While I did manage to get an A on my Internship, the Seminary realized that Pastor Harold should never have a Vicar again.  Actually, he went to another parish a month before I left, so I got my congregation back.

Since it was now my last year of school, the preventative measures were stopped and a little new person started developing.  When I phoned my Mother with the news, in a very matter of fact voice she said, “It’s about time.”  It would be her twelfth Grandchild.

While that was wonderful, I managed to complicate our lives hopelessly.  The view of the Parish Ministry (being pastor of a church) from Vicarage was very distasteful.  I could not imagine heading out to some God-forsaken place like Kansas or Nebraska to pastor a little congregation.  That would be the norm for a new Graduate.  What complicated it even more is that I was in the midst of a terrible crisis of faith.  What I had learned about the heart of the message didn’t match what people who called themselves Christians seemed to be doing and saying.  For a time, I threw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, and I struggled with this whole God business.

The result is that I told the Seminary that I would not be interested in receiving a Call, when Call day came in the spring.  I would have no job.  I had just finished spending 8 years of my life training for something I was not going to do.

I suspect Mary Ann had some regrets at that time about hooking up with this crazy man.  I did not tell her about the faith crisis until decades later.   Call Day came, Graduation came, the baby kept developing inside Mary Ann.  It was a terribly difficult time for both of us.  By this time, Mary Ann was working in the Medical Records department of St. Mary’s Hospital.  Her supervisor was Sister Mary Antona, who became fond of Mary Ann, just as we became fond of her.   Years later we visited her in Baraboo Wisconsin (Home of the Circus Museum) where she was a hospital Administrator.  I have wondered what happened to her.  I just Googled her and discovered that she had a distinguished career and was an activist in the Civil Rights’ Movement.  We knew she was someone special.

I continued to work at Clark-Peeper Office Supplies, part time during classes and full time in the summer.  They offered me a job when I graduated.  I interviewed for other jobs, insurance, sales rep.  It was mightily depressing to be starting from scratch again.

What brought joy to Mary Ann and me that summer was the birth of Lisa on the Fourth of July.  The Obstetrician was a Lutheran who would not charge any Seminarian for delivering their child.  I had the privilege of putting on scrubs and joining the doctor and Mary Ann in the delivery room.  Many have said it before me, but what looks unappetizing when seen in a video is one of the most beautiful experiences imaginable.

One of the Professors at the Seminary had become friends with both Mary Ann and me.  On the East Coast at that time it was not unusual to refer to a Lutheran Pastor as “Father.”  He was referred to as Father John.  His Mother had come to live with him.  She visited Mary Ann in the hospital and told the Staff that she was her Mother.  She was a character.

While Mary Ann was busy giving birth to Lisa, little Suzette, the poodle we had gotten from Roger and Jan, was busy ripping up the apartment.  I mentioned that she was grumpy.  Suzy liked no one but Mary Ann.  She tolerated me.  Suzy tore the bottom sheet on the bed.  She scratched at one of those bedspreads with the thread pattern on top until all the threads were in a huge clump in the middle.  She ate part of a decorative candle we had brought back from our trip to Europe, and she chewed up a hand carved horse we had purchased in Oberammergau.  It is fair to say she was very annoyed that Mary Ann had left her.  I now understand how she felt.

Two weeks after Lisa was born, she was baptized in a beautiful Baptistry on the first floor of the Seminary Tower.  Fr. John did the Baptism and used water he had brought from the Jordan River. One day shortly after that, I remember sitting in a chair, holding Lisa, wondering what her life would be like as I watched that first step on to the moon.  It was July of 1969.

During those months, I talked with one Professor in particular, Walt Bartling.  In the course our conversations, he did a couple of very important things.  One is that he stole from my questions and doubts the power to take away my faith.  Then came the key that opened me to a faith far more resilient and stronger than anything I had had before.   Walt essentially said that God was busy loving me, while I was busy doubting God.  My doubts had no impact on God.  That kernel of truth revealed in all its raw power, the meaning of the Gospel, God’s unconditional love for me. The power of the Gospel transformed my faith into something that has filled my life with meaning every moment of every day.

That was all well and good, but Call day had long since passed by the time my faith was regaining ground, and I had no job.  Fr. John came to our rescue.  What will follow is a story that I still can hardly believe, and I was there, we lived it.  Mary Ann must have wondered what on earth she had gotten herself into when she married me.

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They laughed and laughed, and then they laughed some more.  The worst one of them was 94 years old.  She told the raciest jokes.  I loved going in there to talk with them.  They were just a couple of doors away from my “office” which was some sort of storage room in the basement of the church.  We used the quilt they gave us when we left until it was worn through and in tatters.  Mary Ann salvaged parts of it and made a vest, a number of place mats and lots of Christmas tree ornaments in the shape of little stockings.  When we cleaned out the closet ten days ago, we found a piece of it in a plastic bag hanging from a hanger.

My salary that year (1967-8) was $250 per month with a $25 auto allowance.  We managed to live on that and save Mary Ann’s entire salary at the bank for the last year of school (1968-9).

