Category Archives: Special Collections

Laity Lodge, Holy and Healing

Laity Lodge, situated in the Frio River Valley near Leakey, Texas, overlooks a magnificent vista of forested hills and jagged rock. Far from urban chaos, this retreat stands as a haven for those needing to explore pressing questions, absorb the peace of the Spirit, or simply run into God.

Founded in 1961 by Howard Butt, Jr., the lodge welcomes its guests to encounter the sacred in privacy or community. Visitors to the canyon sing, walk, converse, eat and pray. Trusting every guest to engage all available resources, each retreat is opened with these words: “We have an agenda, but we don’t have an agenda for you.”

Frederick Buechner, author of Godric and The Sacred Journey, was a frequent speaker at Laity Lodge, where his recorded lectures have been transcribed and published as The Remarkable Ordinary (2017). He recalled:

On my first visit to Laity Lodge, when I was told not to turn left at the Frio River but in the Frio, I knew I had reached the land of Oz. After my first few days there I knew that, more even than Oz, it was a holy place. The high hills spoke of it. The river spoke of it. The “blue hole” where we swam spoke of it, as did Betty Ann Cody’s a cappella singing of “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” which left my face streaming with tears and which I will remember until the end of my days.  I don’t believe I have ever known a place as full of human kindness and openness and grace as I have found in virtually everyone I met there….I doubt I will ever get there again, but it will always remain part of the best of who I am.

Theologian J.I. Packer, author of Knowing God, said, “Laity Lodge…is one of the Christian world’s best kept secrets. Personal maturity in Christ is what it was and is about, and its ministry goes from strength to strength.”

Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, spent one month each year for a decade at the Lodge. She began one lecture series declaring, “I am very blessed to have been here for this month in this place which, I believe, is holy and healing.”

Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw at Laity Lodge, 1997.

Eugene Peterson, pastor and translator of The Message, supported Laity Lodge’s efforts to erase the distinction between the “full-time” minister and the layman. He wrote, “…That seed quickly  matured into a lifelong determination to do whatever I can to abolish this expert/layperson division in the Christian community.”

Laity Lodge speakers whose papers are archived at Wheaton College include Frederick Buechner, Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw.

The story of Laity Lodge is chronicled by former director Howard Hovde in A Dream That Came to Life: The History of the Laity Lodge Retreat Center (2007).

Will D. Campbell and Jim Wallis

At a time when racial tensions are high, we can revisit the unique career of a man who was a civil rights activist yet also sought to evangelize white supremacists.

Will D. Campbell, author and activist, occupied a distinct and somewhat lonely category as he preached a transcendent message of peace during an era of sharply divided political ideologies. Ordained in 1941 at age 17 as a Southern Baptist preacher, Campbell briefly served a pastorate in Louisiana before engaging his lifelong public ministry — advocating for Civil Rights. Presenting himself as a backwoods “bootleg” hayseed, wearing cowboy boots and straw hats, he actually possessed a fine intellect, abundant courage and quick wit. Campbell, siding unhesitatingly with the oppressed and disenfranchised, was one of four who boldly escorted African American students, known as the “Little Rock Nine,” into the racially segregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Campbell was also the only white man to attend the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1957.

In addition to frequent lecturing at churches and universities, Campbell wrote fiction and non-fiction. His novels include The Glad River (1982) and The Convention (1988). His autobiography, Brother to a Dragonfly, was a finalist for the 1978 National Book Award. Though Campbell vigorously battled inequality, his simple Christian faith elevated him above the violent forces of impassioned rhetoric. For example, he visited James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., in prison, insisting that the segregationist too is a child of God and a brother. He also ministered to members of the Ku Klux Klan, performing marriages and funerals, visiting them in jail and hospital.

At one prominent event he introduced himself: “My name is Will Campbell. I’m a Baptist preacher. I’m a native of Mississippi. And I’m pro-Klansman because I’m pro-human being.” Not surprisingly, Campbell’s extraordinarily irenic ministry infuriated other civil rights leaders, stirring deep resentment. How could he do such a thing?

“Mr. Jesus died for the bigots as well,” Campbell reasonably responded. “Christ’s death and resurrection is for Eldridge Cleaver [Black Panther leader] and Robert Shelton, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Campbell later remarked, “I never was able to explain to them that pro-Klansman is not the same as pro-Klan. That the former has to do with a person, the other with an ideology. I tried to stand patiently, even in the face of fear and danger, because I had so recently learned that lesson myself.”

