A Reluctant Farewell

A tribute by J. R. Spangler to the Dowers as they retire after more than 44 years of denominational service.

J.R. Spangler is the editor of Ministry
Farewell! A word that has been, must be, and ever will be—yet a word which makes us linger (my apologies to Lord Byron).

It is not too difficult to write a brief but enviable history of a team of God's workers who are spiritual parents to a global host of children. At the same time it is rather unpleasant to have to write this mini-history in a valedictory setting.

One of the intriguing mysteries of life is why and how we become acquainted with individuals whose influence on us is so remarkably rewarding and whom had we not met, we would have been much the losers. Individuals of this caliber give strength and courage to all they meet. In the midst of the wretchedness of this earthly exile, they bring a reason for life, a hope for a future far better than the present. In this case, "they" refers to a couple whom we affectionately call Reggie and Kay—Norman Reginald Dower and Catherine Carlson Dower.

Reggie, born of Adventist parents in St. John's, Newfoundland, where his father was captain of Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell's vessel, which plied the waters off the coast of Labrador and northern Newfoundland. Dr. Grenfell was eventually knighted by the queen of England for his humanitarian work in this area. Mother Dower traces her roots to Eng land, where her mother was related to Susanna Wesley, mother of Charles and John Wesley. Reggie later moved with his family to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and not long after to Takoma Park, where he eventually attended Washing ton Missionary College, graduating in 1935.

I have always believed that God created Adam and Eve for each other, and that belief extends to many of their descendants, including Reggie and Kay, who first met on the campus of Washington Missionary College, where Kay resided as a registered nurse on the Sanitarium side of the campus. On December 9, 1935, wedding bells rang for them in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

Another intriguing mystery of life is the similarities of experience we find with others although we may not have met or known these "others" until later. For example, both Reggie and I were called into the Adventist ministry by the same president, yet we never met each other until fifteen years or more later. Pastor William Robbins, East Pennsylvania Conference president, called Reggie to help Ross Lindsay in an evangelistic campaign in Wilkes-Barre. One feature of his first experience in church work was the fact that the district leader under whom he worked was a lady, Miss Jessie Weiss, who later became Mrs. John Curtis!

Because of Reggie's two-year stint as a student dean during college days, he was called by Atlantic Union College president G. Eric Jones to be dean of men and Bible teacher in 1936. The teaching part of the job was a delightful challenge, but his dislike for the disciplinary part of the dean's job led Reggie and Kay to the pastorate of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, church. His district included Sunbury, Northumberland, York, Hanover, and Lebanon. As a result of their work, a church was established in Elizabethville and a company formed in Hershey. Kay used her nursing skills only in such church-related activities as giving physical examinations to all the church school children in the conference. This preventive-medicine approach helped in discovering and remedying numerous childhood defects.

If any of our younger ministers think Ingathering is a difficult task today, ask Reggie about this activity in the post-depression years when goals were reached through the accumulated gifts of nickels and dimes. Dollar gifts were a rare exception and cause for great rejoicing!

Next on the list of churches pastored by the Dowers was Flint, Michigan. Carlyle B. Haynes called them to this new post in December, 1939. It was a church with the usual problems, but as the result of the working of the Spirit of the Lord and successful "cottage meetings," the church grew and soon moved to larger rented quarters. One cottage meeting was especially rewarding as some twenty-five persons as a group joined the ranks of God's last movement. Eventually Reggie led out in the building of an evangelistic center, which involved the membership's cooperation and help. The men worked long and hard building the structure, while the women aided in furnishing it. The younger women furnished the mothers' room, while the older ladies worked to furnish the pastor's study.

During their stay in Flint, a most no table event occurred in the life of the Dowers. In 1941 Richard (Dick) Dower was born. Dick, now managing editor of the Lake Union Herald, is married to Nadine Plainer, whom he met at Walla Walla College. This lovely family of four lives in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

From Flint, the Dowers were invited by Michigan Conference president Taylor G. Bunch to pastor the Detroit Grand River church. Under Reggie's leader ship, the pastors of the eighteen churches in the Detroit area met together every Monday morning for a workers' meeting. In spite of gasoline rationing during these war years, the pastors sponsored a ten-day meeting in a large high school auditorium, with speakers from all levels of church organization doing the preaching.

Since Reggie is our MINISTRY editorial director, we must mention that he got his start in this type of work in Detroit. A paper called The Church Organ was produced; it was sent to all the members, including more than a hundred service men overseas.

A second notable event in the lives of the Dowers took place in Detroit, when Karen Joanne, their secondborn, boosted the family roster to four. Like Dick, she also has two children, giving Reggie and Kay a total of four grand children to brag about! Karen and her family live in the Washington, D.C., area, where she attends the Beltsville, Maryland, church and works part time at Leland Memorial Hospital.

In 1946, Reggie was called to be president of the Texico Conference, with headquarters in Clovis, New Mexico. During his term, the office was moved to Amarillo, and a Book and Bible House was built. Reggie's dissatisfaction with a mere desk job, plus a deep love for souls, caused him to sublet his house to the treasurer, E. L. Moore, and move to Albuquerque, where he simultaneously administered the conference and con ducted an evangelistic campaign. Douglas Marchus was the church pastor, and Bill May was an intern.

In 1950, the Dowers moved to Fort Worth, and Reggie became the Texas Conference president.

