective than “sit down and let me tell you where you’re wrong”! None-the-less, and I was naïve enough to think I could tell somebody about God, Jesus, and the church and have them say, “YES, Steve, tell me more!” or “YES, I want that, too!”
On a few occasions, some of my friends allowed me to invite them to church, and I expected that to work magic. I was almost always disappointed in their response, and even when they did have some sort of interest stirring within them, my friends soon fell off the ride to salvation.
3. I experienced spiritual growth because of Fall Hall Glen - Wisconsin Christian Youth Camp (WCYC), https://www.wcyc.org/welcome-to-wcyc. I won’t go into the history of WCYC, which is a wonderful story of Christian faith and dedication to teaching and developing Christlike principles and leadership. But WCYC certainly was a HUGE part of my Christian development. I only spent three years as a camper and one as a counselor, but those years were amazing. I met some of my best friends in the world, many of whom I am still in contact with today. When I was newly married, I wanted my new wife to see and experience this wonderful heaven-on-earth-like place. We made a trek to the campsite when it was not in session. Even in the stillness and quiet of the camp, it was still a moving spiritual experience. I decided that my children someday would attend WCYC, and they did!
4. I learned way too much about church backroom dealings that I wish I had never learned. Until I started attending the Libertyville-Mundelein Church of Christ, I had not personally experienced much turnover in preachers or discontented members leaving for other flocks within or even outside our fellowship. There may have been angst and turmoil in our past congregations, but I had been wholly unaware of such.
My mother probably protected me from any divisive church issues that were doctrinal in nature or philosophical about issues at the Libertyville-Mundelein church. I do remember an elder standing up one day and announcing his resignation because of sin. I wondered what that sin could have been. As we left that day, I could tell there was a lot of buzz about the resignation, but it was never uttered aloud. By the next week, it was fairly well known that the elder and his wife were divorcing because of marital unfaithfulness.
It wasn’t until three or four years into my membership of the Libertyville-Mundelein church that I experienced a preacher being “let go.” I saw right away this was not what Glenn Martin and his family wanted. I could see their disappointment. Yet I never have since seen (unfortunately, there were way too many preachers let go in my coming years) a preacher and his family leave so gracefully. It told a lot more about their characters than the characters of those who decided he had to go.
There seemed to be a few other preachers that came through, exhausted their repertoire of sermons and moved on. The eldership and deacons also seemed to quit and leave for various reasons. Again, I was naïve and never really understood what was going on. Those that were in the know didn’t think it was prudent to make public statements about what was going on, and certainly didn’t feel the need to tell one of the teenagers about any of the happenings. There were correct on that procedural matter.
As I was leaving for college, I remember reflecting on my experiences growing up in the Churches of Christ from Peoria to Chicago. The song, “My God and I” kept playing in my mind. I knew a lifetime of love and service to Christ and His kingdom was in front of me. I was ready to leave home and live this Christian life without my mom protecting me. I didn’t know what would unfold as I struck out on my own to do church the best way I knew how. I did know, however, that my God was going to walk with me and protect me as I strove to work in his white fields. As I was fond of saying, I don’t know all of the answers, but I know where to find them.
The minister who was in place when I left for Harding in the summer of 1974 was Ken Chaffin. Ken and his wife Janie were young and had no children. Later in 1976, after he had graduated from Harding, my brother Dave took a job as the associate minister working under the tutelage of Ken Chaffin, and they remained lifelong friends until the day Ken passed away some 45 years later.