In Memory of Dwayne Westermann
We celebrate the ministry of Rev. Dwayne Westermann and his early leadership at Caroline Furnace, where it all began. Dwayne was on staff here in the late 1960s and early 1970s:
Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp was a place of new discovery for the young Dwayne Westermann. At the urging of Charlie Shenberger, Dwayne spent a summer or two as a counselor at Caroline Furnace. The first discovery was Rev. Buck Moyer, then the Assistant to the President of the Virginia Synod. As Dwayne arrived at camp for the first time he asked a man who was a little scruffy from doing plumbing work, “Where can I find Rev. Moyer?”. “That would be me,” replied the plumber, pastor, assistant to the president. Thus began a decades long friendship between Dwayne and Buck.
But there were more discoveries to be made. There was a young woman working in the kitchen by the name of Kay Painter; doing dishes, cooking and packing out. Dwayne was smitten. By the end of that first summer, Dwayne and Kay were on their way to more than 50 years together.
Among all the other discoveries, perhaps the one that affected his ministry the most was an event that happened with a cabin group of young boys with Dwayne as their counselor. One afternoon, Dwayne asked the boys to go out into the woods and find three rocks: one is to be your “God Rock,” one is to be your “Family Rock,” and one is to be your “Me Rock.” As the boys regathered on the cabin porch he asked each one to arrange their rocks in a way that showed the relationship between the boy, their family and God. As they went around the circle, the last one to share was the most shy of the boys. This boy’s “Me Rock” was the tiniest of pebbles. His “Family Rock” was huge, almost too heavy to carry. When Dwayne asked him to put them in position, the boy took the huge “Family Rock” and smashed it down on his “Me Rock” so hard that the small pebble “Me Rock” went through a crack in the porch and fell to the ground below.
Startled by what had just happened, Dwayne said, “Oh my,” we need to get your Me Rock back.” The boy replied, “No, don’t worry about it. It’s not important at all.” After a brief silence the other boys said, “IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT! WE NEED TO FIND IT!” And they all scrambled under the porch to find their friend’s rock. Bonds of love and respect were immediately formed in that group through the God-given gift of true compassion for one another.
From that experience Dwayne came to understand that authentic faith is shared within a relational community. Faith is not overlaid like a coat of paint; and it is not disguised in psychological words of family systems analysis. Rather, true faith is shared in a group where relationships are trustworthy, true stories of conflict, pain, joy, laughter can be deeply shared and the presence of Christ can be deeply celebrated.
It is Dwayne Westermann’s genius that brought this “cabin-porch” discovery to the small group style of ministry that has been the hallmark of Virginia Synod Youth Events for almost 50 years. “Youth ministry is relational and Christ-centered,” Dwayne said to anyone who would listen, as he made the sign of the cross. You don’t need slick videos or talented rock bands or tourist destination venues. You just need adult mentors who can listen to the confusion and speak Christ with compassion. Isn’t that what we all need.
It’s as simple as sitting on a Caroline Furnace cabin porch with a bunch of kids.
A Remembrance of Dwayne, My Dear Friend Written by Paul Henrickson; Photo of Paul Henrickson, Dave Delaney, and Dwayne Westermann from a recent Virginia Synod Youth Event