My bio lacks the usual list of accompanying undergraduate and graduate degrees and combined work experience. Sorry. I do claim to have earned a Doctoral Degree in “Life”.
1976 Graduated High School
1982 1st Tour — Tour “R”
1985 Moved to Warwick, NY
1987 Moved to Philadelphia, PA
1990 Married Carol
1992 Carol becomes Pastor in Deposit, NY
1995 Katlyn Born
1999 Moved to Lowville, NY
I was born (1957) in Mishawaka, Indiana, to Walter and (Mary) Janet Ward. At the age of two we moved to the Rochester, Indiana area where I went through elementary, middle, and high schools. I have an older sister, who is now living in Ohio, and a younger brother who has always resided in “the hometown”.
Carol and I were married at the end of 1990 and rented an apartment in Havertown, PA, as she finished her MDiv in seminary. She and her family have been wonderful to me. She was hired as Minister of the First Baptist Church in Deposit, NY. Her ministry lasted 7-years until her disability interrupted our lives. Our daughter was 2 when this happened and we decided to move near Carol’s family, in Lewis County, NY.
My working life has been mostly in the fields of carpentry and building maintenance positions. I have worked at several types of jobs as varied as woodcarving, printing business forms, packing flour, security, fire restoration, and, of course, music. Rochester, IN, was my residence until 1983 when after “New Life Team Tour”, towards the end of 1983, I stayed in Sioux Falls, SD, where fire restoration and carpentry were my means of an income.
After “Tour I” (1985) I moved to the scenic area of Warwick, NY, with a maintenance position at the RCA Conference Center. A couple years later, a job interview at Eastern Baptist Seminary, outside Philadelphia, PA, landed a building maintenance position for me and a chance to meet my future wife. In Havertown, PA I worked at a carved signage shop and was Maintenance Superintendent at an apartment building.
In Deposit, NY, (1992) where Carol became Minister at the First Baptist Church, I worked odd jobs and carved a few wooden signs.
Because of Carol’s disability we moved to Lowville, NY, (1999) the area where she grew up in, I have worked mostly at music instruction, part-time, both a small Mennonite School or giving private instrument instruction for guitar, violin, and cello.
As a young family, we went to the United Methodist Church. I still remember the morning they baptized my brother and myself. I was around the age of 5. (This was my second baptism, having been baptized as an infant.) Before my middle high school years my family had fallen away from attending church, but through the efforts of Fellowship of Christian Athletes I learned of the Lord’s goodness, asking Him to come into my heart, and being “born again” at the fall retreat of my senior year in high school. The retreat’s theme was on listening to the Holy Spirit and following the H.S. leading. . . . . .Resonated with me pretty well.
I found myself reading and deliberating, praying over the Bible. I could see Its Truths and Wisdom play out in my real, everyday life. A lot of my time was spent in prayer, reading the Bible, reading, and communing with the Holy Spirit. Commentaries such as, namely, Barclay’s New Testament Commentaries and others contributed greatly to my understanding. Word studies and topical studies were also part of my training. Attending up to three services in a week, at involving more than one denomination around my home town set a confluence of interdenominational ideas and Truths that God used, that lead me to deep insights of the Christian Faith.
In my musings over the next years, many Bible verses perplexed me since the Christian community did not appear to apprehend or integrate the nuggets found in these Truths.
Verses like Corinthians 3:3-4 stood out to me: certainly Paul was not talking about the modern-day church with its various denominations because denominations evolved several centuries later. Yet the premise of choosing a certain Christian leaders’ philosophy (explanation of the Faith) while excluding other philosophies shows something Paul renders as an immature Faith — a Faith that still needs to grow and reach maturity.
At the time I was not able to dialogue this kind of insight. While I could cultivate such thoughts, or perform musically, and give testimony, my more personal reasonings remained just that — personal. ( Though I was able to think deep thoughts and was also able to “get in front of a group of people” for an extended period of time, I could not engage in talking about these thoughts.)
As 1984 progressed, I went on a Gospel singing tour, Tour “R”, with Outreach For Christ, Int’l, who sponsored Christian singing groups called “The Reach Out Singers”. To meet and live with others as we traveled every day-in and day-out in the van, succeeded with our concerts, and fellowshipped and slept in our host’s home every evening, was a new, Spiritual, and invigorating avenue for me to walk down, giving fresh perspectives to me on the Christian Life. But between members of the tour, we could not help but “get through each other’s head” how diversely God had designed each tour member.
