Sub-Titled The Testimony of a Twentieth-Century Christian. Morris West wrote in 1996, “I offer … an act of witness: the testimony of a pilgrim, a fellow with a cockleshell in his hat, a staff in his hand, with eighty years of living recorded in his brain box and aching joints…” West’s recall of his days as a postulate caused me to reflect over the some 45 years that I have been in United Methodist ministry. His courageous choice not to accept his final vows in the opening days of WWII stirred a series of conscious choices that lead him down a winding path at first away from official association with the faith of his fathers and then back to tell her stories. Even though he clearly could not continue in a priesthood that he considered seriously flawed, he found a respectful curiosity that drew him to return with an open heart, pen in hand.
His telling of these stories is relaxed, compassionate and insightful as one embracing the odd quirks and personalities in one’s own family history. West has no particular axe to grind. He simply embodies the quiet recognition that our lives are shaped by the personalities and landscapes we encounter. His was certainly a colorful passage from the monochromatic days as postulate and soldier to the technicolor studios of MGM.
January 14, 2011 at 2:01 am
Prior to my seminary training I attended graduate school in music, eventually determining that music would need to be an avocation and not a career choice. I remember that collision of dream with reality being the second major choice in my early wrestlings with the call of the spirit (the first being my choice to marry a young woman who I had met in undergraduate school and was engaged to).
The setting was the Viet Nam war era. I had friends fighting and dying in the jungles of Southeast Asia. I had gone to graduate school on a student deferrment. Changing directions could have opened me up for the draft and thus immediate deployment. So I chose to enter seminary and have lived the choice I make.
Was it a choice I would have made had I not been living in the shadow of the war? Such a question is hard to clearly answer. I had ample encouragement to consider Music Ministry or Pastoral Ministry as a career choice, but I do think things moved faster than I was prepared to embrace, leaving this a ragged edge that I would leave dangling from my early journey.
Entering seminary I became a spokesman against the war and a demonstrator for racial justice. Free time might find me on a picket line or at an antiwar ralley joining campus bards and folks singers.