All of you “Johnny-come-lately” readers of TOUCHSTONE—this is for you.
When you were all still in grade school, I knew the founder, creator, and first editor of TOUCHSTONE. Only back then, David Higbee (who was then David Kemmerer) was still non-denominational. Back then, the parent organization which published and owned the magazine was called the B’rith Christian Union and not the Fellowship of Saint James. I knew Rev. Higbee and became his friend. I was living in Topeka, Kansas, and first became friends with one of his own close associates and regular contributors, Steven Faulkner.
TOUCHSTONE was the public voice of David and Steven’s respective faith communities as they wrestled with the question: “Where is the Church?” David and his flock were located in Chicago (not all that far from the University of Chicago) while Stephen lived a few blocks away from me in Topeka. They and their parishes were following a somewhat similar path that Peter Gilquist and his followers had traversed a few years…nay, months, before them.
David knew that generic American Protestantism was sectarian and un-Catholic. What little influence I may have had on them did NOT cause them to give Confessional Lutheranism another “shot” in their quest and examining studies.
Steven, his own family, and some of the Topeka group were taken into the Roman Catholic Church. The church building and the majority of his parishioners went with the Eastern Orthodox. Up in Chicago, David Higbee and TOUCHSTONE tragically went their separate ways. The new Editorial team of the magazine, and most of the Chicago group also went EAST. David moved to New York and became Roman Catholic.
TOUCHSTONE, the magazine, grew in size, subscribers, and prestige. There is much I would like to say but can’t and won’t.
Suffice it to say that there wouldn’t be a TOUCSTONE without the herculean work, vision, and leadership skills of my former friend David Higbee.
David also was responsible for a meeting and lunch that I had with him, and with the famous Patrick Henry Reardon. The three of us (I think Steven Faulkner must have been there as well) met at Pore Richards, a then down-town Topeka institution for lunch. I am pretty sure that Patrick, at that time, was not yet a priest (or deacon) but simply a new convert to Orthodoxy. He was in town to make several presentations on “going East” to Steve’s little parish. Patrick Reardon was a close as I had ever gotten to a true theological wunderkind at that point in my life. The man was a dynamic, charismatic (in the popular sense) and protean: historian, theologian, philosopher, writer, teacher, philologist, and GENIUS!
It’s a wonder, or Divine Providence, that I did not convert to the EAST myself so powerful was his persuasive witness. Plus, this much, much younger Reardon (this had to be circa 1980) bore a striking resemblance to my then (I’ve since repented) neo-con, warlike worship of Theodore Roosevelt. After our lunch I even had David Higbee and Patrick over to my house to show them my den/library, and my portrait of TR which hung over the living-room fireplace.
When I went to the Seminary (CTS/Fort Wayne) 16 months (or so) later, most of my ties were severed to these three men who all were on far different trajectories. They quickly ceased being my theological heroes and possible mentors, as I fell under the tutelage of men such as Marquart, Weinrich and Reuning.
Once my subscription to TOUCHSTONE lapsed, I never was to renew it again. I did years later however purchase Reardon’s lay commentary on the Psalter, and still from time to time surf on to the TOUCHSTONE web site to read the free downloads and blog entries. And my dear friend Fr. Michael Penikis gifted me this Christmas past with the 2013 Fellowship of Saint James wall calendar. J
Then today, Wednesday 10 April, I chanced upon a podcast over at Ancient Faith Radio (yes, they do play podcasts as well as some of the most beautiful hymnody and chant on the web) of Father Reardon discussing in a tangential way, Western Rite Orthodoxy within his own Antiochian church body here in the States. http://ancientfaith.com/specials/episodes/western_rite But, of his 40 minute talk, only about 2 minutes directly touched upon the Western Rite (mostly negative; chastising the use of the Mass of Pope Pius V and the Book of Common Prayer) while the bulk of his fine lecture focused upon Augustine of Hippo and the important theme of Christ’s mediation in Augustine’s soteriology. Most of what Fr. Patrick had to say about Augustine, both Weinrich and Luther (note who I place first) would have agreed with. Even a quote or two from Nicholas Cabasilas was not anathema to our Book of Concord.
I have absolutely no overarching theological point to make with this rambling post, nor do I hint at any flirtations that my own ministry is receiving or implying.
It was just nice…yes, nice, in a nostalgic way, to hear Patrick Henry Reardon, master of Historical Theology as well as Dogmatics, to hold forth on a topic that mentioned Jesus a whole lot, and synergistic cooperative sanctification NOT ONCE.
Though he would never remember me, it would be nice one day to talk with him again in person.