In Warwick and the Philadelphia areas I continued to feel more at home by keeping an interdenominational flavor to my Faith, thus, I found common ground with the American Baptists and with their flair for allowing more than a single interpretation of a verse. However, the Quakers must be mentioned. I was struck with “a mental, spiritual alertness to how a person standing with their conviction can stirs those around you to notice and then be kindled to change”. To consistently meet, and “Meet” (Quakers simply “Meet”), with 5-dozen people who want: to sit quietly with others, Christian or not, ’til one felt the “weight” and stand and speak their peace to the group; see the good, or “that which is of God” of a person or statement; share their Faith in peaceful understanding; act in Justice and self-control; work together with a wholeness in the community to act as one — many voices speaking to the rendering of the many wills into a singular action was an amazing process. One thing I could not, not get, as God’s message to me was that if you wanted something to be said, you should utter it and not wait for the minister or someone else to, by chance, happen to say what you were thinking.
I have accumulated several college credits, mostly towards a degree in the science field. Altogether the credits would not be enough for an Associate Degree.
College seemed daunting. I was in the academic track my first few years in high school but then dropped one class which effectively removed me from the other college prep classes. My parents did not help much with decision process to attend college or not, and since they did not go the college, the knowledge of how to be successful at college was unfamiliar to me (although my sister had begun college). Many of the people I knew who were in college gave me the impression the college life lacked some seriousness (partying) — it was a shame I was not more influenced by the students who put academics first. In addition, the financial commitment to pay back college loans seemed overwhelming. I loved performing and since I did not see myself as a music teacher, the only choice was to have a career in music performance — and that would mean trying to make it without a friend or family member in the music business.
I started 3-years of guitar lessons at the age of 9, being given a guitar (that had just “showed up” under the Christmas tree) for Christmas. In my teen years we had a group of local guitarists get together on Saturday afternoons and trade ideas. We would teach each other how to play, how to pick up songs by ear, and generally encouraged each other… …a great way to work on playing in tempo and musicality in general. While still in school several of us who were musically inclined, but probably not in classes in the school’s bands or choirs, formed several short-term bands playing modern music — the tunes now recognized as “Classic Rock”. We would choose a song list and book a dance at a local school. Then the band would “split-up like immediately afterwards, like”. Only to do it all again awhile later, shuffling some personnel. My senior year in high school, the drama club performed “Godspell” and I played all the acoustic and electric guitar parts by both reading the guitar scores and working from the tapes “by ear”.
Our neighbors — probably the best neighbors anyone could have — were very tolerant of my “musical development”… or just maybe they were not home from work yet. But I would take the electric guitar and amplifier outside on the back patio to practice after school, and point it towards the city park that was nearby. I honestly cannot remember anyone informing (yelling at) me about the volume level. …Maybe the neighbors were deaf?…
After graduating high school I was a little unsure of what to do with my life, though music was, by far, my biggest interest. I was able to learn any musical piece I set before me.
In 1978 we started Brandy Creek, which achieved some notoriety in Northern Indiana, playing what we now know as “Classic Rock”. I was their lead guitarist and background vocalist for a couple years, then our path parted and I ‘gigged’ as a solo act where I played some local clubs, including a Holiday Inn, various local bars and some private events.
I also had taken private lessons in voice, a small amount of piano, some music theory / composition (figured bass was particularly difficult), and flute. Local churches would invite me in to play a solo or two, and Geneva Center, a local Christian camp too quite a bit of my time for a while. I performed various times for churches and other Christian events.
In 1982 I went on a gospel singing tour (see: “Tours” below) and the following two fall seasons, as well. Two of these were for 9-months and the one in the middle for 6-weeks. I was in and out of Sioux Falls, SD much of this time, and altogether visited about 40 of the continental United States and 5-countries in Northern Europe. I sang high tenor while also contributing on acoustic and electric guitar, and also, flute. I also was given an Electric bass and was told I would be the most likely to succeed: so I played bass guitar as well.
Since touring I have continued to work at my musical abilities and do some writing, though not as much as some writers who write hundreds of songs. My recording skills increased as I worked with my 4-track and a synthesizer. Played quite a bit at the conference center / youth camp and around the seminary community in Philadelphia. Most of it was small stuff with solos for churches and a few youth events. In Deposit there were fewer opportunities because it was a rural area, although the church found room for my talents in the Sunday Service when we had to share our organist another church.
I have continued to play and continue learning more music over the years, varying the music from traditional to contemporary, hymns, and some John Michael Talbot. Since moving to Lowville, I have studied the Classical Guitar on my own, and have taken up Cello with good success (and since, the Violin) and have studied music theory / composition (built into the Suzuki Method) and on my own.
I have found the atmosphere of Lewis County churches as “controlling”. A few ministers have given me the freedom to perform the music that inspires me, but mostly people try to put this “song bird in a cage”. I still hope someone realizes my gifting and will let me do what God wants my music to be.
The Better Part of 2-years On Tour
I toured 3-times with Outreach for Christ, Int’l. A music ministry based in Sioux Falls, SD. It was headed by Keith Knopf, a Lutheran Pastor, and sponsored a half-dozen 3-month and 9-month musical touring groups each year.