My wife, Marie, and I met the Dowers for the first time in 1952, when we were asked to pastor the Dowers' home church in Fort Worth. It is impossible for me to go further without a personal testimony. Reggie and Kay have a rare mystical quality called "warmheartedness," which they exude naturally and earnestly. They wield the wonderful weapons of friendship and hospitality skillfully and profusely. The main thing Marie and I remember about this initial contact was not the city, the church building, conference office, or the living conditions. Rather, we remember their openhearted embrace, the sincere friendly welcome into their home, and the luscious, home-cooked food. Any one (the number probably runs into the thousands) who has had the privilege of putting his or her tongue to a Kay Dower fork of food can be classified among the world's more fortunate! Just to inhale a lungful of tempting air from the Dowers' kitchen around 11:00 A.M. on weekends, or to peek at Reggie's lunch, spread out on his office desk at noontime, is a mouth-watering experience! In spite of such tender, loving care, Reggie amazingly maintains a lean physical frame. Evidently he is one of the few who can live with calories without an anatomical catastrophe. I am not claiming that Kay's food was the main reason we accepted the call to Texas, but it certainly helped to create a positive atmosphere in which to make an affirmative decision.

Reggie and Kay were always supportive, always available, always helpful in any situation. As a young preacher with only ten years' experience, I needed help and got it. One time a most delicate situation arose involving church school personnel, which led me to invite Reggie to attend a school board meeting. After an impasse was reached, Reggie stood and eloquently shared insights that helped us come to an amicable solution. What I learned that night in the art of problem solving has come in handy numerous times since. The Lord mightily used Reggie as a president to help me, as well as scores of other younger ministers, to make progress in our ministerial careers.

During our stay in Fort Worth, Kay effectively played an assistant pastor's role for me, without the title and without renumeration. Her intimate knowledge of every church member (including their relatives), which she shared with me, proved to be of tremendous help in my pastoring responsibilities. She seemed to know whether someone was sick before they got sick! When my wife, Marie, tripped and fell on her foot, which caused a nasty break in the heel, Kay came to the rescue. She organized the women in the church into platoons and assigned them specific tasks of cleaning our home and delivering food at appropriate times. This lasted, not for a day or two, but for several weeks, until Marie was able to get about on crutches.

We were serving in the Far Eastern Division when the call came for us to join the General Conference Ministerial Association staff in 1962. We sent our two daughters, Patricia, 15, and Linda, 10, ahead, in order for them to start school on time. Reggie was president of the Washington Conference (1957-1966) at the time. Some way, somehow, the Dowers found out about our girls coming through Seattle en route to Washington, D.C. Not only did they meet them at the airport, but they arranged for them to spend a day or so in their home, while visiting the Seattle World's Fair. Multiply that story by two, and you get the full picture, for they did the same thing for Marie and me when we came through Seattle a few weeks later. I relate these incidents only as examples and samples of what they have done, not only for us, but for hundreds of others.

Reggie's deep interest, as a conference president, in evangelistic outreach is shown in his sponsoring of evangelistic teams. For instance, during his service in Texas, he hired the Detamore- Turner evangelistic team, the Barren brothers, and Stanley Harris. His inter est in youth is seen in the purchase of youth camp properties in both the Texas and Washington conferences. The Lone Star Camp, near Athens, Texas, and Sunset Lake Youth Camp property, in the foothills of Mt. Rainier, Washington, were given priority attention.

During his term as president of the Washington Conference, Auburn Academy was totally rebuilt, with the help of a willing constituency, and evangelism was again the key word as Stanley Harris and his team, and Kenneth Mittleider and his evangelistic company, preached the Advent message fervently.

At the General Conference session in Detroit in 1966, Reggie was asked to be secretary of the Ministerial Association. His fourteen years of leadership have done much to encourage the Adventist ministry around the world. His ability to suggest solutions to problems and to give counsel on perplexing questions facing the leaders of our church have been deeply appreciated. In his fourteen years as secretary of our association, the Tape of the Month Club was developed, Mission '72 was launched, with sermons and advertising materials provided in a kit and 1,600 simultaneous meetings beginning across the North American Division. The result was a surge of evangelism around the world. The "Concern" program was also developed, to reclaim lost and delinquent members; a ministerial recruitment leaflet was developed and given to thousands of young people in our academies and colleges; booklets such as "Let's Get Acquainted," for introducing new members to the church departments and programs, have been produced; a new baptismal manual was prepared; a church officers' manual has been developed; a revision of the Ministers' Manual took place; and last but not least, the P.R.E.A.C.H. Project was launched, which is now reaching a quarter of a million clergy of all denominations around the world. These are among some of the things that have been developed for the field during his administration.

As editor of MINISTRY magazine, I have appreciated the faithful work of Kay as the leader of our Shepherdess organization throughout the church, and her sponsorship of the Shepherdess section of MINISTRY. The contacts she has made with the women of the church have brought courage and joy to the hearts of our ladies in many countries.

When Reggie discovered that we were preparing this farewell, he earnestly re quested that with whatever kudos were showered on him and his leadership, due credit be given to his associates. As he put it, "Without the aid and direction of the Holy Spirit, along with the cooperation and support of a staff of loyal, hard-working individuals during my fourteen-year term, little or nothing would have been achieved."

We who have worked closely with Reggie recognize and appreciate this credit-sharing attitude as typical, but we also realize that unless a leader has vi gs will grind to a halt or wheels will spin futilely.

I know that what I have written doesn't do justice to this tremendous couple. Mere words on paper are a feeble vehicle to convey emotions and memories and friendships that have been decades developing. But words are all we humans have to express ourselves. The beautiful part is our absolute confidence that the friendship begun here will-continue through eternity. A friend ship formed in the framework of Christianity and sealed by the Holy Spirit is eternal. Friendships that are cemented together with the bond of Christ's love cannot be torn asunder.

And so, we bid Reggie and Kay a reluctant farewell. They may leave these offices after long years of service, but they can never leave our hearts.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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J.R. Spangler is the editor of Ministry

April 1980

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