. . . to go on speaking – like Al Davis.

The mentor Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy wrote a little book of great ideas not long before he died, The Fruit of Lips, or Why Four Gospels.  In the chapter called “The Cross of Grammar” he wrote:

A word may be true as to content; it may be true enough to be verified in its own author’s actions; finally, it may be so true that it compels the next speaker to respond and to go on speaking.

These words came to mind as I read the good words in the Marshall News Messenger about a friend to many and civic servant from Marshall, Al Davis.  Al was a longtime attorney and former assistant district attorney, and husband to Jane Ogden, our university colleague in psychology, now retired.  A faithful churchman and choir member at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Al died of a heart attack this past Saturday.  We shall all miss him.

Rosenstock-Huessy (R-H) wrote of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – that “They are sound as wells of speech.”  He meant that they are all authentic responses to the message of the life of Jesus in relationship to his disciples, Father God, and the World, and that each Gospel contributes uniquely to the same story.  The Gospel writers complemented each other.   R-H writes,

What is the end and the beginning of speech?  The beginning of a human breath discloses the time and place of this particular act of the spirit.  End and beginning bring an inspiration down to earth.  End and beginning of any book declare whether it is true or not.  But this truth is a threefold truth.  A word may be true as to content . . . .

And so it is, and was, and shall be, relating to the life of Al Davis among us.  Our newspaper carries the eulogies – the good words – of Al’s colleagues, coworkers in the community, his friends, and many he helped.  If a man’s life is a book, and his words are text for his life, then Al Davis finished well – he completed a good, admirable book.  We know this because so many already have been inspired to speak further good about him, and in the days to come others will speak in a similar way.

The life and, to us, untimely, death of Al Davis bereaves us but also inspires us.  His life, actions and words should remind us that in each of us, in our communities, we have the resources to overcome the wrong, to organize our efforts so that our intentions and plans succeed, to speak encouraging words to each other so that each person is inspired to contribute his or her own words and book in the time available, to make our relationships, community and society more what they can and should be, and to bring more music and joy into everything we do.  I believe Al Davis would like that!  After all, that was so much what he was about while he lived and served among us.

Now, what about us?  One more word from E-H – a word for pondering:

The Gospels were true enough to compel the next speaker to go on speaking above and beyond the last word of the last speaker.  Each one had to step in where the last speaker left off.  They were imparting the concrete time and scene of their speech so vividly to each other that they touched each other off, to the next move.  They sing, over forty years perhaps, one Gospel, each in his own key, on his specific wave-length, according to his lights, in handing the joyful and arduous task over to the better man, one after another.  In this act, then, the “Four Gospels” became a continuation of Jesus’ life through the minds which were made over by their office of Evangelists.  They were created into the Lips of the Word.

Let’s all be like Al Davis, “the better man.”


References all from pages 81-82, The Fruit of Lips.



Comments and Reflections on the Love Cemetery Project as related to ETBU and the LFN Small Grant Initiative.


During this academic year the Lilly Fellows Network Small Grant Initiative has allowed many of us to become more aware of continuing and new opportunities related to human rights, reconciliation, restorative justice, and many other related themes.


On Monday, April 7, at the invitation of Professor China Galland, I took part in a mid-day meeting of individuals who would discuss Love Cemetery and the “Writing History Project”—an initiative at Wiley College involving Lisa Taylor.  The ongoing Love Cemetery initiative is the subject of Dr. Galland’s book, Love Cemetery: Unburying the Secret History of Slaves (HarperOne, 2008); a documentary film, “Resurrecting Love”, also is in production.   The persons present were:


Professor China Galland–Affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, formerly Professor in Residence at the Center for the Arts, Religion, and Education, and occasional adjunct faculty member; author of multiple books; member national Alliance for Truth and Racial Reconciliation.


Mrs. Doris Vittatoe—President of the Love Cemetery Burial Association; from Waskom/Scottsville.


Ms. Cristina Balli—Team Member, Texas Folk Life, Austin.


Mr. Archie L. Rison, Jr.—Cemetery restorer, amateur archaeologist, Nacogdoches, Texas.


Mr. Estrus Tucker—International consultant, speaker, storyteller, poet and master facilitator; board of Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at U/Mississippi; Tarrant County (TX) Workforce Development Board; International Association of Human Rights Agencies Board; the National Center for Courage and Renewal Board; Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the Brite Divinity School Board of Visitors; ordained minister; Vietnam-era veteran; 2012 recipient, International Association of Human Rights Agencies Individual Achievement Award “for his work and leadership in support of creative civic engagement and transformational leadership in Mississippi; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Cape Town, S. Africa, and Texas.  Native and resident of Fort Worth, with three generations before born and resident in Marshall, Texas.


And I, Jerry Summers—The Sam B. Hall Jr. Professor of History, and Dean, School of Humanities, ETBU.


My purpose in attending the discussion session was to honor an invitation that came as a result of East Texas Baptist University’s Lilly Fellows Program Small Grant initiative, “Human Rights, Reconciliation and Restorative Justice: East Texas and the World.”  That initiative for the academic year was to give opportunities to evaluate further involvement in or attention to the broader range of human rights issues locally and worldwide.  The initiative resonates strongly with the mission and purpose of our university.


The involvement of ETBU in the Love Cemetery cleanup and celebration day in April had begun in the previous academic year when our director of the Great Commission Center, Dr. Melody Maxwell (now at Howard Payne University), had organized student, staff and faculty participation in the event.  Wiley College students, including the Wiley College choir, and faculty also participated, along with townspeople and visitors, some who came great distances in order to take part.  Others who were responsible at that time are unknown to me.  The program was held again on April 5th this year and featured Ysaye Barnwell of Honey in The Rock, the Wiley Choir, students from Wiley and ETBU, and others.