In the fall of 1982 I went on “Tour R”, a 9-month tour, bringing the Gospel through a mixture of choral and contemporary Christian music. There were 10 of us on this tour and it was uncanny that we had two Cristy’s, two Jeff’s and two Steve’s. Our home base was in Sioux Falls, SD and the concerts began in South Dakota and Iowa, then the front of the tour bus was turned westward to Colorado, and we followed the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains down to Arizona by Christmastime. We took a break for a couple weeks over Christmas and started back in Arizona, then it was on to New Mexico and Texas before making our way north through Oklahoma and Kansas, back to Sioux Falls (SD). We then made a beeline eastward to New York City (JFK Airport) where Helsinki, Finland was the destination. In a few days, on Palm Sunday, we boarded a train for the Soviet Union, or more specifically, Leningrad (it is now called, Saint Petersburg, its previous title before Lenin wanted a city named for himself), for a week. On Easter we arrived back in Helsinki Finland. It was interesting to find out that Christians in the Soviet Union are praying for us. I had always thought we should pray for them, since persecution could have real-life consequences such a downgrade in their job status. (This can happen in a democracy, also). But they know it’s easy to be a Christian in a free country, and the free environment that we live our Faith in can be lived at a trivial level, as though it is the popular thing to do. So they prayed that we would have a relationship that would have a greater meaning than only, say, the wearing of a cross or a lapel pin.
It was interesting to find out that Christians in the Soviet Union are praying for us. . . they know it’s easy to be a Christian in a free country, . . .
Early in this tour I experienced the impact that my talents could have for the Church and dedicated my music to be all Christian; leaving the “secular” stuff behind. Little did I know this would be a monetary game-changer for me — the financial setback of always being not good enough and used only for unpaid occasions.
Tour “R” ended in May and that fall I had the opportunity to Go with 3 others on the New Life Team, a 6-week jaunt to Finland, and play, mostly, in schools camps. Setting up equipment for only 4 of us was a relief compared to a larger tour. In November, at the end of the “NLT Tour”, I stayed in Sioux Falls. I worked at some odd jobs, fire restoration work, and general carpentry.
The next fall (1984) I joined “Tour I” — “I” standing for “Israel” as the tour would go to Israel, Egypt, and Kenya as well as Southeastern US. There were about 14 of us on this 9-month journey. In addition to the choir and contemporary songs, we also broke out 5 of us as a rock band to use for the occasions when youth were around. We traveled south in Florida to halfway down the Florida Keys, Plantation Key, and up the East Coast before flying overseas. As my support was quite a ways short, I was unable to go overseas with the others and stayed behind to work at a Reformed Church camp and help out by adding my voice and guitar as extra music for a local Reformed Church (RCA) in Kinnelon, NJ. These people became more than hosts to me and after tour I moved to this Northern New Jersey — Southern New York area.
Good and Bad of Living on Tour
The social interaction between the personalities of tour members and the attendees at the concerts as well as those who housed us — was very good for me. To share Faith with others was rewarding but challenging. Besides ministering through music (…might as well state the obvious), testimony, and teaching at our concerts; we had over-nighters with youth groups, and performed at nursing homes, schools, and shopping malls. People opened up their homes to us: fed us good meals, and gave us a good nights sleep (a different pillow under your head every night), these people were so helpful to us that we were consistently late for our gathering the next morning to “get on the road again”.
You have to imagine that most of us did not know each other before committing to the tours, and we were of different denominations, so we, “Spent a lot of time “understanding” each other’s Faith,” as a host of issues in living out the Faith together were constantly under discussion: biblical interpretations, ways of praying, kinds of prayer, and more. A little bit like seminary — theological discussions on Biblical interpretation, polity, and rituals — without all the papers to write! Our manner towards each other was congenial but at times, as is to be expected when living in close quarters with people who are markedly different, showed frustration.
However , in contrast to the good of touring, my life was frustrating socially and financially between me and those back at home. More like “estranged” than simply “out of touch”. Everyone in my life abandoned a relationship with me. To my knowledge, the first tour, it seemed that no-one was praying, keeping in touch, or supportive emotionally or financially with me in a meaningful way — not saying the couple checks that came in, not totaling $50 is insignificant or that I was ungrateful, but it was only a drop in the bucket to be helping to pay the costs. It was the turn of the century before I was able to pay back all the debt I incurred. Directly because of this debt I did not feel I could even try to attend college. The second tour was more successful, as half the needed cost was raised before I left, then it was “out of sight, out of mind,” again. I still wake up at night with a busy mind trying to reconcile why people could not support my efforts. The third tour, Tour “I”, was, unfortunately, very similar.