|It is not the ones who throw roses on your grave
Who realize your life didn’t die…it’s the ones
You rode the roller coaster with, who you made love with,
It’s the children who learn from you
To laugh exactly the way you do …they are
Where your life went….”
(The Magic Box, Joseph Pintauro and Norman Laliberte)
That’s the story of Al Brown. It does not revolve around dates and places, pastorates and positions, honors and distinctions—though there is an ample supply of those. Rather it is a life invested in people, wherever he met them, in whatever condition he found them.
Increasingly, as Al realized his gifts in helping people with their personal and interpersonal relationships he redirected his ministry to invest even more of himself. At the age of 56, when many are beginning to make initial plans for retirement, Al Brown made a courageous decision to alter the course of his ministry, move to Houston, Texas, and embark on a serious program of study and involvement at the Institute of Religion and Human Development that signaled a New Beginning for him.
It is ironic that it is at this point that a New Beginning we call Death occurred. Because Al and his family—Neva, Becky, Steve, Cindy and Ellen—know about New Beginnings, this one did not wipe them out. It rather, turned them on to new possibilities for each of their own lives.
The Browns have long been an honored name in Louisiana Methodism. Al was born in Algiers, Louisiana, November 22, 1914, the son of a Methodist minister, Robert M. Brown and his wife, Martha. He had three sisters, Annie Ruth, Miriam, and Sue, and one brother, Robert. Two of the sisters are wives of Methodist ministers: Annie Ruth to J. W. Matthews, Jr. and Sue to D. L. Dykes, Jr.
With his sisters and brother, Al “grew up in Methodist parsonages in Louisiana, mostly in small towns,” as he puts it in an autobiographical statement written shortly before his death.
So modest was Al that few people know that he was a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Centenary College, where he later served as a Trustee; that he held a Master’s Degree from SMU; and that at the tender age of 20 he was teaching five subjects while at the same time serving as principal of the school.
Except for three years during World War II, when he served with the U.S. Navy as Chaplain, Al’s entire ministry has been in Louisiana. It was while he was a Navy Chaplain that Al met Neva Sohl, who was the organist at the Methodist Church in Napa, California.
One is impressed by the unity of concern for people and the deep mutual interest in each other which characterized Al and Neva and all of the children. They could be close without having to smother each other. At the time of his death Becky was 23, and married, Stephen was 21, and a senior at Centenary, Cindy, 18, and finishing her freshman year at Centenary, and Ellen was 12 going on 16!
In succession Al served Zwolle, Rodessa, Crowley, First Church Bossier City, Vivian, Slidell, Hammond, and Mangum Memorial in Shreveport. He was elected by his peers as Chairman of the Conference Board of Missions, Secretary of the Jurisdictional Board of Missions, Dean of the Pastors’ School, Secretary of the Conference Board of Education, Board of Pensions, and Trustee, Centenary College.
Like me, those of you who shared in his Celebration of Life and Death, will not forget that the service opened at the graveside with the words, “Why, seek ye the living among the dead. He is not here. He is risen!” Al wanted it that way. So did Neva and the children. They all understand the Resurrection, New Life, New Beginning, and things like that they have helped us with our understanding of it, too!
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1972; p. 136 By John Winn|