My New Hampshire Adventure: The Dartmouth Connection

When I was invited to serve as the Bridge to the Interim at Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover, New Hampshire, several factors appealed to me. One is the relationship between the congregation and Dartmouth College.

Sandy and Ken Hale nurtured dozens of Dartmouth students in their faith pilgrimage over thirty years here. I can’t duplicate their work, but I was drawn to that aspect of the church’s ministry.

I enjoy the world of academia: plays, lectures, sports, the student newspaper, and all types of cultural events. Since I have been in New Hampshire, I’ve seen a live performance of Twelfth Night, heard the Charles Lloyd Jazz Quartet, participated at the University wide chapel service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and gone to two lectures at the Rockefeller Center on campus.

I was surprised to discover, after I arrived in New Hampshire, that I am officially the Baptist Campus Minister for Dartmouth College—for all Baptists: black Baptists, white Baptists, Cooperative Baptists, American Baptists, Southern Baptists, National Baptists, whatever. This week I assist in interviewing candidates to be the Chaplain of Dartmouth. I love this.

Trinity Baptist is very connected to the Dartmouth family. Students, staff, coaches, and others related to Dartmouth are part of the Trinity family.

I love my Clemson Tigers, but maybe I’ve got a bit of the Ivy League in me too. Go Dartmouth Green!

 

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Enjoying New Hampshire during the Presidential Primary Season

Don’t say America is weak, or not a great nation, or that we are no longer free. You would be wrong. America is not weak. We are a great nation. We are free.

Welcome to New Hampshire, January and early February 2016

Don’t treat me like I’m not an American because I vote differently than you, that I have different values than you. What makes America great is not that you or I get our way every four years, but that we don’t get our way, and there is still room in this magnificent country for both of us.

  • I worship where I choose.
  • I shop where I choose.
  • I can travel anywhere in America I choose.
  • I read the books I choose.
  • I write what I choose.
  • I will vote for whom I choose.

But I digress.

Before I arrived in New Hampshire on January 5, 2016, I knew as little about this state as I knew about Wyoming or Madagascar, which is to say, not much.

Still, it‘s hard not to know about the first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary held here every four years. For whatever reasons, I have politics in my blood. Being a born peacemaker, I tend to be moderate, a consensus builder—up to a point. I have thought about running for political office a few times, but I’m not sure I could pass the morality tests.

  • I jaywalk occasionally.
  • I say that I have read software agreements when I haven’t.
  • I have gone through the express lane at the grocery store with eleven items.
  • I have driven 50 miles per hour in a 45 zone.
  • I have torn the “Do Not Tear” tags off furniture.

Again, I digress.

Grassroots citizenship makes a difference. That seems to happen, by some alchemy and magic, in New Hampshire.

Before I left SC, I found this website, telling anyone and everyone where the candidates for President would be speaking:

http://gui.afsc.org/events-new-hampshire

Just show up.

Almost as soon as I got here, in early January, I had coffee with Carly Fiorina, in New London, along with about fifty other people on a college campus there.

I stood in line in sub-freezing weather for an hour waiting to hear Bernie Sanders, but didn’t get into the auditorium.

Yesterday, I heard John Kasich (in Claremont) and Jeb Bush (in Hanover), and this morning, Chris Christie at a local pub (in Lebanon)—at nine a.m. I liked Kasich the best of the four with whom I have been up close and personal.

I’ve gone to the events nearby without regard to party affiliation. I discovered in yesterday’s paper that I missed Gloria Steinem stumping for Hillary Clinton right here in Hanover, but I didn’t know about it. Dang. I would have liked to see Gloria Steinem, now age 81.

Talking politics at church is not something I do, nor is it something I recommend. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested. I love this occasional immersion in American democracy. I wish we could disagree without being prickly. The primary here is February 9. I will vote absentee in the South Carolina primary before February 20. I’m waiting on my ballot to arrive in the mail.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. Welcome to Freedom and Democracy.