His invaluable perspective on race and equality was not lost on key figures of the burgeoning social gospel movement. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, invited Campbell on August 18, 1980, to write for his magazine:

You speak more sanely and clearly about reconciliation and the gospel than anybody I know. We would be very happy to have an article from you on what reconciliation means now, especially in light of the deteriorating racial and economic situation. Your relationship both to southern blacks and poor whites, and the Klan in particular, is pretty unique, and you might want to write something out of all that. Stories drawn from your travels as a sort of pastoral troubleshooter would well illustrate such an article. If the idea grabs you at all, we’d be interested. You could shape the article in any direction you wanted.

Campbell replied on September 2, 1980:

My feeling here is that I don’t have anything to say that I have not said several times already. The alleged resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan is, I believe, largely a media mind stance. The Klan has never really gone away. I continue to try to point out that a few hundred poor, confused folks marching around a burning cross, or even gunning down folks marching in Greensboro, are not the real racist enemy in the country. And a lot of folks go on seeing me as some kind of apologist for the KKK. I have never said that they are not evil. The point is that we who practice the sophisticated and socially acceptable brand of racism are more evil.

After an active career of prophetic proclamation and courageous action, Campbell died at age 88 in 2013.

Jim Wallis’s brief exchange with Will D. Campbell is maintained in the Sojourners collection (SC-23) of Special Collections, Buswell Library. Sojourners’ mission is to inspire hope and build a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. You can read more about their racial justice efforts here

P.D. James (almost) at Wheaton College

P.D. James

Great Britain offers an abundance of superb mystery novelists, but after Agatha Christie, the reigning contemporary “Queen of Crime” was undoubtedly P.D. James, who published 22 books, fiction and non-fiction, and several short stories between 1962 and her death in 2014.

A committed Anglican and lay patron of the Prayer Book Society, James’s stories usually feature at least one religious character. In fact, her hero, Adam Dalgliesh, Detective Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard and poet, is the son of a vicar. The dynamics of good vs. evil are typically explored in her books. As such, P.D. James is often compared to another Anglican mystery writer from an earlier generation, Dorothy L. Sayers, whose papers are archived in the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College.

Perhaps some of the material in this 2009 book comprises what James might have taught at Wheaton College.

Sometime in the early 1980s, Barbara Reynolds, president of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society, introduced Dr. Beatrice Batson, Chair of the English Department at Wheaton College, to P.D. James at a soiree in London. Batson and James immediately fell into a comfortable friendship, discussing books and faith.

Eventually Batson, ever seeking opportunities to expose her students to fine literature, boldly asked James if she would like to travel to the States to teach a course on creative writing for one semester at Wheaton College. To Batson’s amazement, James quickly agreed.

However, with Batson’s retirement encroaching in 1985, administrative plans fell apart and P.D. James never visited the campus.

 

 

Clyde S. Kilby and Tennessee Williams

Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, late professor of English and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center on the campus of Wheaton College, is closely associated with seven British authors, particularly C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers and J.R.R. Tolkien. In light of those interests, Kilby is not often mentioned in relation to American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams (1911-1983), author of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, Night of the Iguana and many other successful plays, short stories and films.

But there is a connection, however slight. As this Christmas card to a colleague reveals, Clyde and Martha Kilby’s roots sprawled deeply throughout the rich southern soil that also produced one of America’s greatest writers.

Dear Beatrice: Did I tell you “Tennessee Williams,” your compatriot was born in St. Paul’s Rectory? His grandfather was a good friend of my parents! The house has been bought by the state and will become a Welcome Center when moved to a very large vacant lot across the street. A national “shrine” of the state! Come to see me!! Blessings and Christmas greetings, with love, Martha Kilby  

After years of profligate sexual activity and prescription drug abuse, Williams famously sought to “get my goodness back” by joining the Catholic Church in 1969. Evidently, Williams hoped to vivify not only his personal piety, but also his lagging creative and professional career. Instead he found himself more interested in ritual and architecture than doctrine. As a result, his renewed interest in spirituality did not solidify and he descended into a drugged stupor throughout most of the 1970s, only periodically producing new work.