The April 7th meeting about Love Cemetery and the Writing History Program was, in China Galland’s words, to be informal and a discussion of “our work to preserve this fragile, potent history and build a stronger, more resilient community around Love.  This 1.6 acre cemetery is emblematic of a history almost lost, paved over or denied all over the United States.”


Our discussion, which was being filmed for possible inclusion in an updated documentary, ran for approximately an hour.  My singular impression was that the discussion and the themes it addressed connected vitally with those of the ETBU grant initiative, with the work of many people and organizations on our campus and in the community, and with my own teaching and research.


The efforts surrounding Love Cemetery help us to focus on the theme of past, present and future, where interethnic relations and the need for reconciliation are connected so strongly to our society’s segregated past.  An African-American cemetery typically reflects the segregation of black from white both in life and in death.  It is the surviving evidence of that segregated past.  Yet that same cemetery can be the focus of efforts to remember a broken heritage and to mend relationships among the living descendants of a divided society.  The point of Love Cemetery and others like it is that its potential as an instrument to evoke memory and provoke reconciliation is lost if it is inaccessible and forgotten.  I need only  mention that Love Cemetery is but one emblem of the same problem around the world, where the first tendency is to avoid the pain of remembering and thereby to pass by the prospect of healing.


I should not say much more.  The Love Cemetery discussion came during late winter and early spring when several campus and community organizations and churches sponsored programs that emphasized our shared interethnic and faith heritage through traditions, food, music, worship, and community service.  Evidently there is considerable good will among and around us.  That same good will is and should be gathered and directed toward more comprehensive, intentional acts of caring, attention, reconciliation, and redemption.


Here are some related links:


http://www.etbu.edu/spiritual-development/gcc/ –Great Commission Center

http://guides.etbu.edu/lfp-humanrights  and  http://www.etbu.edu/school-humanities/lilly-small-grant-initiative/

http://www.resurrectinglovemovie.org/ — Wiley and ETBU students at work at Love Cemetery, 2013


Enter into My Joy – John Stott

The news today of John Stott’s death at 90 saddened me for a moment, but only that long, for I knew he had entered the full joy of the Lord having done all the Lord’s bidding.  The Christianity Today obituary is moving and evokes good memory.  His life example is a good instance of what I was saying in my last posting about paganism compared to genuine faith.

Though as a Baptist I and my wife have enjoyed our wonderful visits to Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in London and the New Road Baptist Church in Oxford during a sabbatical stay, All Souls Langham Place also attracted us.  But too late in his ministry, or off schedule, to hear John Stott, we nonetheless heard inspiring evangelical preaching by other staff pastors and enjoyed worshiping with a truly international congregation.  More recently the ministry of the Langham Partners International made a strong impression on me; I thought how positive, resolute and effective their mission sounded!

On at least two occasions my ETBU travel study students accompanied me to worship there at All Souls, once in March 2003, another in May 2006; that last time, on a Sunday morning, we walked the half mile or so from our hotel on Gower Street and entered that church just next to the BBC buildings. There the worshipers clearly recognized their congregation’s place in its own domestic society but displayed numerous, lively, and colorful connections with Christians around the world–and there were many visitors–the Africans dressed brightly, impressively for worship!  We enjoyed the tea and biscuits afterwards in the fellowship center, too, the opportunity to make new acquaintances, and to look at the books and tapes they offered.  It was a privilege to share just briefly in the vibrant experience of that missions and ministry-oriented urban church.  I am grateful to the Lord for all that, and for John Stott.

The Sam B. Hall Jr. Lectureship for 2010

The Sam B. Hall Jr. Lectureship has been a feature on the ETBU campus since 1993 when it and the professorship were started.  This year we will have a banquet and guest lecturer from The University of Mary Hardin Baylor, Dr. J. David Holcomb.  His talk on the implications of recent Supreme Court decisions for religious liberties will capture some attention and provoke discussion.  The event is on February 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the Heritage Room of the Jarrett Library.  Call 903.923.2083 for ticket information.

Thinking Not Optional

Klassen and Zimmermann have given me much to think about in their book The Passionate Intellect:  Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education. One chapter subheading alone rings the bell of reflection during my day:  “Thinking is not optional:  It is part of your Christian identity.” It is not just that our university is starting a Quality Enhancement project related to our accreditation, and that project focuses on identity as a key component of Christian servant-leadership development.  It has everything to do with the deeper purposes of my teaching, so it is indeed a passionate proposition.  I hope my students come to share in it.

Back from China ~ May 2008

Comments on the China Trip are on the Doc Summers on Tiger Mountain link on this page (may have to click on the Home tab to the left to show links).

Tiger Mountain

Tiger Mountain – maybe it’s just a hill – actually the Martians have called it Van Zandt Hill since the 1840s. Sometime around 1795 the Spanish ambassador charted it in the line of hills dividing the king’s lands from Mexico. Soon Napoleon had the king’s lands, and not long after that, President Jefferson cut a sharp deal and informed Congress by announcing the unexpected debt. Stunned at first, they came around to his position once they checked the map, though its deficiencies and their thirst for facts about the Louisiana Territory prompted Jefferson to commission the Lewis and Clark expedition of discovery. Already the old Spanish boundary had shifted eastward, and the Texans later agreed on a new boundary line with the United States. That’s long past now and infrequently remembered on Tiger Mountain. The Tigers concern themselves more with student life – the full range of it – and though captivated by what is for them now they are drawn by things to come. The past can wait – there’s too much of “A World of Opportunity in a Community of Faith,” and all it promises, to think of much else, whether they actually pause to think about it or not. www.etbu.edu

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