Marion D. Aldridge

363 Dartmouth College Highway

Lebanon, New Hampshire 03766

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

803-413-2734

 

 

 

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Walking in New Hampshire—January 2016

“We humans are creatures of the last five minutes.  In one study, people who found a dime on the pavement a few minutes before being queried on the happiness question reported higher levels of satisfaction with their overall lives than those who did not find a dime.”  Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss

Most months, on Facebook, I give a simple account of my walking for the month, usually how many miles and how much money I found. Years ago, I began keeping a record of miles walked every day on a 3X5 card. It was too easy to kid myself without accountability. I might tell someone, “I walk two or three miles five or six times a week,” but it just wasn’t so. Since I have kept an accurate account, my mileage has gone up.

Somewhere along the way, I began to note how much money I found.

Finding money makes me happy.

I love it when somebody tells me, in person or on social media, “My husband and I found a $5 bill when we were walking yesterday and we thought of you.” Three times this week, someone Facebooked they found money while walking and thought of me. I love it. Keep it up. Pray for me while you’re at it.

Because I have been in New Hampshire for most of the month of January, I haven’t found much money. The snow has covered it. I predict a windfall when the snow melts. Three or four dollars! If other people don’t beat me to it.

The snow and cold has slowed me down some with regard to walking, but I’m doing better than I thought I would. This is a beautiful area, even when it’s cold. New Hampshire and Vermont (I am just a few miles from Vermont) keep their streets and sidewalks clear because people need to get around, even in winter.

Here are my January stats:

21 days

48 miles

4 states

7 towns/cities (from Edisto Beach, SC to Woodstock, VT)

$1.78

 

 

Categories: Quotations, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“You are not a pretend church!’’

Trinity Baptist Church in Lebanon, New Hampshire, had twelve people in worship yesterday. Ten adults and two children. We sang, we prayed, we greeted one another. They listened to my sermon. We all stayed for lunch, then gathered for another two hours to talk about what’s next for this congregation. Their former pastor retired at the end of December 2015.

We enjoyed lively conversation. Good ideas. Bold thinking. Realistic concerns.

At one point during the discussion, I had to remind the group that Trinity is not a pretend church.

Over the years, I’ve had to tell many congregations, including this one, that, even though they are not large, they are a real church. Jesus is unequivocal when he says, “Wherever two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.”

Jesus doesn’t mention church budgets, music, or pews. He didn’t mention Sunday school or, thank God, deacons meetings. Just gather a few folks together in Jesus’ name, and voila, you’ve got a church.

I’ve never heard anybody say what they like best about their church is doctrine. Or, business meetings.

Of course, there are infrastructure, programmatic, and institutional challenges with tiny gatherings. But, first things first. This is a church. The people of God. The body of Christ.

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First Weeks in New Hampshire

It’s cold. It snows. A lot. The wind blows. If you don’t shovel the snow frequently, it piles up.

I came. I saw. I shoveled.

In New Hampshire, snow does not appear to slow anything or anyone down. Well, it slows me down. Dean Smith’s Four Corners never stalled as much as I do. But really, snow’s not that bad. So far.

All the locals are kind enough to tell me we’ve had an easy, mild winter. Light snow. Two inches twice. Four inches once. I’m grateful. May this gentle weather continue.

People go to work. They go to church. They go to the grocery store. They play tennis. Indoors. I suppose they get their nails done. Any business that closes for snow will go out of business. Life moves on in New Hampshire.

Actually, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how painless it has been to adapt. So far. The temperature’s been above freezing only a day or two since I arrived (It is 9 degrees this morning), but if I dress appropriately, I’m fine. I prefer walking outdoors in twenty-degree weather than on a treadmill. The sidewalks are cleared immediately just as the streets are, so there’s no slipping and sliding. The scenery is a winter wonderland. I saw a small herd of deer running through the woods a few days ago. Icy rivers are a new experience for me, fascinating. I may tire of this beauty, but not yet.

