We came to Oakwood in 1947—the year that the
“Cleveland Indians” used pitcher, Satchel Page in the World Series, the first
time an African American pitched in a championship game. A new car cost about $1,200.00 in 1947. A Rolls Royce Silver Phantom cost about
$11,500.00. General Douglas MacArthur
was relieved of his command by Harry S. Truman.
And, we arrived as freshmen at beloved Oakwood.
In 1951, we graduated together. It ought to be said that the Class of ’51 was
an “extraordinary” class! You’d expect
that from me, but consider: we were
mostly theology students.
Our class president was John H. Wagner, Jr. who
became an extraordinary pastor and church builder. James Middleton was vice-president,
successful pastor and leader. Curtis
Burton was our treasurer. Lovey
Davis-Verdun was secretary. She still
works for the college, and Ruth Williams-Gunn was her assistant. John Wright was our chaplain, a deeply
spiritual pastor for years.
From this relatively small class came five
conference presidents: H.L. Cleveland
(President of Student Government), L .G. Newton, Alvin Goldbourne, A. N.
Brogden and Ralph Hairston. There were
three union officers: Daniel Davis, A.N.
Brogden and C.D. Brooks. Two of us
served in the General Conference: R. W.
Bates and C. D. Brooks. Others were
educators, medical professionals, great soul winners, etc.
In 1951, it occurred to us that one of our great
and favorite teachers was leaving Oakwood after 17 years of distinguished
service: Elder C. E. Moseley, beloved instructor of Homiletics, Major and Minor
Prophets and Pastor of the College Church.
We saw that he with his departmental staff (E. E. Rogers, C. T.
Richards, O. B. Edwards and others) could take very ordinary men and send them
out to do extraordinary exploits for God.
The senior ministerial students got together to
ponder “What can we do to honor Elder Moseley after all he has done for us
here?” I was in Turner Battle’s art
class. I had drawn three designs of a
Bell Tower to rescue the antique bell that had not only called us to class,
meals and worship, but had called tired and oppressed slaves to the fields in
another time. So it came to us: “Let’s use one of C. D.’s designs and erect
the Bell Tower in Elder Moseley’s honor.
We went into the mountains, lifted the large and
heavy stones and brought them down to campus.
We drove a farm wagon with real horsepower; two gray geldings worked for
us, along with a “wounded Jeep” of WWII vintage.
Elder Moseley, from his classroom window
contemplated this growing pile of rocks and he must have wondered with the Old
Testament travelers, “What meaneth these stones…” We said not a word to him or others about our
work. Once, he gently scolded us for
“consuming too much time on whatever we were doing.”
We found the stone masons who had built Moran
Hall. Russell Bates and I laid out the
structure using the flagpole as the center of our circumference and we dug up
the grass for the foundation. The Bell would be toward the Henderson Hall (East)
and the entrance toward Irvin Hall (West).
(While we were doing this, the Allegheny Conference President came and
called me to his field.)
We built it!
A large circular “bench” where students and visitors could rest and take
in the beauty of our campus and our young people. Who can imagine how may “sweet nothings” were
whispered between couple while resting there?
They made promises of unyielding affections. Engagements were proposed and planned and
ratified. I wonder how many marriages
resulted. It gives one a real warm
feeling just thinking over the 50 years!
Perhaps grades improved and rose to another level. Because on this bench with the beauty of
nature all around, it was conducive to clear thinking.
Briefly here, let me tell you of the “Mystery of
the Unplowed Joint.”
The contractors were excited about our project and
wanted it right. Our intention was to
have it match the “Ad Building” (Moran Hall) with its molded joints. Our builder said, “Fellows, you won’t have
time. Cement must have a certain
consistency in order to be molded. This
is a Friday job. Your Sabbath is
coming. You won’t have time to wait on
the cement. Just plow the joints and it
will look fine considering the distance between the two structures.” We agreed.
The work was done in a hurry. The masons worked like beavers. We helped with the labor. We discovered that the cement remained very
soft. The joints couldn’t be plowed
until it set up to a certain degree. We
started on the Cunningham Hall side. By
the time the masons blocked in the tower, we could begin plowing the joints. We
also began to watch the westerning sun.
Sabbath was coming fast! We
wondered if we could get the whole thing done.
Finally, the contractors were done. We paid them and they left, wishing us
success. We were advancing too fast on
green concrete” but we couldn’t wait: Sabbath was coming!
It began to be frustrating. What would we do? Some started to
rationalize: “Is this analogous to the ox in the mire?” “The Lord will
understand.” But wait a minute. We were young theologs who soon would be
preaching in small churches around the country expecting our people to be
faithful in all things. We would talk
about Joseph and Daniel and the Hebrew boys.
The sky was turning red. Long shadows were bending toward the east. Soon it would be time to prepare for
Vespers. The Sabbath peace was in the
air. What should we do? The section in front of the Ad Building could
not be finished without violating the 4th Commandment. It was decision time.
To a man, we decided to just leave it. If our work was criticized, it would be a
testimony to our feeble faith. And leave
it, we did. Now 50 years later, I defy
anyone to go and inspect the structure and show where we stopped! Did angel finish our work? This is the
mystery of the unplowed joints.
On the day of dedication, the plaque was in
place. President Peterson led the staff
to the campus center. Leonard Newton had
his medical cadets all crisp and starched and at attention. The students and visitors gathered, all
wondering what this was about.
Slowly the bell begins to toll…17 times in
uninterrupted cadence. Elder Moseley
hadn’t a clue. Did he count the gongs?
I still remember the metallic language of the
bell. I remember the scene and the tears
when “the Rabbi” (our affectionate name for Elder Moseley) understood that it
was for him.
We buried Elder Moseley a few weeks ago in the
bosom of Oakwood’s soil…that precious man!
The bell is still here in his honor.
Today, when loyalty and faithfulness are compromised so easily…when
principles become flexible and are rationalized away…when things go on here on
these hallowed grounds that were never even dreamed of years ago – I remember
the “unplowed joints” – a testimony and tribute to a group of young men now 50
years older who stood for something!
They were showered and dressed and in their place as the red afterglow
of a dying sun glorified our chapel and vesper hour. We stood firm.
-This talk was given by C.D. Brooks at Oakwood University on April 13, 2001