I came out of my childhood with a fierce desire for my freedom, for making my own choices, for making my own mistakes rather than benefiting from other’s. I felt a pressure to see and do things like Dad. Looking back I realize that I learned to create within myself a quiet, private safe space where I was free to discover things for myself.
I became conscious of how I refused to get into things where I needed to submit to some power person, to an expert who would instruct me how to live, move and enjoy my being in the world. I choose to live in the dormitory for independent men, usually the fraternity rejects, at a time when a new Dean of Students came on board with an agenda to enrich and organize the experience of independent men and women. He initiated projects and encouraged us to engage in campus wide activities dominated by fraternities and sororities. A group of men in the dorms came to me to ask if I was willing to be their candidate for Nightowl, the first independent candidate. This had been entirely a Greek activity. Having an Independent in the race was a novelty. Each sponsoring group organized a brief 15 minute show advocating for their candidate.The "show" was evenings were scheduled to appear at 10 presentations at sorority houses. And, yes, at the big independent women’s dorm.
At the formal dance each fall, the Nighowl Dance, the women attending voted on who they wanted to be crowned Nightowl. The reward, of course, was a lot of great dates for the following year and a stuffed owl on a board and a plaque with the name of the award. I got to keep it in my dorm room for a year and it was passed on to the next lucky guy.
The guys in the dorms assembled a fabulous Dixieland Band in my support. Night after night for two weeks we moved from sorority house to house playing great music capped by a very energetic version of Night Train. The band was a big hit. The wildness of that music moved people. I said a few word about jazz coming from New Orleans and up the river to Memphis, St. Louis over the Kansas City and to Chicago. I smiled and let the band play.
I won big, the first independent candidate to ever win Knightowl.
That’s when the Frats began rushing and I confirmed in myself the power of being an Independent, to being unafraid to not go with the flow but to consider, a think about what made sense in some inner part of me that I was learning to trust.
Later, when I was feeling the call to ministry it was easy to find the church that fit best. Actually it was the Unitarian church that initially interested me but, stepping a little to the right, it was the Congregational Church which, by merger, became part of the United Church of Christ…my home for work, play, risk and retirement. The notion of covenant theology was my home.