Shoveling snow has been easier than I expected. I dreaded the process, but snow is lighter to scoop, by far, than South Carolina red clay. I can clear a fairly large amount of snow in 10 or 15 minutes. Much longer is less fun. Removing the crunchy ice that is pushed into the driveway by the highway scrapers is undeniably work. Still, it’s the price of living in this part of the world. Snow and ice must be accommodated, like hurricanes in South Carolina and earthquakes in California.

This is a good day and this is a good place to be alive. I’m happy to be here.

Marion D. Aldridge

363 Dartmouth College Highway

Lebanon, New Hampshire 03766

January 19, 2016

PS: Many friends asked me to keep them posted about my six months in New Hampshire. I will continue to publish my blog, but putting pictures on Facebook is a hoot. A snapshot of the clear space where I just shoveled snow is gratifying and worth something, but that same area covered with a new thick blanket of snow 24 hours later is priceless! So friend me on FB or, if you are a friend already, check out my photos. Lots of white precipitation in these parts. Snow. Snow. Snow. And cold. And windy.

Categories: Health, Humor, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Courage: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Recently, I heard an earnest young woman assert that the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., did not hesitate to enter into the dangerous and unsafe ministries in which he engaged. Instead, she contended, he never paused in responding, “Here I am, send me.”

Respectfully, I disagree. One of the characteristics I most value when I hear the sermons and read the biographies of Dr. King is his complete humanity. He did hesitate. He did agonize over his decisions. There wasn’t a glib bone in his body. He was bearing the weight of all the racism and hatred in America. He felt it. Even his friends questioned him. He would gather with his closest advisors and they would weigh the options. Ultimately, however, King was the decision-maker.

Years ago, I bought the biography of a Great Baptist Man, but quit reading after three pages. The author’s adoration was such he believed his subject had no flaws. There was nothing I could learn by reading any farther. That saint and I had nothing in common.

Even Jesus agonized over his tough decisions. He spent forty days in the wilderness wrestling with his calling and ministry. Facing imminent death, he prayed, “Take this cup from me.”

Moses resisted his assignment, arguing with God, “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me…?”

Even Isaiah, in the passage the young lady quoted, “Here am I, send me,” didn’t jump to his decision instantly. Instead, he hesitated, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…” He understood the nature of taking on the role of a prophet. It wasn’t safe territory.

Fearlessness can be nothing more than foolishness. Every sane human being desires comfort and safety. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a fool.

Courage is recognizing the challenges and doing the right thing anyway.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a courageous prophet. I am grateful.

 

Marion D. Aldridge (mariondaldridge@gmail.com)

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Holiday, Race | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Tonight’s Big Game

This is how sports fans think. (By the way, neither Jesus nor Buddha approved this message.)

Since Clemson plays Alabama tonight for the National Championship, I am in Big Game mode. Though I am not a superstitious person, I have certain clothes I have worn on each Game Day this season and we have a 14-0 record. Why take a chance? The socks are covered in tiger paws and the underwear is orange. The clothes, unlike those of seriously superstitious folks, are clean.

I traveled to Framingham, Massachusetts, to watch the game with my daughter Julie and my son-in-law Tom. This event is not to be watched alone in New Hampshire.

This morning, as always, I took a walk. As usual, I found money. Since I haven’t walked on these roads and in these parking lots in a while, the pickings were plentiful. Pennies here and there. A nickel. A couple of dimes.

28 cents, then,

33 cents, then, I began thinking like a sports fan. What if Clemson scored a point for every cent I found?

33 points? Not sure that was enough, I kept walking. 34, 35, 36 cents. 37, 38.

Ordinarily I love finding quarters and five-dollar bills. But I thought such gaudy numbers might invalidate my thesis.

Then I saw a dime. Perfect. 48 cents, 48 points. Sounds like enough to beat even Alabama.

That, for you sad souls who don’t follow sports, is how sports fans think!

