The Aftermath of Jonathan's Wake - How We Fared

Four of us I see as the core of Jonathan's Wake were Will Campbell, Jim McGraw, Lew Wilkins and myself. There was a California contingent that was as much a part of it as we were, but it would not be until after the Detroit experience in 1969 that I would come to know them as friends and associates. So to answer the question of how we fared after the Wake I will deal with Jim, Will, Lou and myself.

I would say that Will and I, in our own ways, kept doing what we always had done. Both of us sat light to the institutional church and both had a similar analysis of its problems. We did not fade away after Detroit. But we each operated less and less as part of any effort to renew the churches or to work within church structures. Will ran The Committee of Southern Churchmen and was able to support his modest Mt. Juliet, TN, existence with income derived from the Committee and earnings as an author and speaker. For about two years following the Wake I was paid a modest consultant's fee by the Presbyterians to keep my hand in, concentrating on the younger folk from the California Submarine Church (Dick York, Steve Richardson and Tony Nugent among them) and relating to a similarly inclined group centered at Union Theological Seminary in New York, including John and Maggie DeVries  and Mark Thompson. I had bought a rambling fixer-upper in Stockbridge for the princely sum of $16,000 and it had a back building which served as my office and a place where itinerant church folk and Canada-bound war resisters were welcome. Mark Thompson lived there for a time as we sought to keep our critical agenda alive.   

While I do not know what happened to all of these younger folk, I think it is safe to say that few found their way back into conventional ministries or keep alive what might be called a church renewal movement over the decades after 1969.

Of the four I have called the core, Jim McCraw and Lew Wilkins proved the most able to function comfortably within the bounds of their denominations, Jim as pastor of John  Street Methodist near Wall Street and Lew at churches near his eventual home in Lubbock, Texas. Neither of these stalwarts sacrificed a bit of their commitment but both were able, as Will and I were not, to function within the constraints of the creedal activities  and words of the church. Will and I could do this too and did at times. I did preaching and pastoral work when my wife served pastorates in Massachusetts. Will preached some and was a pastor to many who sought him out.

Of the four, I have been the least settled occupationally and residentially. Sequentially, from1969 on, I taught, lectured, did newspaper and radio work, ran a stringed musical instrument and scarce book business, directed the Albert Schweitzer Center, fund-raised for Will’s committee, wrote books and and Biblical music, had my own record company, produced commercial country music  and eventually worked for three United Nations agencies, eventually editing CHOICES for UNDP. When being online was possible, I began living  there.

If I have any recurrent regret it is that most of the avenues to even dialogue with theological associates are nonexistent today. Part of this is due to the passage of time. Most of my best friends and colleagues are dead, including Lew and Jim, Al Carmines and Bob Helm. Will is now in Nashville, having suffered a debilitating stroke  last year. I have tried to open doors at Union Theological Seminary with no success. But as my current Kindle Library makes clear I have not stopped thinking and writing. Ultimately words trump lives in the influence category.  I do not intend to stop writing until I cannot type at this keyboard anymore.

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