Pastoral Comments for Daniel W. Liddell (1927-2012)

One of Dan Liddell’s favorite hymns was The King of Love my Shepherd Is:

Henry Baker 1868

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And O what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.

Daniel Liddell (February 8, 1927 – June 14, 2012) 

In this short span of years we define as this life, very few people, should we even be fortunate, will have the kind of impact Daniel Liddell has on numerous persons throughout his earthly sojourn.  Born Daniel Wesley, February 8, 1927 in Chicago, the son of an evangelist preacher, the late Rev. Thomas Liddell and a mother full of hospitality and nurture, Adele Liddell, his early ambitions in life included practicing medicine. Before Dan would pursue his desire to be a physician, he developed his skills as a musician accompanying his father’s singing for evangelistic worship.

Brother to the Rev. PL Liddell, and Jeanne Hansen, Dan answered the call of his nation and served in the US Navy during WWII as a Head Surgical Nurse assisting the Navy’s top neurosurgeon. Dan was one of our heroes, having served from 1941-1945, no doubt helping to save countless wounded service personnel. We owe a debt of gratitude to Dan and all who served and continue to serve our nation.

Although medicine would play a large role in his life, the medical career he dreamed of was not in Dan’s future. Suffering a heart attack during his Medical School training at Michigan State University, Dan’s life soon found a new direction which would guide him for the rest of his life. Being adaptable to his circumstances, Dan could look back at that turn of events with humor, remembering how the commotion of his medical trauma had cancelled the chemistry exam to the great pleasure of the rest of his class.

Building on the musical skills he acquired as a youth, Dan began a lifelong journey of learning, teaching, directing and life changing. Beginning his studies at the first Olivet Nazarene College near Georgetown, IL, Dan moved to the Kankakee-Bourbonnais Area with one of the first truckloads of students after the great Olivet fire and the college’s relocation to ONU’s current location.

After completing his degree in 1950, he pursued his masters degree at the University of IL in Champaign. While he was a student he served the University Place Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the FourSquare Gospel Church. Returning to this area, Dan began work with Olivet and eventually became head of the voice department.

Dan expanded his reach with his talents in radio and on early Television in Chicago. He was proud of his TV Show Favorites with Danny – a live call-in request your favorite hymn and Dan would play and sing your song for you.

The long hours of teaching and performing and commuting took there toll on Dan and he suffered his second heart attack and found himself in the care of Sister Bernadine of St. Mary’s Hospital whom he credited for saving his life.

While he certainly touched the lives of many during his tenure at Olivet, Dan will perhaps be best remembered for his career as the choral director for Kankakee High School. From developing an award winning choir from just 10 students to begin with, to directing musicals, leading two European trips with the People to People program, Dan left a legacy with his high school students and colleagues that stretches across continents and generations.

His former students have remembered him as one of the major influences in their lives (from the Schreffler Funeral Home Guestbook):

  • Dan was her “first voice teacher and made an incredible impact on her life”
  • Mr. Liddell was one of my absolute favorite teachers at Eastridge.
  • we learned not only how to sing in ensemble but to appreciate life and music and to express respect for each other – valuable lessons at a difficult time for most of us in high school in the ’60’s!!!!
  • he helped to form the lives of an entire generation through his love of music
  • What a guiding light Dan Liddell was during those uncertain High School years. Mr Liddell was one of those guiding lights who kept so many, including me, grounded and taught focus and caring for others.
  • There are only a few people outside my immediate family that I can say truly touched, shaped and influenced my life. And Daniel Liddell was one of those few.
  • Your teaching skills were inherent, and your enthusiasm so infectious. You were adored by all (including me), and brought us so much joy. You made us the music makers, the dreamers of dreams…
  • Instilled confidence in you no matter what road you were on.
  • He was a beautiful man and a constant encourager

His passion for music and touching lives reached beyond the high school and graced our community. One of his colleagues said of Dan, this

  • “energizer bunny” served as the vocal music director for many of Kankakee Valley Theatre’s early musicals. Together we moved the audiences of KVT from Civic Auditorium to the stage of Lincoln Cultural Center as we produced MAME to sell-out crowds in 1973. The following years we did, George M, The Music Man, Something’s Afoot, and South Pacific. Dan taught music from his heart and soul! His talent was indeed a gift from God, and the way he used that talent was his gift back to God and all others around him.

Daniel Liddell was a life changer,an  encourager and a champion of the arts for his former students and our community.

While music blessed his life and was in return a blessing for so many more, building relationships to span many years, companionship in life is often the source of strength and support we rely on as we face the challenges of each and every day. Dan’s life was filled with friends, colleagues, caring nieces and nephews, choir members, and parishioners. And for all of these relationships we offer our gratitude this day.