Categories: Family, Football, Holiday, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Tribute to Two Heroes

In the South, we’d say, “They’re good folks.”

Ken and Sandy Hale invested 31 years in the frozen Yankee northland, ministering to Dartmouth students, professors, athletic staff, and nearby neighbors in Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Once upon a time, Ken was a young Minister of Music at a Baptist church in Kentucky and Sandy was a schoolteacher. They felt a call (a good Baptist word going back to Father Abraham) to a far land where natives speak a variation of the English language. They arrived in New Hampshire under the auspices of Southern Baptists, but those not-so-good folks changed their mind and decided they didn’t like the idea of women ministers. They withdrew their financial support from Ken and Sandy.

Ken and Sandy didn’t warm to the notion of being told what they could do or not do. The state motto of New Hampshire, after all, is “Live Free or Die.”

Ken and Sandy developed their own support system and stayed, faithful to their calling.

They have been beloved friends and mentors to hundreds of people who came through the Ivy League campus and/or their small congregation. Sandy was primarily the campus minister and Ken was primarily the preaching pastor.

They built the most racially inclusive church I know of anywhere. New Hampshire doesn’t have an abundance of people of color, but Dartmouth College does, and Trinity Baptist Church has become the spiritual home of many of them. Black Lives Matter!

Now (December 31, 2015, more or less) Ken and Sandy Hale have officially retired.

The consensus of everyone who knows them is that they are kind, compassionate and competent. They are stable, faithful, authentic Christians. In an era when many so-called Christians give Jesus a bad name, Ken and Sandy have been wonderful ambassadors for Christ. They are valued members of their New Hampshire community and will be missed here.

They became my friends when they were asked to represent the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of the Northeast in the same capacity I held in South Carolina. I was paid a salary. They weren’t. In fact, they weren’t always paid a salary for any of their assignments. Period. Yet, they persevered because they believed God put them here to do a job.

A few years ago, Sandy had a brain aneurysm and Ken had cancer. They slowed down but didn’t stop.

Now, they have retired, but leaving is difficult. Sandy was going to be gone before I arrived and Ken and I were to overlap for a few days. Sandy was not gone when I arrived and I had to kick her out of her own house. (Just kidding. She left voluntarily.) I’m sure I will have to shoo Ken away next week. Their first stop will be Kentucky to live for a while with Ken’s mother. Then they are off to Ft. Meyers, Florida, where they have a small condo.

They haven’t sold their New Hampshire house because I’m living in it. Besides, they have a son nearby, and they’re not sure where they will eventually reside.

They are grieving and the church is grieving. Like an idiot, here I am in the middle of this difficult transition with the weird assignment of being a “Bridge to an Interim.” Only two things have concerned me about this assignment: 1) The weather; 2) Following Ken and Sandy. The weather will be hard. Following Ken and Sandy will be impossible.

Good, incomparable souls.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Race, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

I believe…

I believe…

…America will still be here when I die.

…Baseball is a great game.

…Books are important.

…Deserts and wildernesses exist.

…Easter will arrive this spring as usual.

…Education is better than ignorance.

…Friends are worth the effort.

…God is good. The Universe is good. Life is good.

…Humor is a gift.

…I will love my family and they will love me—forever.

…Life is a pilgrimage.

…Listening is almost always better than talking.

…Love and Justice are bottom line values.

…My cat is a bundle of fun.

…Progress is more realistic than perfection.

…Religious Doctrine is overrated.

…There is a time and season for all things.

…Waterfalls are beautiful.

Marion D. Aldridge

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

 

Categories: Baseball, Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

10 Reasons Smart People Make Stupid Decisions

10 Reasons Smart People Make Stupid Decisions

Marion D. Aldridge

1) Impatience/Impulsiveness—Some sad souls functionally deplete their IQ by impulsiveness. They speak too quickly, without thought. Unwilling to take time to think, they act abruptly, compelled to do something right now. Immediately. Behavior not considered reasonably or thoughtfully is, by definition, ill advised, rash and reckless. Counting to ten was a good idea when we were teenagers and it’s a good idea as we get older. Sleep on it. Think about it. Talk to someone you trust. Slow down.

