Out and About

by Phil Johnson

Schubert Club Concert, March 28, 1991

William Wahman and Thomas Wikman were in St. Paul as guests of the Schubert Club. Along with Judith Nelson, they presented a concert, “An Evening of 19th-Century Art Song,” at the Landmark Center downtown.

It was a fine concert and— a bit of surprise—a meeting of a number of old friends.

For you who may not know, William Wahman is the tenor who sings the Swedish songs so beautifully on the Bethlehem Centennial Tape. On the second side of the tape he sings Schubert songs in German.

Bill is a graduate of Minnehaha Academy and North Park College. He lives in Richmond, California, works as a landscape architect, and sings as the occasions present themselves. This was one such occasion.

The Executive Director of the Schubert Club, Bruce Carlson (Minnehaha, 1958, North Park College, 1962) arranged this concert as part of the Schubert Club Historical Instruments Concert Series.

The concert featured two Schubert Club pianos—a J.B. Streicher & Sohn piano, dated 1869 and a Steinway & Sons piano, dated 1908. Tom Wikman, a distinguished musician from Chicago, brought the qualities of these instruments to our ears as he accompanied Judith Nelson and Bill Wahman.

Tom is the founder and director of Chicago’s Music of the Baroque Chorus and Orchestra, weekly recitalist on the Karl Wilhelm organ at Chicago Theological Seminary, and Choirmaster at the Church of the Ascension in Chicago. He is a graduate in Music of North Park College.

North Park was not the only college distinguished by its graduates on this evening. Judith Nelson, a graduate of St. Olaf College, did honor to her Alma Mater and to Haydn and Mozart whose songs she sang beautifully.

Bill Wahman, looking dashing and powerful, sang eight songs of Franz Schubert and five songs of Gabriel Fauré. One listener commented with amazement, “Bill gets better every time I hear him.” Those who know the Centennial Tape recorded in 1984, know how good Bill has long been.

The Schubert Club treated concert goers to wine, punch, and cookies. I was not prepared, though had I thought ahead I might have been, for the number of old friends from North Park who were there, many of them Pietisten readers. Hazel and Carl Philip Anderson, Elayne and Norbert Johnson, Neil Erickson, Kathy and Greg Johnson, Susan and David Hawkinson, and Sandra and Phil Johnson.

President Horner at Bethlehem, April 21, 1991

North Park College President, David Homer came to the plate four times Sunday, April 21, 1991, at Bethlehem Covenant Church, Minneapolis and slammed out a base hit each time.

He began the day at a breakfast meeting with the Bethlehem High School Class, after which he addressed the Adult Sunday School Class, preached at the morning worship service, and made some comments about the denomination’s “Living is Giving” $20,000,000 capital funds campaign at a lunch following worship.

These times at bat were squeezed between two North Park Dinners, one at Salem Covenant Church, New Brighton on Saturday night and the other in Litchfield, Minnesota on Sunday night. This left him fresh for a 10 a.m. meeting Monday morning in Chicago. Being a college president is hard work!

When Dr. Horner rose for the fourth time at Bethlehem to remark on “Giving is Living,” he said, “Right now I couldn’t care less about ‘Living is Giving.’ This reminds me of the summer I played basketball in Asia. We played 87 games in 42 days and I didn’t care if I ever saw a basketball again.”

After a good laugh by all, he took it back. He does care, he said. The $12,000,000 of the 20 earmarked for North Park is vital to the school. The money will be used for building a new chapel, financial aid for students, multi-ethnic initiatives to recruit Korean, Afro-American, and Hispanic students especially, and for additional campus renovations.

Dr. Homer said that money is the second key to a successful North Park as a Christian liberal arts college. He had outlined the first key to the Sunday School Class. He called it: ‘‘The capacity to live between the nominal and the narrow.” This he sees as the challenge of academic freedom in Christian higher education.

He laid out a schema or way of looking at private liberal arts colleges in the United States. At one end of the continuum are the secular schools like Carelton with no remaining ties to a founding church and, at the other end, are fundamentalist schools like Liberty University and Bob Jones College, which have a “narrow gate” and where behavior and doctrine are rigidly maintained in a separation from culture.

He identified four categories between these extremes. The “sponsored” school where some support continues from a church body without control and where learning is the exclusive value. An example of such a school is Lindfield, an American Baptist School in Ohio. The next category Dr. Horner identified is the Catholic school. At these schools, Holy Cross for example, religion is irrelevant for hiring faculty. Academic qualification is what matters. Then comes the category he calls “synthesis.” In these schools there is more of a religious presence and “academic and spiritual ambiguity.” He identified Davidson College in North Carolina as a synthesis school. The final category of the four in-between categories he labeled “evangelical.’’ In these schools, the concerns of the Christian faith are more dominant. Most such schools hire only Christian faculty, and some admit only Christian students.

The place Homer sees for North Park, “the desirable zone,” bridges evangelical and synthesis. North Park admits any qualified student, making no religious requirement for acceptance. Both ethnic and international students are sought.

For its full-time faculty, North Park hires only people of “personal Christian faith.” Deciding about the personal Christian faith of a prospective full-time faculty member is done through personal conversation and is admittedly a subjective evaluation. Homer said that part-time and adjunct professors may be hired who are not Christians. Indeed, he allowed, this is desirable as an opportunity to challenge both students and faculty.

Dr. Horner remarked, “We are attempting a pretty difficult thing, but I like it and I appreciate your support.”

It is a difficult thing, I agree, and it is very hard to satisfy people. North Park cannot exist without the support of the denomination and there is a wide range of opinion among its churches and its members.

There are those who wish the school to be more conservative. They represent an important source of money. There are those who place learning above religion in education. I’m one of those, but I don’t have much money and I don’t know how much money people who think similarly have for North Park.

Dr. Homer’s abstract schema is thoughtful and interesting. Even more important to North Park are its actual traditions and living situation. The happenings and the people are decisive for understanding what is important.

What seems to be disappearing from North Park is its University of Chicago connection which provided NPC with so many stimulating teachers: Christian, non-Christian, and eccentric. New faculty seem to be mostly conservative, evangelical intellectuals with strong qualifications but a different spirit. It seems to me they are more convinced that changing people and cultures in the name of Christ is the thing to do and they seem more certain that they know the answers. This makes me uncomfortable.

I think teaching ability and diversity are better qualities in a teacher than religion. And, when it comes to being Christian, our mission may be better served by listening to others than by changing them. The historical record of Christian evangelism is mixed at best and it is about time to realize that we don’t know it all and don’t need to be the bosses.

These comments are made from inside the Covenant and inside North Park, for I am a part of both. These are words of a citizen who appreciates North Park both past and present and who appreciates the work and perspective of President Homer. It is “a pretty difficult thing” he is attempting, and I suspect, at times, solitude and sleep are precious.