This is a continuation of yesterday's blog about Glide church in San Francisco. The first of many.
The first minister to arrive with a an appointment from the Methodist District Bishop was Lewis Durham. Lew played the role of chief executive and organizer throughout his career at Glide which lasted until roughly 1976. He was the glue that made the organization work. His unique talents were as a mediator and quiet leader.
Among a dozen projects of significance that Lew organized were Huckleberry House. A home for the explosion of young runaways flocking to San Francisco in 1967. Another Glide minister is given credit for starting Huckleberry, but Lew was the driving cohesive force. Today Huckleberry survives as a large social service organization with 60 employees.
The most important lessons I learned from Lew were that:
* A mediator's function is to identify with the values and ideas of the opponent (the mediator usually starts out sympathizing with one side). Only by seeing exactly how your opponent sees, feels and thinks can you find a resolution to any conflict. This was a standard teaching for ministers in the Methodist tradition but Lew fully understood it before he taught me.
* Another lesson Lew taught me was about myself. He used to bring me a problem of any sort and say that he would be back in a while to get an answer. Over a few years he had learned that my brain was especially good at solving problems when given two weeks to contemplate it. After two weeks Lew would come back for his answer.
* Lew also taught me about the concept of ‘the flag’. Methodist training had emphasized that all movements need a flag around which supporters can rally. That flag can be an idea, a metaphor, a physical object, but the flag always played the same role as in military history where the flag is carried at the front of a salient. Lew always spoke of Glide as an institution that raised flags for movements and peoples.