We, of course, immediately located the best ice cream place in town, Atz’s.  Actually, I had already discovered it a couple of years earlier when I attended Concordia Senior College there before entering the Seminary.  I remember the Sundae having three scoops of chocolate mint chip ice cream, with lava flows of hot fudge running down each scoop, heaped on top with nuts, whipped cream and a cherry.  I remember it being called a turtle sundae.  I wish Mary Ann was still here to help me remember that accurately.  Suffice it to say, we made very regular trips to Atz’s.

The Saturday before my very first time in public, leading worship, Mary Ann gave me a hair cut so that I would make a good first impression.  I am not sure what caused it to happen, but her hand slipped or I moved my head.  The electric clippers cut a swath from my temple to my ear, down to the skin.  I had a lot of hair, so the contrasting pink skin on the side of my head stood out in comparison to the dark, thick hair.  The solution?? An eyebrow pencil, of course.  She drew in the hair that was missing.  That worked when my face was turned to the side, but the notch was clear when looking at my face from straight on.

My first impression became irrelevant since the Pastor I was serving went into the hospital for tests the following Tuesday and remained there for a month.  I preached, made 75 hospital calls, attended all the meetings, ministered to the dying, taught classes.  In fact, I remember very clearly how irritated I was when he returned and took over my congregation.  It was a wonderful baptism of fire.  I had no time to be scared.  I just had to do whatever needed to be done.

The Vicarage (Internship) from hell part is harder to explain.  The Pastor was obsessive compulsive about record keeping and monthly reporting to the Elders, down to how many pieces of incoming mail and outgoing mail we processed and how many incoming and outgoing phone calls we made.  The Pastor was hopelessly racist and talked often in ways that were intolerable.  By the way, the grade he would give me counted for twelve hours of credit and would make or break the option of graduating.  He admitted that the congregation didn’t like him.  I actually provided a sort of therapeutic setting for him when we met to talk.  His approach to ministry seemed completely empty of what I understood Christianity to be about.  In fact, my experience there convinced me that it would be a waste of time to serve a congregation since there was no evidence that the message we were about was expressed in any way that I could see there. That is the part that ended up impacting Mary Ann and me later.

That was a year when Star Trek hit the airwaves.  Not only did I get caught up in it, but another Vicar (Intern) assigned to Ft. Wayne, Lyle, did too.  Mary Ann just laughed at us as we sat at the kitchen table and meticulously glued together our respective models of the Enterprise.

One of my worst moments came that year.  It only happened once, but it happened.  A student from the Senior College who played the organ for us that year came over.  We splurged and ate out.  There was a Manhattan before dinner, wine with dinner, a Liqueur after dinner.  Then after taking Mary Ann home, Paul wanted to take me to a favorite bar to have some sort of Martini made with a chocolate liqueur, I think.  Then he bought me a Rusty Nail.  My taste buds were so numb, I drank it down like a soft drink.  When we got home, I remember needing to stay very close to the wall as I walked in.  We have one of the best photographs I have ever taken of Paul sitting on the couch next to Mary Ann.  I have absolutely no memory of taking that picture.  I do remember the next few hours hugging a large white porcelain repository into which large quantities of the contents of my stomach were deposited — seemingly much more than I had consumed.  Did I mention that Mary Ann’s Mother was visiting us at that time?  I found out some time, that since I was camping out next to that porcelain receptacle with the door to the bathroom locked, she had to pee in a tin can.  We are none of us perfect!!

That Christmas we were not going to get a tree, but finally, we just had to get one.  We found one for 50 cents that we put on the top of a round book shelf that was Mary Ann’s table sitting next to her until days before the end when she could no longer sit up.  That tree helped establish our tradition of finding the most pitiful tree we could get and decorating it for Christmas (a Charlie Brown Tree).  Our kids gave us much grief over the years at our choice of Christmas Trees.

That is the year we got to know Roger and Jan.  Roger was another Vicar assigned to a church in Ft. Wayne.  They ended up the next year becoming Lisa’s Godparents. Roger and Jan loved dogs, especially Poodles.   There little Poodle, Happy, gave birth to a litter of pups, all who were registered and soon had their papers.  Mary Ann fell in love with one of the little puppies.  We named her MAT’s Happy Suzette. She was a ball of fur with stubby little legs who became the grumpiest Poodle on the planet.  She will be a central character in a post to come about the birth of our first child, Lisa.

One ironic note on the congregation I served from July 1967 to June 1968.  There was an old fellow, Ralph, who came around often.  I got to know him well.  He was great at dart ball (underhanded darts played competitively between church men’s groups).  Ralph had Parkinson’s Disease.  His huge lower lip hung down so that his gums showed and the drool ran and his dentures rattled.  On that account he could not talk very clearly.  He shuffled along and came by often.  I was never unkind to him.  We got along well, but I was grossed out by how he looked.  When I got the phone call that Mary Ann had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the vision of Ralph came immediately to mind.  In all her years with Parkinson’s, Mary Ann always remained pretty.  I found her as desirable at the end as I found her at the beginning of our relationship.  The soft kisses that we savored when standing in front of the fridge only a few weeks ago were as sweet as any we shared in all our years.  I miss her terribly.