If Tennessee Williams had discovered the writings of Lewis, Sayers, Tolkien and the other authors represented in Clyde Kilby’s Wade Center, perhaps his desire for a lively, enduring goodness might’ve permanently settled his disquietude for the final act of his life.

According to the website for the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center, the rectory in 1993 was in danger of being torn down to accommodate a church expansion. In an effort to preserve this historic literary landmark, the yellow and blue gingerbread home was loaded onto flatbed trailers and moved to Main Street, where it was restored. Three months after the grand opening, Tennessee Williams was honored with a U.S. postage stamp, and a public ceremony was held in the home.

Recently honored with the designation of a National Literary Landmark, the home serves as the official Welcome Center for Columbus.

 

 

 

 

Oswald Chambers “In His Presence”

100 years ago today, teacher and evangelist Oswald Chambers passed away while serving as a chaplain in Egypt during World War I. Chambers was born  on July 24, 1874, to Clarence and Hannah Chambers in Aberdeen, Scotland. Chambers’ best known work, My Utmost for His Highest, has stayed in print since its first publication in Britain in 1927.  It has been translated into over forty languages and ranks in the top ten of religious bestsellers in the United States with millions of copies in print—becoming a Christian classic.

In October 1915 Oswald traveled to Cairo, Egypt to work with soldiers through the YMCA.  Two months after Oswald’s arrival, his wife, Biddy and two-year old daughter, Kathleen joined him and together they began a ministry among the thousands of soldiers stationed there.  While in Egypt Chambers served the soldiers as a counselor, pastor, and teacher.  He was available daily to meet with them and held daily bible studies.

Though there were others from the YMCA assisting in the work, it was demanding and took a toll on Chambers’ health as can be seen by his tired and drawn appearance.  One comfort was that Biddy and Kathleen were in Egypt with him.  On October 29, 1917 Oswald was taken to a Red Cross hospital in Cairo with severe pains in his abdomen.  An emergency appendectomy was performed that evening, and Oswald began to recover.  A week later he suffered a series of relapses from a blood clot in his lung, and he died on November 15, 1917.  Word was spread to England and abroad by cable that read “Oswald in His Presence.”

One friend wrote in his diary that he was shaken by Oswald’s death, not with “hopeless sorrow or resentment, but sheer staggerment.”  100 soldiers were a part of the funeral cortege while Samuel Zwemer, a missionary to Muslims, spoke at his graveside service.  His life was described as the “finest commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.”

Those assembled at the grave sang Psalm 121 from the Scottish Psalter:

I to the hills will lift mine eyes
From whence doth come mine aid.
My safety cometh from the Lord,
Who heav’n and earth hath made.
Thy foot he’ll not let slide, nor will
He slumber that thee keeps.
Behold, he that keeps Israel,
He slumbers not, nor sleeps.
The Lord thee keeps, the Lord thy shade
On thy right hand doth stay:
The moon by night thee shall not smite,
Nor yet the sun by day.
The Lord shall keep thy soul; he shall
Preserve thee from all ill
Henceforth thy going out and in
God keep for ever will.

In many ways, Chambers’ death should have been lost to our memories amidst the staggering losses of World War I.  But this is not the case.  Though an accomplished teacher his writings and name are more known today than when he was alive.  All of the published writings of Oswald Chambers come from the sermons and lessons he gave, which Biddy took down verbatim in pitmanic shorthand (up to 250 words a minute) and then transcribed after she and Kathleen returned to England.  The vast majority were published posthumously.

Special Collections, Buswell Library received the Oswald Chambers Papers from the Oswald Chambers Publications Association in England in 2002.  The archive consists of 50 boxes of materials, books and photographs primarily gathered by David McCasland during his research for writing the biography, Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God.  The collection includes Oswald’s published writings, correspondence, samples of Biddy’s shorthand notes and other materials relating to his education, growth and years of Christian ministry.  Of special interest are the class notes and personal diaries of Eva Spink—a student of Chambers’ at the Bible Training College in London and a co-worker in Egypt.

Irina Ratushinskaya (1954-2017)

Irina Ratushinskaya in 1987

This past summer on July 5, Irina Ratushinskaya, former Russian poet and novelist who survived four years in a Soviet prison camp, died in Moscow.

Her heroic story captured the attention of the West after being arrested in 1983 for anti-Soviet propaganda.  She composed hundreds of poems while in prison and smuggled them on cigarette paper through her husband.  She was released before the Iceland summit meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and would later meet the U.S. President in Washington, D.C. after securing her freedom.

