The summer began with the engagement ring, but at the end of the summer, I would be heading even farther away to the Seminary in St. Louis.  Mary Ann decided that she would enroll in the University of Missouri in St. Louis in the fall.  It sounded like a good idea at the time.  We were able to find a place for her live with members of a Lutheran Congregation in the north part of the city (Bel-Nor).  I was able to work it out so that my Field Work congregation was that same congregation.  The good news was that the place she was staying was close to the University.  The bad news was that it was six miles of city street driving to get from the Seminary to her place.

That is the worst semester of school I ever had, at least in terms of grades.  Obviously, I needed to see her many evenings a week.  It would have been madness for her to be stuck up there by herself, and me sitting there studying down in Clayton, six miles away unless absolutely necessary.  One evening I was returning to the Sem late at night, maybe 1-1:30am, pretty sleepy.  I sailed through a stop sign and slammed on the brakes when it registered, but it was too late.  (Sailed might be an exaggeration since it was a 1950 Chevy we are talking about.)  Of course, there was a police officer sitting inconspicuously along the side of the road.

The officer pulled me over, got me out of the car and told me to sit on the passenger side of the police car.  He talked for a while in a surprisingly friendly way.  After a while he said that he was just bored and stopped me to talk.  He saw my brake lights when I tried to stop.  He issued neither ticket nor warning.  It didn’t hurt that I was studying for the ministry.

It dawned on us that is was just crazy for us to be living six miles apart in the same metropolitan area, when we had been going together for three and a half years and had been engaged for the last four or five months.  Why not get married and live in the same place.  In those years living together before marriage was unthinkable, at least for us.

By this time Mary Ann was 24 and I was 22.  We were certainly of age and free to get married.  The Seminary, however, felt they had a say in the matter.  I had to meet with the Dean of Students and provide a note from my parents, guaranteeing that I would be able to manage school financially through graduation three and a half years later.  My Dad scoffed a the idea of such a note, since I had been on my own for a couple of years already having had part time jobs that paid pretty well.

What I just described sounds crazy in today’s world.  Understand this was an institution based on an old world German Gymnasium (pronounced with a hard G) education model,  We went to school for 8 years (after high school), were required to learn to read Latin, German, Greek and Hebrew, carry at least 18 hours each term with three terms during the school year, each term cramming in a full semester of work. Many of those in the program had begun when they finished the 8th Grade, leaving home for a boarding school for the high school years.  Since I had gone to a heathen high school (public school), I had to take 23 hours the first semesters to make up all the language and religion requirements.

In earlier years, no one was allowed to marry while at the Seminary.  Add the numbers and you will note that Seminarians graduated at 26 years of age.  If a person married, he was kicked out of the Sem, although a few managed to do it, my Brother Dick for one, some fourteen years earlier did it.

If a Seminarian was engaged while at the Seminary and broke the engagement, he was also kicked out.  The position of the Seminary was that engagement was “tantamount” to marriage (whatever that means).  Breaking an engagement was like breaking marriage vows.

Mary Ann and I were among five couples who were married in the first year of the Seminary.  We broke ground for what now is exactly the opposite. Most of the Seminarians enter the Sem married or are married during their years there.

There was an unwritten expectation that makes this whole thing even more ridiculous.  Pastors were expected to be married when they were serving a parish after they graduated and were Ordained later in the summer.  In the extreme that would mean they had about 8 weeks to find someone, fall in love, get engaged and get married.  The Nurses at Deaconess Hospital in St. Louis were plucked out of there right and left.

Mary Ann and I decided that we would marry as early as possible during the Christmas break so that we could move into our apartment and get settled before classes started in January.  That meant that we had to plan a wedding from St. Louis to be held in Aurora, Illinois (275 miles away) between the middle of October and Saturday, December 18. We both had finals on Friday the 17th in St. Louis.

Next time I will tell you how we did it.  It was a beautiful church wedding.

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