Growing up Christian: Fathers


It’s funny the truths that sometimes show up in dreams. I dreamed that I told someone I had many fathers, thinking of men from the churches where I had worshipped and learned about the love of God. I realized when I woke exactly how true that was.

I loved the man I called Daddy, despite his flaws. He loved me, too, but I was afraid of him; he wasn’t physically abusive, but he had a bad temper. I’m grateful that he demonstrated a strong work ethic; unfortunately, that’s almost the only trait I would want to emulate. Even his generosity, for which I respect him, was most frequently expressed in unhealthy and codependent ways. I needed other male role models.

Stanley “Stan” Brown[1] was a Methodist Elder. He baptized me at Grace United Methodist Church in Long Beach when I was eleven years old. Coming from a Baptist family, I requested the sacrament myself at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Stan agreed after sitting down and asking me about my faith and my reasons for wanting to be baptized. I appreciated the respectful way he approached the discussion, a respect I witnessed from him many times in the future as he interacted with “the Markers,” the junior high youth group.

Jerry Arnett was one of my junior high Sunday School teachers at East Side Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Long Beach. He believed in giving faith feet rather than just lip service. His passion for social action and justice built on the foundation that began at Grace United Methodist. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye in later years but I certainly remember him with fondness and respect.

Don Roswurm and his wife, Harriett, were Youth Sponsors – also at East Side. Don taught a Sunday School class as well – I believe it was when I was in high school – and although I don’t remember anything specific that I learned from him, I remember the sense of peace and calm he radiated, his deep faith, and his thoughtful response to any question. I continued to turn to Don Roswurm for guidance as a young adult and still count both Don and Harriett as friends. They even surprised me by showing up for my father’s memorial service.

Dean-EcholsDean Echols[2] was my pastor from the time I was through high school through early adulthood. He officiated my wedding and dedicated my oldest daughter. He was good-humored, caring, and compassionate. His sermons gave me something to think about. He and his wife, Mally, were actually present at both of my weddings – the first when I married my husband, and the second twenty-five years later when we renewed our vows. He stood in front of our friends and family and said, “I never thought we’d make it to this point.” I think he was joking; Mally says so!

Certainly there have been other important male role models in my life, but these four stand out. I am awed at God’s love that filled in what was missing at a very impressionable time in my development and sent me exactly the people I needed to ensure that I would grow in a healthy direction as a person and, more importantly, as a Christian.


[1] Stanley Coleman Brown was born in Chicago, Illinois, May 6, 1928. He attended Beverly Hills Elementary School, University High School, and Harvard School for Boys. Later, he spent two years at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, then transferred to Northwestern University in Illinois, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in American history. Stan married Ruth Staffelbach at the end of his junior year. She had a degree in education from the National College of Education. Next, Mr. Brown went to Garrett Biblical Institute for his master’s degree in theology. In 1958, he moved to Phoenix to serve in the Central Methodist Church.

He then went to Long Beach, California, and in 1972, he was transferred to the Catalina Methodist Church in Tucson, where he served for 20 years. Stan and Ruth have had a life-long interest in history. They built a cabin north of Payson in 1963, where he became the town historian. The Browns moved to Las Fuentes Village in Prescott in 2004. The couple has three children.  SOURCE: Arizona Archives Online, Stan and Ruth Brown Papers, SHM MS-22 1863-2011, Accessed January 11, 2016.

[2] At 3:45am on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, Dean Echols, born September 11, 1924, passed from this world into the loving arms of God having completed his course in faith. Dean is survived by wife, Mally C. Echols; daughters, Marjorie F. Echols and Shoshana Anne Simon (William); sons, Thomas D. Echols (Louise), Peter H. Echols (Cherrill), Chip Mackenzie (Mary Ellen) and John Young (Elizabeth); three granddaughters; five grandsons; and three great grandchildren; his brother, John M. Echols (Carolyn); first wife, Betty Logue Wegener; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by son, James M. Echols (Robert “Bob” Stilwell). These are but a few of the people who will miss this kind, passionate and loving man.

Dean’s lifelong career as a minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has touched thousands of lives as he served churches in both Northern and Southern California over 65 years. He was a graduate of Chapman University, Orange CA, with his B.A. (1946) and of Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley CA, with his Master of Divinity (1952). Both schools remained important to Dean all his life which was evident through his generous gifts of time, talent and money, having served as Chapman University Alumni Board President, Director of Alumni Relations and Director of Church Relations and on the Board of Trustees at PSR. SOURCE: Published in Orange County Register on Sept. 19, 2013- See more at: Accessed January 11, 2016.

About Pastor Mary Jo

I have a passion for social justice and the outcast, marginalized members of society. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology from Cal State Long Beach (2003) and a Masters of Divinity from the Claremont School of Theology (2007.) I was ordained as a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – "a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world" – on August 26, 2011, the eighty-seventh anniversary of passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. I enjoy reading, especially mystery or science fiction/fantasy novels; going to movies with my spouse, Charlie; and spending time with my family – including my children, grandchildren, and dog – and my friends. My goal in life is to leave the world a better place than I found it. I cling to the fundamentals of what it means to be a Christian: Love God, and love your neighbor … or, as it was put by the Prophet Micah, “God has showed you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
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