The word Companion is rooted in two ancient words meaning with and bread. So our companions are those with whom we share our bread, a basic and necessary element of our existence.  For more than 50 years, Dan was blessed by the companionship of Ken Bade. Sharing their families, their love for and talents in music, their faith, and their bread, Dan and Ken have been a caring source of strength and support for one another through every turn, struggle, joy, challenge and accomplishment.  And Dan could have not been more blessed to have you, Ken as companion, friend, colleague and partner in music and his life.

Choir Rehearsal at Central 2012

Speaking of sharing Bread. Dan loved to eat, by the way. Hardly a day went by without Dan & Ken breaking bread in the dining room of Blues Café, where they knew everyone, costumer and server alike and you all knew them too. And you their friends and community became an enormous extended family.

Of their partnership in music, one newspaper article compared them to Rogers and Hammerstein.  Our wider community has lost one of member of our dynamic duo of Liddell and Bade.

Dan was a man of deep faith as well and when his teaching career came to a close, he shared his time and his talents with several local congregations, directing church choirs at First Presbyterian Church of Manteno, St. Mark United Methodist Church, helping with the music at Asbury United Methodist Church, and Directing the Choir of Central Christian Church in Bourbonnais where he directed his 180th Chancel Choir rehearsal on Thursday, June 7th.

Dan graced our congregation at Central with his spirited piano playing, his positive attitude, his love of God and Jesus Christ and his ever encouraging and sometimes even demanding style. He was keenly aware of the gifts and graces of any choir he directed and with great enthusiasm was able to motivate his singers to a new level of melody and harmony.

A former pastor of Central said,  What a delight was my friend Dan and what a list of wonderful memories: singing together, sharing in worship at Central Christian, laughing, eating at Blue’s, and being part of his choir, and most of all just enjoying being his friend… his being close as I grieved in personal loss – I first met Dan (and Ken) as an ONU student, oh so many years ago when I was a fledgling singer in Orpheus Choir. There I first admired Dan’s tender spirit, humor, and his beautiful tenor voice that could cling to the tingling high notes… The years have fled quickly, but the love and friendship for my two friends has only grown deeper and more precious. Rev. Dr. Franlkin Garton

And another said, When I think of Dan I remember his unfailing smile, his good humor, his enthusiasm, his love of music, and his desire to enhance that love of music in other people. Rev. Richard Sagarsee

I have been blessed and privileged to be in ministry with Dan and with Ken. Together their unceasing encouragement and care for me has given strength unimaginable. Their patience and adaptability to whatever I brought their way has been amazing. And I was privileged to be with Dan last week as he faced yet another medical challenge. Dan was confident in the Lord and shared his peacefulness with me during our conversations and prayers prior to his surgery last Thursday. It was the graceful way he faced all of life.

Directing the Chancel Choir

“I’ve had the greatest life,” Liddell said contentedly. “Teaching music, if you teach it correctly, you can teach history, languages, mathematics,” he said of his profession.

“So much of success has to do with the work that you are willing to put into it.”
“You can do this, people!”

Paul wrote these words in his second letter to the Corinthians.  Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Amen.

Farewell to C William “Bill” Nichols

At the hour of this post, one of the most loved preachers of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Rev. Dr. C. William “Bill” Nichols is being remembered by colleagues, congregants, community leaders and family. A gifted storyteller, writer, leader and servant of Christ’s church, Bill inspired many of us with his amazing memory, his talented delivery and his welcoming spiritual presence. As the community of faith gathers to sing his favorite hymn, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, I thought I’d share my own short tribute to the Preacher’s preacher.

I met Bill Nichols for the first time as a student at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, MO where Bill had studied years before. I was a very young ministry student in awe of the recently called Interim General Minister & President who was on campus to receive an honor at one of our seasonal convocations. Pictured in the blurry photograph here, I was privileged to meet in a small group conversation with Bill who listened to me as if I mattered, encouraged my journey in faith and ministry, and gave me hope for the future of the wider church.

I saw Bill again at the General Assembly in St. Louis as a college graduate heading for seminary. He remembered my name and was encouraging as usual. I had no idea our paths would cross again five years later when I was called to serve the congregation Bill served for many years. I will always remember my first opportunity to preach in the beautiful, English-Gothic sanctuary of Central Christian Church, Decatur, IL. Standing in the pulpit, I looked just two rows before me to see Bill and Claudine Nichols, Senior Minister Emeritus now, retired and smiling, ready for a word. Just months out of seminary, I was a bit nervous to say the least to preach to the preacher of preachers listening just feet away. Bill was most gracious in the receiving line after the service, “Thank you, preacher.”

I was privileged to serve Bill and his family as one of their ministers and even more so to be ministered to by such an inspiring witness for Disciples of Christ. God’s welcome be yours, Bill and grace and peace be with the Nichols family!

Here’s a link to Teresa Churchill’s blog post about Bill.


