Many will not know that I was born and raised in one of America’s great cities—Detroit Michigan. It was a city rich in ethnic, cultural and economic and religious diversity. A city infused with dynamism by the presence of Germans, Irish, Italians, Armenians, Scandinavians, Chinese, Polish, Romanians Greeks, Afro- Americans (although not self identified as such) Jews, (of various ethnic affiliation), Iraqis (Chaldean Christians) and Mexican, to name but a few. Given my own particular life journey, I now realize that this great city was a lens through which one is able to see and understand America’s immigration policy. For many of the ethnic groups described here arrived in Detroit and became employees of one the Big Three auto makers: Ford, General Motors or Chrysler, or one of the related feeder industries. Many came before America’s entry into World War II, as my parents did, while others arrived at the conclusion of that dreadful conflict.
Detroit of The ‘50’s was like most cities in America and elsewhere—getting back to some sense of regular, or normal way of conducting our lives. It was a time of great expansion: the building of homes, shopping malls and the interstate freeway system, (some may remember that famous TV advertisement sung by Dinah Shore – “See The USA in your Chevrolet, America is asking you to call.”) For Protestant churches, and particularly my home congregation, Grace Ev. Lutheran Church (a congregation that like Trinity was started by German immigrants and continued to celebrate on the third Sunday of the month a service in German.) The remarkable characteristic of Grace Ev. Lutheran Church was its evangelical fidelity to The Gospel and its proclamation. I am certain that it was a fidelity to The Gospel that propelled Johann and Wanda Jaranowski (East Prussian Germans) to knock on the door of my family home in the fall of 1956 and invite my parents and me to come to church. We went, my parents were received into membership the following year and I was confirmed on June 10th 1962.
Continuing in this evangelical tradition of welcome and hospitality, the congregation, during the summer of 1966, hosted thirty college students from St. Olaf College, Northfield MN, and a Presbyterian youth group from Jamestown ND. Both groups arrived in Detroit with an interest in learning about and experiencing urban living and urban ministry as it occurred and was practiced at Grace Church. Late in that summer, our Luther League hosted a neighborhood dance where some two hundred kids crammed into the church basement, to enjoy each other’s company, let off steam and dance the night away. And so we did. The dance ended around 1am. Some of us instead of going straight home sat out on the church’s majestic steps, talked and sang folks songs. Until…we heard the three bells of the tower ring out over the neighborhood. Some of the older youth, who were in charge of clean up had climbed the steps of the organ gallery, and made their way to the bell tower. Following that and for a full ten minutes or so the mighty bells of Grace Church rang out over the neighborhood. Our pastor, Rev. Larry Gotts, was aroused from his bed (like Pr. Neumark and her family, he lived next door in the parsonage) by the ringing bells and several phone calls from concerned parents and other neighbors. Gradually parents, the police, the fire department and other concerned community residents began to arrive and assemble in front of the church. Many were confused and wondering what emergency may have been in progress. Fortunately, there wasn’t an emergency. Rather a foolish bit of mischief that young people then and now often engage. Pr. Gotts offered a brief benediction to the gathered sending them on their way.
These stories illustrate and illuminate two important aspects of our Capital Campaign hopes and aspirations:
The Church, a place of welcome and hospitality, where the Gospel is proclaimed and the sacramental and life-giving meal is shared.
The Steeple affixed atop of the Church is a rallying point, where bells are housed that ring out over our lives and all of the people of our community. These mighty bells with their lush sonority ring in our hearts and in our minds. They call to us, they gather us and they send us back into the world to be God’s representatives.
Shine On, Trinity, Shine On!
Horace A. Beasley