Church and Introspection in Dallas

Our Savior Lutheran Church, est. 1947

Uncle Leo invited Hank to attend church with him every Sunday he was there for his three-week stay. On the final Sunday, Hank decided it would be polite to comply. Since Aunt Hattie died three years ago, Leo continued attending church alone, and Hank finally decided that refusing his invitations was insensitive.

Having been soaked in the Southern Baptist ethos of Turvey’s Corner, Hank remembered with the least affection the compulsory ecclesiastical attendance and participation enforced by his parents. Three weeks ago, lying under the stars on the Oklahoma plains, Hank suddenly realized it was Sunday, and felt more stirred in that moment than he had ever known in fifteen years of church attendance, including revival services.

Our Savior Lutheran Church sat on the corner of West Clarendon & Gilpin, a comfortable walk from Uncle Leo’s house. Hank was not accustomed to the liturgical nature of Lutheran worship, having known a comparatively folksy environment in the church of his own upbringing. But he did take notice of the organist Linda, thinking for a moment that perhaps he shouldn’t be so quick to leave town. He had anticipated going on the road in the morning.

Reverend Elton Bauerkemper was an overweight, bespectacled minister who fired a rather sustained fusillade of verbal fire and brimstone across the seated congregation, something they seemed to enjoy. Hank himself had had more than his share of that in his own past. But there was something else about this minister’s demeanor that attracted Hank, and he wasn’t sure exactly what it was. Perhaps it was a glimmer of intellectual authenticity within his words, or maybe it was something in his eye, something that telegraphed a man sensitive to the needs of individuals. Whatever it was, Hank decided before the sermon concluded that he desired an audience with the Reverend.

Hank didn’t leave in the morning. Instead, Tuesday afternoon found him seated in the minister’s study, surrounded by an imposing library of volumes comprised of theology, biblical studies, philosophy, literature, art history and natural science. Hank was also impressed that the study featured a pair of wingback chairs, and Reverend Bauerkemper (please, call me Elton) settled into one of the chairs instead of sitting behind his desk like a judge or attorney.

“So, Hank, what’s your story?”

“I don’t really have one, that’s why I’m on the road.”

“Leonard told me you were ‘passing through.’ You worked awhile, stuck some money in your pocket, and now you’re ready to roll again?”

“That’s right.”

“So, you don’t have a story, is that your point? Are you out looking for the ‘Meaning of Life?’”

“Well, I’m twenty-five and never traveled more than forty miles from my hometown. I never amounted to anything in school and only got into junior college because I showed promise as an artist. A few weeks back, an old man I always referred to as The Philosopher died. He was ninety. Old Bob remains the most remarkable man I’ve ever known because he was full of stories, having traveled broadly before returning to his hometown to live out his final twenty years. You could write a book from the stories he shared, and now that he’s gone, there doesn’t seem to be anybody else for me to look up to, and frankly, I’m afraid of living out a boring life in Turvey’s Corner and dying with nothing to remember or repeat.”

“Hank, I’m going to be straight with you. I talk to members of my congregation in confidence three-to-five times a week. They all have the same concerns—marital issues, adolescent rebellion, financial indiscretions—nobody seems to express any kind of awareness of a life of the mind.”

“Life of the mind? Explain.”

“Have you ever read Thoreau or Emerson?”

“Thoreau, yes. Walden. Emerson, no.”

“Those men lived a life of the mind—they didn’t have to travel and raise trouble to live a meaningful life. They drew their inspiration from books, but believed that they had their own unique and personal insights just as potent as the ones written by great authors who had gone before. The life of the mind occurs when one takes reading seriously and engrafts personal insights onto the ideas read. And the more they read, the more they weave these disparate threads of thoughts, inserting their own observations as well.”

“I guess I’ve never considered that. In school, I was always among the quiet, dumb crowd, sitting in the back of the room, letting the smart ones in class answer all the questions.”

“Yes, and I’ll lay you a week’s salary that the ‘smart ones’ only knew the answers to questions raised by the teacher. Did you ever think that anyone among your class elite ever had an original thought, or even bounced the ideas of two different authors off of each other?”

“No, I didn’t. And of course I myself never even thought of any of that, until this moment.”

“Hank, I truly believe you are experiencing a conversion, right now.”

“Oh, I’ve been baptized. Twice, actually. The first time as a ten-year-old. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I did it again when I was seventeen.”

“And still didn’t know what you were doing.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess you have a point. But what is this conversion you’re talking about now?”

(to be continued . . .)

I’m getting a kick out of this chapter of the Hank saga. I promise more as it comes to light. Thanks for reading and please check out my website

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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2 Responses to “Church and Introspection in Dallas”

  1. Dian Darr Says:

    What???? You left us hanging! Will we get to see inside Reverend Elton’s study? I can almost picture Hank ensconced in the wing back chair taking in his surroundings!


    • davidtripp Says:

      This was the most unusual experience for me yet, in writing! When I began the dialogue, I didn’t even know where it was going to go. Suddenly, it took off and I was typing at top speed. Then . . . there were suddenly three different directions the conversation could go, so I just stopped and decided to compost it a bit. After 24 hours, I have resumed the talk, but haven’t yet finished it. I hope you’ll stay tuned! Incidentally, Linda Boullard planted all the details of this minister and church on me in a phone conversation yesterday!


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