The papers of Irina Ratushinskaya came to Special Collections, Buswell Library, beginning in the summer of 1992 through contacts of Associate Professor of Communication Emerita, Myrna Grant.  They include works of poetry, correspondence, articles, audio and artwork.  As well, they include a memoir of her time in prison, entitled Grey Is The Color Of Hope.  The largest portion of the collection is devoted to secondary material about Ms. Ratushinskaya while she was imprisoned and as human rights individuals advocated for her release.

One of her poems speaks to the harsh labor conditions and her periodic hunger strikes at the prison camp:

And I will tell of the first beauty I saw in captivity.
A frost-covered window! No spy-holes, nor walls,
Nor cell-bars, nor the long endured pain —
Only a blue radiance on a tiny pane of glass.

In April 1987, Irina spoke at Wheaton College while she and her husband, Igor Gerashchenko, were guests of Northwestern University in nearby Evanston, Illinois.

A kaddish for the Red Grange candy bar

Harold “Red” Grange, one of the greatest American football halfbacks, was responsible for knocking out the teeth of many players on opposing teams. As a celebrity endorser, the Wheaton native was (less directly) responsible for rotting out the teeth of many admiring children with the distribution of the Red Grange candy bar, which included a collectible trading card displaying  “The Galloping Ghost” in action. Produced in 1926 by Shotwell Candy Company, the Red Grange candy bar struggled briefly in the competitive sweets market before disappearing forever.

Judging by this cross section, the Red Grange candy bar resembles the Baby Ruth, which has survived since 1921: a caramel or nougat center surrounded by nuts and encased with milk chocolate

Steve Almond in Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (2004), offers this amusing lament to obsolete candy:

…I think about the candy bars of my youth that no longer exist, the Skrunch Bar, the Starbar, Summit, Milk Shake, Powerhouse, and more recent bars which have been wrongly pulled from the shelves — Hershey’s sublime Cookies ‘n Mint leaps to mind — and I say kaddish for all of them…Oh where are you now, you brave stupid bars of yore? Where Oompahs, those delectable doomed pods of chocolate and peanut butter? Where the molar-ripping Bit-O-Choc? And where the Caravelle, a bar so dear to my heart that I remain, two decades after its extinction, in an active state of mourning?

Whether the retirement of the Red Grange candy bar was mourned or not, it has joined the pantheon of discontinued candies: Cherry Humps, Blizzard Bar, Clark Coconut Bar, Bob Cat Candy Bar, Jumbo Nerds, Goodnuff Peanut Bars, Luv Pops, Goofy Groceries, Life Savers Holes, Gatorade Gum, Merri Mints, Orange Heads, Tangy Taffy, Wonka Bar, Mr. Buddy, Bit-O-Licorice, Bonkers Fruit Chews, Mr. Melons and many more.

 

Giving Thanks for David Malone

David Malone
David Malone

At this time of Thanksgiving, we at Special Collections, Buswell Library, are deeply grateful for the service of David Malone, longtime head of Special Collections. In July of this year, David left Wheaton College to become Dean of the Library at Calvin College and Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While we are excited for him for this new venture, he is missed at Wheaton, and we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate him and his service.

David was hired in 1991 as Assistant to the Head of Special Services at Buswell Library before becoming Head of Systems four years later. Later in the 1990’s, David became head of Archives and Special Collections, a role that combined his love for history, archives, and technology, with his talent for building relationships within the college community and visiting researchers. In 2004, he became an Assistant Professor of Library Science before being promoted to Associate Professor in 2012.

Some of David’s many accomplishments include:

  • Strengthening existing collections by collecting new materials, working with donors, collecting oral history interviews, and managing endowments;
  • Acquiring new collections such as the papers of Oswald Chambers and Senator Dan Coats, and the records of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE);
  • Creating online and physical exhibits on subjects like the 1950 Wheaton Revival, the abolitionist history of Wheaton College, and the work of Margaret and Kenneth Landon;
  • Overseeing the digitization of materials including the collection of Allen Lewis’ prints and engravings, the Bulletin of Wheaton College, and Martin Luther’s 1517 commentary on the Psalms, Operationes in Psalmos;
  • Hosting and contributing to events such as the Shakespeare Institute, Treasures of Wheaton, the Muggeridge Centenary Conference, and the Wheaton College Sesquicentennial;
  • Implementing such digital initiatives as creating this blog, and various library tools including the archival information system Archon;
  • Collaborating with faculty to bring historical artifacts into the classroom, including closely working with Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Dean Arnold, on his “Craft of Anthropology” course.

