Captain, My Captain!
Our fearful trip is done!
The Ship has weathered every rack,
the prize we sought is won
The Ships anchored safe and sound,
Its voyage closed and done.
Captain, My Captain
D.L. Dykes, Jr. was a Methodist minister for nearly 50 years--he said, since he was seventeen. By his accounts, he was just learning to shave when he delivered his first sermon in a little country church in north central Louisiana. His mother was there, probably more proud than any other mother has ever been. His father, not traditionally a church-goer, was there, too, and I imagine, very proud as well. That’s where the popularity began. It was the far from ordinary vision of his own commitment that shown through his warm blue eyes and modulated his soft, gentle voice. As skinny as a board, he may have seemed to those people that day the most sincere, dedicated young man they had ever seen.
In his first sermon that day, he drew a compelling scene of a young deer running from a forest fire and stopping on top of a hill to sniff the air for some hint of water. His hearers were in the scene with him, and he was the deer. Just then he added, “As the heart panteth after the waterbrook, so panteth my heart after Thee, O God.” He did not know it but that was the announcement of his life’s ambition—to pant after God with a thirst that never was quenched. That life’s ambition, that life’s dedication has been, to my mind, the driving force behind his brilliant calling as a preacher.
My father fashioned unique and stimulating perspectives on the United Methodist Christian tradition. His was an eager mind with a deep longing to probe the mind, and more importantly, the heart of God. At times it was esoteric and excruciatingly detailed in a prolonged sermon introduction, and then simple, pure and poignant in a moment of sincere confession, or delighted discovery.
He was a preacher who wanted to comfort the uneasy, reassure the guilty, give peace to the anguished and hope to the desperate. Here was a preacher who wanted to snap us out of our moral complacency—yank us out of our turgid religious laziness. He wished he could take all the hurt away, make enemies talk, reunite broken relationships and make peace all around. Many remember his courageous involvement in human rights activities and his fearless defense of the United Methodist church’s role in the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war resistance in the sixties and seventies.
D.L. Dykes, Jr. served Methodist churches in Louisiana and Arkansas from 1935 until 1984. He served as a student pastor at Blanchard, and at Trees City, as pastor at Zwolle, as associate at First Methodist in Shreveport, as pastor at Central Methodist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and finally as senior pastor at First Methodist Church in Shreveport where he retired as Pastor Emeritus after 30 years.
Dr. Dykes was married to Sue Ellen Brown. They had a son, David R. Dykes and two grandchildren, Jennifer Dykes Arcilla, and Suzanna Dykes.