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We traveled on through the black forest.  We followed a river back up to its source at the top of a pass, where we got out and threw snowballs at one another.  Then we followed the trickle of snow down the other side of the pass until it grew as waterfalls from melting snow tumbled over the rocks alongside adding more and more to it until it was a rushing river on the other side of the mountains.  In the  valley, we saw and visited the picturesque town of Oberammergau, the site of the passion play that was performed every ten years.

The bus took us through Lichtenstein, where we had the best meal on the trip, good sausage and trimmings.  By the time the trip was over, none of us could look a Wiener Schnitzel in the face.  Almost every meal was breaded veal, boiled potatoes and peas and carrots.  If we tried to order a glass of water and said the German word for water, wasser, we were brought sparkling mineral water. There was never any ice to be found.  Alas, we had to drink wine and beer.  The beer was one Mark a for a half liter, 25 cents, American.

In Austria, we could look out of our hotel room at a lake across the street bordered on the other side by mountains with puffy clouds hanging half way between the surface of the lake and the peak of the mountains.  We shopped in Switzerland and finally ended up at the airport in Belgium.

When we arrived in the airport in New York City, the plane had been delayed long enough that we missed our flight to St. Louis.  The airline gave us vouchers for a meal at a very nice restaurant in the airport while we waited. I had a huge steak about the size of what we used to call an arm roast.

It was either at the Washington airport when we were on the way to Europe, or in the New York airport on the way back that we ran into a family with a large and very friendly dog that we took time to pet.  The family the dog was with was Bobby Kennedy, his wife and children.  This was in 1966, between his Brother John F. Kennedy’s assasination and his own in 1968.

Finally, we landed in the St. Louis airport.  We had cut things too close as we managed our limited dollars very carefully but apparently not carefully enough.  The cost of the shuttle ride from the airport back to our apartment was $6.00.  We didn’t have that much.  We were stranded.

Hilton and Trudy Oswald came to our rescue.  They were a cute, older but very energetic couple who had come along on the trip with us.  We had hung out with them sometimes, especially since Hilton could speak German fluently.  They piled our luggage and us into their old Mercedes and drove us to our apartment.  It was not too far from their home.

The next week in St. Louis it was about as hot as it had ever been.  We never lived anywhere that was hotter and more humid than St. Louis.  There was a strong smell of yeast in the air constantly from all the breweries.  That week there was a temperature inversion.  The pollutants were kept from blowing away.  The air was yellow.  The temperature was 106 degrees for six days in a row.  Our apartment was, of course, not air conditioned.  We would open the windows of the bedroom, as well as the ones in the living room to get a cross breeze.  We slept in our underwear.  We would lie on our backs until they were adequately sweaty.  Then we would turn over and let the air movement very slowly dry the wet side, while the other side got sweaty.

Now there is the matter of the rent.  We had left enough in the bank to pay that first month’s rent when we returned from Europe.  The bank that before we left for Europe had told Mary Ann there would be no job waiting for her when we returned, did have her job available.  With both of us working full time, we were able to get back on course, paying the rent and saving for school in the fall.

We had very little money in those years.  We were dirt poor, along with all the rest of the seminarians, especially the growing number of those who had gotten married.  I don’t know that we felt poor.  Wonders could be done with hot dogs and creamed corn or macaroni.  Popcorn was cheap.  When we wanted to party after classes on Friday, one couple would bring the limes and the tonic water, the other couple a bottle of cheap Gin and we would relax with Gin and Tonics.

Mary Ann was able to earn a little extra money by babysitting for a couple with a toddler.  The parents got a pretty good deal.  We had one car, a gray 1956 Chevy with stick shift.  Mary Ann refused to learn to drive a stick shift.  That meant that the parents got two for the price of one, which was 75 cents an hour.

One time the parents of the toddler asked Mary Ann if she would be willing to babysit their son at the grandparents’ home.  She got the directions to the house and we headed out searching for it.  They were confusing directions, but we managed to find it.  It was a huge house on many acres of land.  There was an airplane sitting in an area beside the lane that led to the house.

We had been instructed to go to a room over the garage.  The room was outfitted as a playroom.   When we had mentioned the name of the Grandparent’s to someone, they wondered if it could be the J. S. McDonnell who owned McDonnell – Douglas aircraft.  It was!  He had been on the cover of Time Magazine not long before.  At that time, his income for one year had been $90,000,000 (yes, 90 million).  This was in the late 1960’s.

That number is relevant to what happened when the grandparents returned, and it was time to settle up.  I can remember Mary Ann and I standing beside the cooking island in the kitchen as we totaled the bill for the four hours.  At 75 cents an hour, the total was $3.00.  Mrs. McDonnell had a $5 bill.  She waited until Mary Ann searched her purse and billfold, and I searched my pockets for what seemed like an eternity to come up with the $2.00 in change.  No wonder he had $90,000,000.  He kept every penny he earned.  At the risk of being very politically incorrect, did I mention that McDonnell is a Scottish name.

As the story continues, the Vicarage (Internship) from Hell comes next.

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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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