True to its mission

Last year I had an opportunity that few Calvin music alumni get, and that was to return to Calvin and play in the Symphonic Band, formally known as Knollcrest Band. I was invited by Dr. Engle to participate in the Symphonic Band, in order to fill out a percussion section. Although I was only able to practice with the band once a week, it was a great experience and very demanding!

As I began practicing with the band, it was obvious that my percussion skills were a little “rusty,” and I had a few more wrinkles than anyone in the band. I found I had to practice not only percussion skills but had to work on my concentration that was required for that one hour each week.

The Symphonic Band students impressed me with their welcoming attitude, helpfulness and caring. Dr. Engle offered a lot of encouragement to me as well. The Spirit was alive and moving in rehearsal. Dr. Engle never let God go too long without mention!
I wish to thank the Symphonic Band and Dr. Engle for an experience I will not forget, and to those who wonder if Calvin is still true to its mission, I can tell you that it is.

Joseph Bell ex’78
Belmont, Mich.

On opera and trees

I enjoyed the Spark (Winter 2011) with its “Bravo Fitah!” and article on tree mapping. I love opera, not exactly a “Dutch dish,” but my uncle used to take me to the New York Met now and then, and at the old Calvin dorm my room was for listening to Met operas, maintaining a habit learned from my dad. Once a friend tried breaking up the party by blowing cigar smoke through the keyhole, but I flew after him in a passion and he did not try that again.

I still have the Grand Rapids Symphony programs of those years and shall never forget the opening notes of Zinka Milanov’s Pace, pace, Mio Dio on Jan. 22, 1954, on a cold winter’s night in the old Civic Center. The voice seemed to come from afar and swell and swell. We have Alain Trudel as conductor for Orchestra London this year. Maybe one day I should ask Trudel if he has ever heard of a Malagasy opera singer.

By changing to pre-sem, I escaped the leaf collecting biology class most Calvin students took. It did not look that interesting to me at the time. (More serious for my future was my falling through the cracks and never having Prof. Jellema in philosophy.) I have more interest in plants now. I hope that Calvin has a Ram’s Horn willow growing somewhere. It is the favorite tree in my yard. A minister and Christian college needs to have a tree like this with its shofar leaves.

John Koole ’57
Strathroy, Ont.

Olympian Diemer

You and the editorial staff are to be congratulated for the consistent quality of Spark magazine. The balance of articles and photos are well placed. Your tribute to Brian Diemer and Al Hoekstra (Winter 2011) was certainly inspiring. Brian and his wife stayed at our house when he was competing in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and won the bronze medal. Betty and I were honored to be there for the presentation.

George Groen ’59
Thousand Oaks, Calif.

More origins commentary

In response to the “Calvin professors in center of origins debate” (Fall 2011): What would Servetus say? Servetus, a founder of present-day Unitarianism, challenged the idea of the Trinity and was burned at the stake in Calvin’s city of Geneva. Theologies are developed by groups of people in a context of history and culture. Differences are reconciled to reach consensus. If a church or a college takes the position that creeds and theologies cannot be changed or improved, a paranoid climate may develop. Those who question can be punished for free inquiry. Radical Islam is a current example of this.

Calvin College needs to find ways to welcome free inquiry if it is to reach its full potential.

Roger Steenland ’66
Tucson, Ariz.

I read with interest the article in the Fall 2011 issue of Spark, on the origins conversation with professors Harlow and Schneider. While I am grateful for their contribution from within the Reformed community on this important subject, I am dismayed by the reaction of the Professional Status Committee and the intense scrutiny to which these scholars were subjected. While the “... fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7a, NRSV), I doubt whether the fear of theological themes contributes anything to knowledge or is an authentic expression of the fear of the Lord. I treasure much of my upbringing in the Christian Reformed Church and what I learned at Calvin College and Seminary. But I also treasure the intellectual freedom I have in the United Church of Christ, where I have served churches since 1984.

Ben Zandstra ex’74, MDiv ’81
Lake City, Calif.

Jogging memories

This fall, as I was running (jogging these days) around the Calvin campus, it struck me that I had first run on the campus 50 years ago in the fall of 1961. Even after 50 years, Knollcrest still is the “new” campus in my mind. Then I was a first-year member of the cross country and track teams under coach Dave Tuuk. If I remember my first cross meet correctly, I finished something like 12th for Calvin and 13th overall—against Hope. Our training for cross country consisted of interval training in Franklin (now M.L. King) Park—varied patterns posted daily by Tuuk: figure 8’s, speed work across the flat field and up the hill to the tennis courts, and Franklin-to-Alexander intervals were typical. Cross country meets were held at Knollcrest. I remember the course ran past the Sem Pond on (a much narrower) Burton Street and also straight up the hill from the baseball field (not the sloping driveway). In the spring we trained at Knollcrest on the new track. Not much else was built there yet. I think that 1962–63 was the first year that freshmen lived and studied there. Our “long runs” that spring were the times we jogged to and from Knollcrest for the workouts.

Eric H. Beversluis ’66
Chagrin Falls, Ohio