After my two years in Charles City, Iowa and my return to North Minneapolis, I found myself in the midst of a baptism experience with both of my parents. I knew my dad was a drunk, but didn’t know much about the disease as yet. While I was “away” my dad had encountered Forrest Richeson, pastor of Portland Avenue Christian Church, who was “Mr. 5th Step” in the Twin Cities, this being the “confessor” step in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, usually completed with a clergyman. This spiritual encounter of my dad’s led to the three of us being immersed in this baptistery, an oversize bath tub at the front of the sanctuary of this old downtown big red brick church. I didn’t really appreciate the spiritual part but certainly was impressed with “Dr. Richeson,” whose square jaw and shoulders exuded ministerial authority, and who with great confidence took my confession of faith in “Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and do you accept him as your personal Lord and Savior for life?” I answered yes and then was immediately dunked under the waters of baptism by this man of God in hip-waders.
This led to my being a regular attendee with my folks at this downtown church. It was a couple of years later that I became involved in the Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF) following my near encounter with the justice system after borrowing my employer’s panel truck to take my friends for rides. I was given the “choice” and wisely chose to get involved in the youth program. I was immediately welcomed by the group’s leaders, Bruce Rolstad, Ginny Donohoo, Sylvia Brown and adult sponsors, the Jenkins and the Donohoos. Not long after, I discovered Ev Hall and Denny Neill who became my close friends for many years. They were, like me, children of alcoholics. I was “home.” This was to be my family through high school and college years, which is likely the reason I have the many gaps in my memory of North High and old neighborhood friends. I spent most of my time with my new family. I would travel by streetcar and later with friends whose parents let them take the family car to church and youth group events. This was truly a metropolitan church with kids coming from most of the 11 high schools and even from what were becoming the suburbs.
But it was the summers at Tipi Wakan, the church denomination’s camp on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, where the next “awakening” occurred. At the end of a week of swimming, games, living in dorms in this big old hotel-like building, there was always a ceremony of “commissioning.” I had no idea what the commissioning was for but remember being impressed with the missionary couples on furlough from the “field” who were always on staff. Hearing their stories of working in Africa or South America with native peoples must have inspired me more than I was aware. I found myself walking up to the “altar” with the handful of other commissionees, having heard “the call.” This was a surprise, not only to the camp staff and all of my friends, but to me as well. I went on to become a leader in the youth group, was elected co-president of the church camp the next summer, and became one of Forrest Richeson’s “Timothys-to-be.” This was heady stuff for a teenager and put not a little pressure on. Especially since I had not yet finished my “wild days.” But that will have to be part of the next phase of the story of the Journey of Awakening.
That’s me in the middle second row with Barb Harden
The summer “haunted house” lodge and the girls of summer
And that is Connie McAdams on the left