Through many dangers, toils and snares




I have been thinking about the title of the memoir my Dad left behind, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares. I don’t understand why he chose this title. Although he begins with a Forward and a little Introduction, he doesn’t indicate why he chose that title.

Dad took his title from stanza three of this hymn.

It makes me wonder because although I know that Dad struggled with life, I don’t know what “dangers, toils and snares” confronted him. As I see  it, he had a pretty good life. Starting from a modest background as the youngest son of a preacher of pretty new religious movement (The Church of God), Dad goes on to emerge as one of the golden young ministers. He sang in the quartet from the church college which both sang on the church’s radio show and toured the United States in effect advertising the faith.


He was known as a Youth Minister and gave revivals and led youth camps.


He made that dang 1959 trip to Europe and the Middle East. He and Mom were “delegates to the World Convention of the Church of God.” He says they borrowed $2,750.00 to make the trip and that it didn’t make sense to “just” respond to the invitation to be delegates. Rather that making “an extended trip to the middle East and Europe was very enticing.”

I am intrigued that Dad was “enticed.” I have to conclude that he was an adventuresome man even though I didn’t always see him that way.

I experienced my father as kind of secretive. He didn’t easily confide in me. It was difficult for him to say that he loved me. But I didn’t really think of him as tortured by “dangers, toils and snares.”

In 1963 he moved the family from Tennessee to Michigan accepting what was in the confines of the small eccentric denomination a significant church in Flint Michigan. West Court Street was significant because he was following one of the preeminent preachers of the church, Herb Thompson, as pastor.

I remember Herb visiting us in Greeneville Tennessee and giving a “revival.” This means that he stayed with us a week or so and preached at a service every evening at my Dad’s church. It sort of feels like he was looking to Dad to carry on his work in Flint and in the national church (such as it was).

However, Dad found himself in an increasingly complex situation both in the local Flint church which was made up about half educated teacher types and half factory workers and in the country at the time which was reeling from the death of JFK and well on its way to the turbulent sixties.

Dad began wearing a collar when he became more activist. He said he wanted the police to know he was a minister when he was demonstrating or monitoring Flint police brutality.

Dad experienced a change in Flint. He found himself questioning a lot. In 1968 hiss transformation from the mantle bearing young conservative minister of his denomination to one of the farthest left wing factions of his own Dad’s church was probably completed by his taking a course in Chicago from the Urban Training center.  He has written and spoken about this time in his life as culminating in an “identity crisis.”

So maybe from his point of view this time in his life was one of “dangers, toils and snares.” Hard to say.


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