David is an exceptional librarian, team leader, and colleague, and Buswell Library has greatly appreciated his leadership and vision. We conclude our thanksgiving of his service with the reflections of two of his longtime colleagues, David Osielski and Keith Call.

“The majority of my professional career has been spent under the leadership of David Malone at the Special Collections of Buswell Library.  As well, both he and my colleague, Keith Call, were witness to many significant milestones in my personal life; welcoming the arrival of my four children, receiving my master’s degree, moving into our first home.  David is a visionary leader who sought to lead by example and empower his staff to greater heights of excellence.  He is a master storyteller and passed on his warm gift of hospitality and service to those under his supervision.  Wheaton College’s long 150+ year history is a legacy to be remembered, cared for and retold to the next generation.  David gave his staff permission to tell all of Wheaton’s stories well, tempered with grace and humility.  Over the years he gave us increasing levels of responsibility and empowered us to grow in trust and confidence in our abilities, even when making mistakes.  Thanks to David, we see ourselves as guardians of a unique story in God’s Kingdom called ‘Wheaton College’ and stewards of hundreds of unique special collections that help shape and guide the liberal arts curriculum for future students.” –David Osielski, Special Collections Coordinator

“Special Collections, including the College Archives, is the heart and institutional memory of the Wheaton College campus. Thanks to the leadership of David Malone, Special Collections not only expanded, but transformed into a friendly place where donors, students, and other visitors comfortably interact with historically significant manuscripts and artifacts. The material maintained in our storage facility is just that – material. However, as David often observed, these objects provide a catalyst for storytelling, whether it is Oswald Chambers’ personal Bible with his handwritten notes, or Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s bow tie. They reveal a bigger picture, a wider vista on the landscape of Christianity in which the library user becomes a participant. We salute David Malone for his years of service and vision. Like our holdings, the memory of his tenure is safely stored, carefully tended and ripe with meaning.” –Keith Call, Special Collections Assistant

We would also like to thank Brittany Adams, former Metadata Associate at Buswell Library, for compiling much of the above material.

The Drum and I

This exotic object might resemble the genie’s bottle from the 1960s TV comedy, I Dream of Jeannie, but it is actually a drum. In 1946 diplomat Kenneth Landon traveled frequently to Thailand, attempting to define how that country might integrate into the United Nations. One trip involved attending the cremation of the newly deceased king and the coronation of his brother. During the immediate post-war years many Thai experienced tremendousdrum difficulties after surviving the Japanese invasion of their land. Attempting to re-establish their influence, the Thai often exercised hard decisions, such as offering artifacts to visitors they trusted. One family claimed that their lizard skin drum with its abalone mosaics was authentic to the monarchy of either King Mongut or his son, Prince Chulalongkorn, both featured in Margaret Landon’s classic novel, Anna and the King of Siam, which was later reworked by Rodgers and Hammerstein into the popular Broadway musical The King and I.

The family offered to sell Kenneth the drum which they assured him was a prized possession.  He was able to ship the drum to Washington, DC in the diplomatic pouch, thus avoiding the complications of a private sale. Kenneth and Margaret’s son, Will, received the drum as an inheritance from their estate.

The papers of Kenneth and Margaret Landon are available for research in Special Collections, Buswell Library. Thanks to Will Landon for providing the artifact and information.

Thumbprints in the Clay

Luci Shaw, in her newly released book, Thumbprints in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Roder and Grace (2016), traces the “thumbprints” of an endlessly creative, ever-creating God. ShawInterspersing poetry with autobiographical essays, Shaw writes, “I knew I had to make this writing the centerpiece, the birth announcement of my spiritual liberation and purpose in God.”

In addition to her reflections, Shaw includes moving reminiscences of her friendships with novelist Madeleine L’Engle, with whom she wrote several books, and mentor Clyde Kilby, her beloved and highly influential English professor at Wheaton College.

Thumbprints in the Clay is published by InterVarsity Press. The papers of Luci Shaw, Madeleine L’Engle and Clyde Kilby are archived at Wheaton College.