Four and two fifths make seven


Guys don’t do sleepovers. Or so I thought reading A Plan this morning . . . until I stopped to think.

Four (4) ‘Old Dogs’ (seminary classmates who have maintained friendship through the years) do five-night sleepovers every year. Once there were seven (7). Now there are four (4).

Photograph of four 'Old Dogs' with holding a picture of Wayne Boulton.
Four ‘Old Dogs’ (L to R): Harry, Gordon, Don, Bob, with photograph of Wayne (RIP).


We arrive at the annual ‘Gatherings’ limping on replaced knees with hips and memories in need of repair, bearing matches to light the fire, a Book of Common Prayer, and a Fifth or two . . . to make four equal seven again.

There’s nothing like a sleepover celebration with old friends. Some are confident that the departed — Wayne, Steve, and Dale — are still with us around the fire. Others need the help of a Fifth or a few Seven-and-Sevens to get four to equal seven.

Original ‘Chicago Seven’ Gathering (L to R): Old Dogs Wayne Boulton, Harry Strong, Yours Truly, Steve Shoemaker, Dale Hartwig, Don Dempsey, Bob Young.

What I had come to know (by feeling only) was that the [GATHERING]’s true being, you might say, was a sort of current, like an underground flow of water, except that the flowing was in all directions and yet did not flow away. When it rose into your heart and throat, you felt joy and sorrow at the same time, and the joining of times and lives. To come into the presence of the [Gathering] was to know life and death, and to be near in all your thoughts to laughter and to tears.

Wendell Berry, “A Gathering,” Jayber Crow, p. 205-206.

Thanks to Beth of ‘I didn’t get my glasses on‘ for turning Gatherings into sleepover celebrations.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 23, 2019.

Baseball as a Road to God

The Gathering minus Steve

The Gathering minus Steve

On Monday six seminary friends come together from Indiana, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, and Minnesota for an annual “Old Dogs’ Gathering” at our alma mater, McCormick Theological Seminary, in Chicago.

Years ago four of us cut Professor Boling’s Hebrew class to take our homiletics (i.e., preaching) professor, Herb King, to the Opening Day Cubs game at Wrigley Field. We were VERY serious students!

In preparation for this year’s annual gathering, we’ve been reading John Sexton’s marvelous book, Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game, and we’ll return to Wrigley Field where two of the Old Dogs’ hearts are perpetually broken. Steve Shoemaker, one of the Old Dogs, sent this to us this morning.

Seminary Reunion

Here we would each learn to preach
a sermon–going from the Greek,
Hebrew, to the common speech
of folks today. Here we would seek
answers to all questions: old,
or new, conundrums from a child,
screams of pain from a grey head
that’s waiting for a grave. Reviled
scorned, by former college friends
who now run businesses, our mild
Biblical response pretends
to follow One who like a lamb
went to the slaughter. We damn
ourselves in not forgiving them.

This year we lost one of the original seven old friends, Dale Hartwig, who grew old too soon and faster than the rest of us. John Sexton reminds us of the difference between beginnings and endings, and the need for a vantage point:

“While the teams and players on the field may change each autumn, the game’s evocative power is continuous. Opening Day in the spring and the World Series in the fall are the bookends of baseball’s liturgical time…. Vantage point is critical.”

Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game, Penguin Group, NY, NY, 2013.

Everyone should be so blessed as to have friends like these and a vantage point of continuing thanksgiving.