Thursday, September 10, 2009

Influences- DB3

As I began this daily blog a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to tell stories from my career in student ministry. I knew I wanted to inspire readers in their faith. I knew I wanted to share the people and places that had inspired me. I knew I wanted to share the times I had failed. And I knew I wanted you to know the people who had substantial influence on my ministry. My parents were the biggest influence, but I am not ready to tell that story just yet. So today I'll talk about a guy who got to me early and changed me forever.

When I first started attending New Garden Friends youth in 1972, Fred Edinger was the youth leader. I wasn't around Fred very much before he left and was replaced by Beth Phillips, who I knew from her work at Quaker Lake, and David Brown III (pictured above holding video camera, along with me, Steve Semmler, Andy Maynard and an unknown guy), who was unlike anyone I had ever known...or seen! While I loved Beth and her quiet, calm leadership and friendship, David (known to us all as DB3) was a wild, charismatic figure who we were drawn to. He had long red hair, a longer red beard, and often wore a leather "hippie hat" like John Lennon used to wear. DB3 was the epitome of anti-establishment at a time when that was very cool. He was a Christ-centered Quaker who knew scripture and loved the Lord, but was totally radical in his actions and speech. He had gone to court to get conscientious objector status and stay out of Vietnam, and had amazing stories to tell about the courtroom and his alternative service as a CO. He was the first person who ever explained the Quaker peace testimony to me as an extension of the teachings of Jesus instead of just a social and political belief. At a time when far too many Quakers seemed ready to fight with those who didn't agree with their stance on the peace testimony (see the irony?), DB3 was living the life of a true pacifist, at least in the eyes of this young teenager. (Later on I would find a similar example in Frank Massey, who married the aforementioned Beth Phillips!) You could not help but learn simply by being around David Brown III.

But having said all that, what I really remember about DB3 was how much fun we had! He constantly pushed the boundaries of excepted "church" behavior, something that I copied from him my entire career. Whether it was doing strange and unexpected things when the youth led Meeting for Worship on Sunday, or teaching us "Sardines," he never failed to keep things lively! He was constantly telling stories ( you never quite knew if they were true or not) and thinking of new, wild and wacky activities. Among the things I remember best was Kick the Can (in the graveyard!). New Garden is a very old Meeting, and the graveyard has tombstones dating back to the Revolutionary War and the Battle at Guilford Courthouse. And yet, on a regular basis, we would scatter throughout the graveyard and play kick the can, running and screaming and occasionally kicking a tombstone thinking it was the ball! I would later continue that tradition as youth leader. DB3 understood something that has since been expressed in this quote: "Sacred cows make the best hamburgers." He always pushed the limits in our activities and in our thinking, and we loved him for it. Many times in my life since I have used his inspiration to guide me in my decision making as I sought to help students become radical followers of Jesus Christ.

So here's to DB3, a great influence on my life and ministry! He helped forge a random group of people into a group of great friends, and pointed us all towards Jesus. I hope someone can look back at my ministry and say the same, because that is what it's all about!

Because of Jesus,

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