Beginning My Lenten Journey

Today is Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Pancake supper night in many homes and churches as Christians prepare for the leaner days of Lent. Using up the household fat and indulging in fattening foods such as Packzies and King Cakes and the like has been the tradition of this day. The revelries of this day and night mark the beginning of the season of ashes and penitence, observing spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting and alms giving. For forty days, not counting Sundays, we journey through the wilderness of Lent filled with all the temptations and distractions a 21st Century world may throw our way. 

Many folks will give something up, a favorite food, lunch out once a week, video games, an hour or two of television per week, or any activity that would be missed enough to make the desire for it real. A form of fasting, giving up something may be powerful for some and in many cases giving of oneself is even more powerful, giving to charity, volunteering for a community good, beginning a Bible Study or simply adding prayer into your daily routine.

This year, I am giving up negativity for lent and giving positiveness an even greater role in my life. I’m beginning a Negativity Fast. Less unkind, critical or judgmental words coming from my mouth is the goal for my Lenten Discipline. More hope, more understanding, more listening, more caring, more mercy, more encouragement for those I come into contact with every day. Before you think this will be easy, I ask you to kindly remember this is an election year.

I want to invite you to join me in this fast of negativity. Whatever is in your past, be it 25yrs ago or 25minutes ago. Leave it there and fill your future with hope, with God’s unconditional acceptance of you, with peace knowing that the past does not define the future. God has a future filled with blessing and all we have to do to make it so is choose to live as those who know the Good News of Jesus. Prayer will help us. Morning, Noon and night pray for God’s joy to guide your thoughts, your decisions, and your words.

Whatever “fasting” you choose, whatever act of confession/forgiveness you choose, whatever prayers you choose for your Lenten journey, I pray you have a meaningful Lent and you are drawn closer to God each day.

Peace & Joy,  Robert



Worship & Hospitality

Worship attendance has been declining for about 40 years or so in mainline congregations (i.e. Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran & Disciples) and is now declining in Evangelical congregations (Independent Christian, some Mega churches) over the last decade as well. There have been lots of studies on what is causing this and suggestions include the following, according to David Lose:

(1) Attending church isn’t a cultural given anymore and there are a whole lot more options on how you might profitably spend your Sunday morning. (2) Many church-goers haven’t found the Christian story a particularly helpful lens through which to view and make sense of their lives.

So, according to research we are experiencing a shift from an “age of duty” where we do what we do because we believe it is what we are supposed to do, to an “age of discretion” where we do what we do because we believe it is worth doing, or it will bring us some kind of good, value or profit. There is no “sacred hour” for worship anymore. Mourn that fact if you wish, but don’t dwell in your sorrow for days gone by. The gospel call is clear for those who place their trust in the Lord: go, make disciples! Jesus never commanded us to build expensive buildings and fill them with entertained worshippers at 10 on Sunday. He simply said, go!

Hospitality is a key for growing churches. First, we receive the radical hospitality of God who welcomes each and all into God’s holy presence despite our imperfections. Second, the welcoming hospitality we share with one another anytime we gather in Christ’s name. And third, the inviting hospitality we practice with folks who are guests each week and with our family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, classmates, etc. May we hear the call of Jesus and share God’s gift of hospitality, daily.

Peace & Joy!
Rev. Robert Bushey, Jr.

Using Words Carefully & Thoughtfully

The mild winter days we have been enjoying lately may confuse our senses such that we begin prematurely thinking about spring like activities. I for one have been busy with household tasks usually reserved for warmer seasons, like cleaning out the garage. Many have enjoyed the warm sunny days whatever the cause, ocean currents, global temperature increases, prayer, or the good old almanac!

The weird weather makes the shorter days bearable. For the past several weeks we have reflected on themes of Light and Darkness as we heeded the words of Isaiah and heralded the coming of the Light of the World. As we continue to celebrate God’s gift of light revealed in Jesus through the season of Epiphany, I invite you to pause with me for a moment and ponder the power-filled words “light” and “dark.” Light is associated in western culture with all things “good.” Light purifies, shows the way, keeps us safe, grants us vision, and reveals the truth. Darkness is associated with all things “evil.” The dark corrupts, hides the way, makes us blind, lurks with danger, and covers up truth. As metaphor, images of light and darkness have been employed to describe cosmic battles between good and evil since language developed.

Having pondered the commonly associated meanings to those power-filled words, ask yourself this question, If my skin tone is light, does that make me good? If my skin tone is dark, does that make me evil? Now ask the same questions as if you are four or five years old. Studies have shown that our children decide self-worth based on skin tone alone by age 6 or earlier based on the power-filled words they have heard early in life. By the way, the answer to the above questions is the same, “NO!” Skin tone has nothing to do with one’s character, one’s worth or one’s abilities. One’s potential may be another subject, especially if you are taught to associate your skin tone with something negative.

As church we must learn to take care whenever we use power-filled words such as light, dark, white, black, good and evil. We may not mean anything by what we say, and yet impressionable ears are always open to the mean we may say. May God help us speak with care for all who may hear us.

Peace & Joy,
Rev. Robert Bushey, Jr.