- A Break in Family
- Childhood Years
- Judging People on My Experience
- At Home
- Parents, Home, Neighbors
- Early Lessons about Race/Ethnicity
- Early “Organizational” Life
- Church and Christian Contradictions
- Silent Prejudices
- Classes and Class
- College & the Beginning of the End of Innocence
- War without War
- A Lesson in Manipulative Power
- Decision for Ministry
- Preparing for Ministry
- Academic Major at Amherst
- Extra-Curricula Learning at Amherst – Enter Bill & Alice Wimer
- Unrecognized Introduction to Feminism
- Andover Newton Theological School
- Church Pastorates
- Denominational Staff Ministry
- From “Black Problem” to “White Problem”
- Stealth-Like Learnings: “Sexism”, “Racism” and Institutions
- Shifting Sands of Faith Demand Action
- Advancing “dis-ease”
- Changing View of the World
- The New Beginning
- Genesis of Community Change, Inc.
- The Early Years at CCI
- Boston’s Struggle for Equal Schools
- Attention to National Issues
- People Participating = Hope
- Enter: James Baldwin
- White Identity Challenged
- Urgency Requires Anti-Apartheid Action
- Suburban Operations Simulation
- Police Brutality
- Local Organizing and Seeking Ways to Combat Racism
- The Move to Boston
- “People”, “People”, “People”
- Moral Man and Immoral Society
- The “office” not an “OFFICE”
- Probing History Moves to the Center of Work
- Affirmative Action
- Little GIANTS
- Expanding the Work
- National Day of Mourning
- Chinatown and Beyond
- “People” not “leaders”
- 1492 Becomes 1992
- Harassment of Black Leaders
- Immigrant Action
- The Photography Collective
- Following (not very well!) Freire
- Enter Derrick Bell
- Using “Privilege to Subvert “Privilege”
- Becoming a Historian
- On the Trail Where Yesterday Inspires, Challenges Today
After that lucky summer, I traveled by bus often between Amherst and Hartford, and by time of my graduation from Amherst, and Sylvia’s graduation from Hartford, we were engaged. The story of the actual engagement says much about my father and Sylvia. One weekend Sylvia journeyed by bus to Haverhill to meet my parents. I knew that father was in love with her immediately. That Saturday evening, after my parents had retired, Sylvia and I sat on a couch in the downstairs den and decided to become engaged. We agreed that we would announce it at breakfast.
At the Sunday breakfast, before I had gathered the words or the right moment for our announcement, my father looked at us, and said, “When you are ready for a ring, let me know”!!!!! That may have been one of the biggest risks my father ever took! Somehow he must have known there was no risk. After church that morning, he took us to a jewelry store, which he asked the owner to open, and he bought the ring which Sylvia wore back to Hartford. We stopped in Amherst, to tell our news to friends, Doug Heath, Dave Cross, Harry and Betsey Barnes, and then Bob and Sydney Brown.
The wedding had to be postponed until 1950. For the fall of 1949, Sylvia had already accepted a position doing Methodist college student work at Oregon State, and I was to enter my theological training at Andover Newton Theological School.
Today, looking back on my decision to enter theological education in Massach-
usetts, while Sylvia was to be working in Oregon, causes reflection on that choice. As I look back, it is clear that choice was encumbered by sexist assumptions. I think it never occurred to me, nor do I remember Sylvia and I even contemplating the possibility of my enrolling in a west coast seminary near her work! The decision meant that for a whole year we were separated, after engagement and prior to marriage. It also meant that Sylvia, after a year, had to leave a position she loved, which was financially and professionally more rewarding than the job she had when she joined me in Newton. Sylvia was known as one of the best college student workers in the Methodist Church. When she came east we lived at Andover Newton, and she accepted a position doing college student work at Boston University. There she was assistant to a man who had not one tenth of her ability, for a “salary” which barely kept us above water. Additionally, travel to B.U. meant that coming home each day she had to climb a steep hill to reach our room; that climb often left her weakened by painful asthmatic breathing.
Reflection leads me to believe that the reason why the option for me to move to Oregon with Sylvia did not occur to us, was rooted in a common assumption that the woman joins the man, and that was just the “way it is”! Had our decision been different, and I joined Sylvia, it may also have opened to us a further option, now quite a common one. We could have treated our entire subsequent ministry as a joint one. In such a case Sylvia and I would have shared both the position and functions of “pastor”, rather than she being “the minister’s wife”. Such a possibility would have made Sylvia’s brilliance and dedication much more available to people in the churches and communities we served. It would also have transformed family life, with a sharing of roles, which might also have been better for us and our children. If I had known, if Sylvia had known then, what is known today about family options which reject traditional, sexist forms, life might have been better for us, for our children, for all who knew us. Today it seems almost impossible to think that Sylvia and I never even thought of such an option. Without these options, we moved forward with marriage plans.
The wedding was on June 24, 1950, in the Methodist Church, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where Sylvia’s parents were members. Simple is the descriptive word.
Sylvia made her dress; a cake was made by friends of the family, flowers and food brought by members of the congregation, and all was fine. My parents and sisters had driven from Massachusetts, and of course, Sylvia’s family, brother, sister, and relatives were all present. Dave Cross, friend from both Amherst and Andover Newton, served as best man. We honeymooned in northern Wisconsin, then returned to Dousman, a neighboring town to Oconomowoc, where I served a church for the summer. That summer we bought our first car, a used two-door Ford sedan, which got us back east in the fall.