2) Alcohol and Drugs—The Internet is crowded with sometimes comical, but sometimes awful, “FAIL” sites. After watching a series of YouTube fiascos involving golf carts, ask yourself, “You reckon alcohol was involved?” It might be funny on video, but people make idiotic decisions every day (“Hey, watch this!”) because of diminished faculties due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs. Sometimes it’s witty. Sometimes it’s dangerous and deadly. Substance abusers may have native intelligence, but they are no longer as smart as they think they are.

3) Raging Hormones—Teenagers, of course, don’t always think straight. Their hormones are out of control. Some fully-grown men and women continue to make bad decision after bad decision because they think with body parts other than their brains. This might be called bone-headed.

4) Prejudice—Prejudging a situation or a person before you have factual information is unwise. It’s irrational. Not trusting black people or white people or women or men or doctors or lawyers is a self-limiting choice. A prudent person keeps options open. Always agreeing with a political party or religious dogma or even your best friend is not the path to smart decision-making. If you are open only to half the choices available, then you are a half-wit.

5) Physical (and/or Mental) Laziness—“I don’t want to change. I’m comfortable here on the couch.” The man who would have been the best general in the history of the world may be alive and well in Nebraska, but he never joined the army, so no one knows of his military genius. The woman who would have been the greatest artist ever may have had good intentions, but she never picked up a paintbrush. The individual who might have found the cure for cancer decided not to do her homework in college, and dropped out. Being incapacitated because of a birth defect is far more understandable than being mindless or dull due to lethargy.

6) Peer Pressure—Not limited to childhood and adolescence, bullying continues throughout our lives. When we lack courage, acquiescing and going along with a bad idea because of another’s strong personality, we haven’t used our brains as we should have. Some intelligent individuals have proven to be morally defective by dumbing down their own honest opinions when an obnoxious know-it-all intimidates them. We might as well be ignorant if we lack courage and live as cowards.

7) Addictions—Any activity that causes us to function thoughtlessly and reactively deprives us of our full capacity to think, reason, analyze, and make good decisions. Collecting anything from sports memorabilia to silver teapots can tempt shopaholics to spend money they can’t afford. Incurring such debt is dumb. Devoting time to an addiction, whether it’s obsessive cell phone use or gambling at bingo five nights a week, can take you away from more constructive activities.

8) Anger—Think of the terms used to describe an enraged person: She is beside herself; she lost her head; he bit my head off; he was ready to eat someone alive; he gave someone a piece of his mind (and he didn’t have any to spare); she jumped down her friend’s throat. None of those describe someone who is happily functioning at full capacity. An individual who has lost control and lost reasoning power is, at least temporarily, senseless.

9) Chaos—Disorganization is an enemy of clear thinking. That doesn’t mean smart people can’t have a cluttered desk, or misplace their car keys, but the more energy an individual spends in clutter reduction, the less energy they invest on a needed focus. It’s simple arithmetic. If I have an hour’s worth of math problems to solve, and I spend 15 of those minutes looking for my pencil, paper, or textbook, then I won’t get but 45 minutes worth of the work done. That’s only a 75% success rate before I even begin the project. Not so smart. Muddle-headed.

10) Unwilling to Listen—Getting stuck on an opinion is forfeiting part of your IQ and detrimental to the successful pursuit of knowledge. In fact, when a prideful person is mentally, emotionally or spiritually unmovable, obstinate, there is no pursuit of knowledge. They are limited to only one tool which may not be the one needed. Discounting or filtering out other valid options is distorted thinking. A position is grabbed, held onto, and all other points of view are stubbornly ignored. Thick-skulled. The individual may be smart, but has unnecessary limitations. Nonsense.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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