Alfred Station “Happenings” to Remember

April 6, 2009 - 1,140 views

How privileged I was to be invited to join the School of Theology professors in attending the Steuben County Ministers Association. Dean Bond, President Norwood, Dr. Edrar Van Horn and I often rode to the meetings together. The conversations were always stimulating–and sometimes hilarious. Papers read by members of the association on relevant religious topics were discussed and evaluated on the rides home.

I remember a Minister’s meeting held in the Gothic chapel when Dean Bond presented a paper on The Sabbath. In the discussion that followed the Episcopal priest from Hornell pontificated, “I believe every Sunday should be a “little Resurrection”, and every Saturday should be a “little Creation”.

It was at one of the Minister’s meetings that I met Rabbi Karl Wiener. He was the Rabbi of the Reformed Jewish congregation in Hornell. With his wife, Eva, he had escaped from Nazi Germany and had come to the United States by way of Israel. Madeline and I and Karl and Eva developed a warm, vital friendship that has lasted through the years. (More on this friendship later.)

I have never enjoyed a richer fellowship with ministers than in The Ministerium of Greater Alfred and the Upper Reaches of the Kanakadea. Alfred University Chaplain William (Bill) Genne and Betty; Alfred Pastor Everett (Ev) Harris and Clora and Madeline and I had lunch together twice a month. It was always fun being together but there were often serious matters to share and discuss. Bill was a confirmed pacifist and our discussions on that theme often caused deep soul-searching among us.

The three of us became involved in a serious situation with the Board of Education. The board refused to divulge why they fired the high school principal, appreciated in the community for his long tenure and excellent record. With approval from the principal–who insisted he was not told why he was being dismissed–we confronted the board for answers. They gave us none but out of community-wide pressure, the board established a policy giving the public access to their deliberations and decisions. Our efforts were not without good and lasting results. (Bill and Betty honored me by having me perform a Service of Dedication for their baby son, Tom.)

It was a major event in the life of the Second Alfred Church when Dr. Dumont Clark, founder of The Lord’s Acre Plan, shared the plan with our congregation. Dr. Clark was a charming, white-haired minister from the south who presented his Lord’s Acre Plan with enthusiasm and fervor. It was a joy having him as our guest. Our congregation “bought” the Lord’s Acre Plan and incorporated it in our program for several years.

Along with many individual Lord’s Acre projects the first year, we carried on a joint project by planting five acres of buckwheat on land donated by Irving Palmiter. Though there was a profit from the harvest of the buckwheat, it was not as much as expected because the deer rolled in the buckwheat and ate around the edges of the field. Some wag in Alfred Station said, “The deer ate the Lord’s buckwheat”. The Lord’s Acre Sale each fall was supported by people from the area and raised appreciable monies for the church budget.

Madeline sustained a serious injury in the Alfred Station parsonage. Half awake and missing the hall light switch, she walked through the open stairway door in the dark and fell seventeen stairs down onto the kitchen floor. I carried her back up the stairs to bed. Her back pain did not improve over several weeks so we sought help from an orthopedic specialist in Rochester. He advised an operation with six weeks in bed to recuperate. For a second opinion a specialist in Buffalo suggested sleeping on a hard bed and letting time bring healing. We followed that course with some success but Madeline has never been free of some back pain.

The first funeral I was called on to conduct was for a seventy-five year old man from Olean, New York. No one in Alfred Station remembered the man. His wife, from whom he had been separated, told me he did not believe in God but she thought she ought to take him through a church.

As you can doubtless appreciate, the funeral service I conducted was brief. It was reported to me that the undertaker, Phil Place, when asked how the young preacher had done, said, “I like that young man. He’s short”.

My first wedding in the Second Alfred church united Elmer Willard and Bertha Lewis in marriage. Elmer has had a successful career as a school principal and Bertha was an elementary teacher until their retirement.

Charles Bond, with whom I had grown up in Salem, came to the School of Theology to study for the ministry. Madeline and I enjoyed having him spend-a number of weekends with us. During a Christmas vacation in Salem Charley and Margaret Skaggs were married. Margie had to return to Plainfield for a couple of weeks after the wedding and when Charley returned to school to told us about the wedding. He regretted that the Salem friends had not serenaded them. (They were prepared with refreshments). In West Virginia they called it a “serenade”–in New York it’s a “shivaree”.

When Charley and Margie were together in Alfred, we invited them for dinner and a movie with us. On the pretense of taking Anne to a baby sitter, we left the newly weds at the parsonage. By prearrangement, our church people were gathered at the church with all sorts of noisemakers. We surrounded the parsonage and broke the silence with all the noise possible. (Fred Palmer had a public address system with which we summoned the couple to come out). When our bewildered guests could no longer stand the racket they came out to greet their tormentors. We concluded the evening with a reception for the Bonds in the church social room.

When Charles Bond became Pastor of the Hebron, Pennsylvania Seventh Day Baptist church he invited me to preach evangelistic sermons on two weekends with the two of us visiting in the community during the week.