W. L. “Vic” Vickers served as interim minister for two South Dakota Congregational Churches, the Ipswich Congregational Church (now Ipswich United Church of Christ), and First Congregational Church of Waubay, from 1958 to 1960. We lived in Aberdeen during these years and he worked during the week for the Internal Revenue Service, where he was a special detective.
My father was born January 24, 1921 and died April 23, 1982. He was an exceptionally capable man. He had no formal training in theology but, as with many other disciplines, taught himself through application of tireless reading and sharp critical thinking. He studied Cruden’s Complete Concordance to the Holy Scriptures (1737) and read Harry Emerson Fosdick, Nels Ferre, and J. B. Phillips carefully. He developed his thinking from these and other sources blended with his own insights. He was irrepressibly optimistic about man’s progressive understanding of God and the positive role religion could and should play in everyday life.
The title, Into the Light, comes from a section in the sermon titled The Kingdom of God in which he describes watching the sun rise from an airplane window while flying across South Dakota: “As I sat there and watched this happen, I thought of how like life it is. Most of us live in darkness, or half-darkness, not seeing much meaning or purpose to life. As we move into the half-light, we do begin to see depth and meaning we never thought of before.”
In those years, the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy continued to shape Protestant Christian theology. My father sided with the Modernists. He thought the Bible was to be interpreted in light of what we could learn about the people whose names appear in its pages. He was as interested in history as he was in theology. He strove always, however, to understand and acknowledge the views of those who reached conclusions different from his and at one point compared the progressives and conservatives in the church with the minute and hour hands of a clock. One cannot tell the time without both.
Somehow, my father translated a difficult childhood – he spent years of his childhood in an orphanage while his parents sorted out their relationship – and early adult life – he joined the Navy out of high school in 1938 and served through World War II – into a kind, inclusive worldview that projected sincerely from the pulpit. Not only did he like everyone he met, at least in the church context, everyone genuinely liked him. During his interim ministry, he served in all capacities – he visited the invalids, buried the dead, married the betrothed, baptized the babies, confirmed the young adults, and (as this volume confirms) provided thoughtful pastoral guidance to his congregation. Every one of his parishioners drew warmth from the light he radiated.
He typed his sermons using a portable Smith-Corona on notebook pages, approximately 6-by-9 inches. He phrased his words and indented to facilitate delivery from the pulpit. He studied public speaking with Toastmasters (another self-taught skill) and didn’t want to appear to be reading from the pulpit, but to speak from his heart. In formatting for this volume, I used a hanging indent and short paragraph arrangement that reflects, but doesn’t reproduce, the text he wrote and spoke from. As you read, imagine his face over the pulpit, projecting each word earnestly, reading and responding to the reactions in his congregations’ faces. My father was a remarkably capable man.
My sister was born in the middle of this segment of my father’s life. From that simple fact, you might infer that my mother maintained our home in a way that allowed my father time to work a demanding job during the week, research and collect (on Saturday) his thoughts for delivery on Sunday. His intellect and kindliness are in these sermons, but her unyielding support is the backbone that gave him the time for this work. She loved him deeply and never relaxed her devotion and confidence that it was her lot in life to make space for him to do his work. His words are on these pages, but her heart is too. My mother was an extraordinary woman.
I still need to format the Kindle and Smashwords editions (coming soon) but I’m delighted to have the paperback now published. Thanks to Becca Vickers (cover), Amy Gauthier (scanning), and John Mutter (proofreading) for their help with this project. I think my father would have been proud of the result.