Curiosity has always been part of my DNA. Even as a child, my life was constantly filled with “why” and “How’s it going ? At first, I tended to blindly accept whatever the adults in my circle told me. After all, I thought, they were so much older and wiser than me.
As I grew in age and wisdom, I began to see that such reasoning carried with it the seeds of doubt. The truth often seemed buried under several layers of “easy answers”. As my intellect grew, my questions needed better answers. And, of course, being the third in a possible family of eight did not allow for long speeches on any given subject.
This was especially true in our spiritual education. Each meal began and ended with a prayer and also included a Bible reading. Dad always did both the prayers and the Bible readings and, of course, philosophical discussions were not the priority in my mind after a meal. Each of us children said our own memorized prayer at the beginning and end of each meal. Needless to say, our prayers were a bit rushed at times, especially when we were eager to get out and play. Sometimes I thought to myself that God had heard these prayers so often that the Almighty probably knew them from memory too.
During my life, I have been richly blessed to have come into contact with giants whose influence has guided me along paths least expected. There were men like the world famous Dutch organist/composer, Feike Asma, who for me, even as a child, was the ultimate embodiment of what it was to be “an organist”. He was my idol; and my ultimate dream was to one day study with this giant. It was not to be; but I had the joy of being his driver, companion and assistant for a week during part of his concert tour in the United States
Other people who have greatly influenced my life include Richard Purvis, the former organ virtuoso and composer of San Francisco’s Christ Cathedral; Maestro LeBlanc in Luxembourg, who kindly called me “the young American organist who plays so well”; and Dean Spielman, one of my assistants at my first European recital, assistant organist for Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg who eventually became the “President of the European Court of Justice.
There were world famous artists such as Steve Allen, Dinah Shore, Milton Berle, Bob Newhart and the incomparable Louis Armstrong. The writings of Robert Frost, which inspired me to take “roads less traveled” and world-renowned psychologist Carl Rogers, whose theory of “Client Centered Therapy” I embraced, and whose theories were in direct contrast to those of John Calvin’s theory of “Predestination.”
The list goes on and on, and by it all I have been nurtured and grown. But it was during my college years that I came into contact with Bishop Spong, an Episcopal priest, whose writings were both brilliant and accessible to me. They have really become “a light on my path.” Unfortunately, we never met; but it was an association that grew over the years. I read and re-read with avidity, no, I devoured each new book as soon as it was available.
My childhood faith which had been nurtured in the Calvinist tradition (my father was a pastor) was not only tested, but shaken like a sapling in a storm. As I began to grow spiritually and began to question the “religion of old” I began to realize that questioning my faith was not only good, but necessary; as part of my spiritual growth process. The old answers no longer satisfied my questions.
As I began to open the doors of this new house of faith, I began to realize that I was on a seemingly endless journey, an endless search, but which I believed would eventually lead me to divine.
A few years ago, Bette and I had the joy of hearing Bishop Spong give one of his talks at a church in Minneapolis. The church was full and time stood still. His delivery was like his writing; soft, warm and graceful. When he spoke of “the mystery of God”, his voice was full of fear; and we, the flock he served, were also filled with the same sense of this divine mystery.
Spong, despite being a man of gentleness, was not afraid to tackle the difficult issues surrounding Christianity. He became a leader of the Progressive Christianity movement and for many years his writings appeared in his publication, “Christianity Today” (online publication, christianitytoday.org). The internet is full of audiovisual lectures by Spong as well as numerous references to his writings. To see “Monsignor Spong. I highly recommend his “Tracing the New Reformation: The Twelve Theses”. It is a definitive piece outlining his core beliefs.
He has moved on to a new reality. As he said so well, “The path of Christ is the path I have walked all my life, so it is normal and natural. And I have no reason to give it up because it leads where I want to go.
Rest from your labors, Bishop Spong. You have spoken, walked and now inherit the kingdom prepared for you. “Grant him eternal rest, O Lord!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gerrit Lamain is a former Copper Country resident who served as a music teacher at Suomi College. He has published a book, “Gerrit’s Notes: A compilation of essays”, which can be found on Amazon. His email address is [email protected].