To me it seems now, all these years later, to be a golden time in my still too immature walk with Christ. But I had become the member of a church of my own choice, First Presbyterian Church of Babylon, NY. It was pastored by the Rev. Mr. James Noel Spurgeon (no relationship to Charles!). That was in 2979. It was there that I first sensed God’s call to the ministry, and Pastor Spurgeon convinced me to attend Westminster Seminary. Life seemed good, but…
Pastor Jim, as solid Reformed Presbyterian left and was replaced by Pastor Ken Craig, a Barthian (e.g., He insisted that the Bible contained scientific, historical and religious error but instead of paling over this as most theologians would Barth insisted that the fallibility of the Bible is essential to its intended theological function, namely, preventing humans from setting it up as a false absolute and leaving revelation under the control of God). Cragg was a kind man but he did not believe, for example, that Peter meant to call Paul’s writings Scripture). Turned out that he later became a true believer later on in life after his wife died in a bicycle accident.
More troubling than this, though, was that the United Presbyterian Church was allowing women to be ordained as elders and deacons, and giving trouble to Sessions that did not have them. So a group of us determined to seek the Session’s leadership in leaving the OPC. They did not do it and so we determined to leave and form a new Church, affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Now here is the golden part: I became close to the group, along with my sister, Anna Fox, many of whom I do not remember. But there are some whom I have never forgotten: Sal and Elena Massa, Bob and Yvonne Harmon, Bernie and Barbara Jackson, Charlie and Alice Ross. We became close as a group and these really stuck in my mind as people I learned to love. One reason was that when I left for Seminary, knowing I was not being supported by a church budget to help me, the whole group agreed, including those I have sadly forgotten, to support me. They started by giving me a going away gift of $3oo and pledged to continue to send $200 a month as long as I was in seminary, and to pray for me. They kept that promise, and I am still grateful, for these brothers and sisters gave sacrificially while raising children. Bernie and Barbara had a very sick daughter, Eileen, for example. It paid for my textbooks! I wrote them monthly to report on my progress, and twice when I came home they let me preach a sermon. My first one was a disaster, but when I preached the second one Bob Harman told me I finally learned how to have movement in the sermon, i.e., I went from truth to truth in my text and applied it. I began, made progress and concluded.
Since 1985 when I graduated I gradually lost track of most of them, save Bob and Yvonne, whom I occasionally speak to. But their prayers and love have never been forgotten. First Love did not last long but so far as I know many of the families stayed in touch and still walk with the Lord. God was good to his poor servant then. He was good, as well, to others in the group: Sal became a pastor in Wisconsin for a good number of years and recently retired to Florida where he and Elena have an ongoing ministry to people in India. Bernie and Barbara lost their sick daughter some time ago to another illness. I am not sure about the others, but I do know they have remained faithful to the Lord.
Let this story be thought of as a tribute to the godly friendship of Sal and Elena Massa, Bob and Yvonne Harmon, Bernie and Barbara Jackson, Charlie and Alice Ross, and others, who I barely knew much more of than that they loved a very mixed up seminary student whom Christ chose to make a pastor in 1988, and who still cherishes a hope to pastor once again.