Farewell, Dr. Dick Emmons
Dr. Dick (Richard) Emmons was born November 13, 1943, on a dairy farm in New Jersey. His family included his parents and two brothers, along with his uncle’s family and their farm across the street. One of the most popular pastimes he remembers as a kid was playing baseball with his siblings and cousin after the chores were completed. Dr. Emmons says chores were never grown out of, because there were various levels involving more responsibility and difficulty. His parents were “very adamant” the education of him and his brothers, and made sure they completed their homework. Church-related activities such as Sunday school and VBS were also part of his childhood since his parents were very involved in their church. This lesson of the church’s significance was set for Dr. Emmons as he grew up and influenced his view on the importance of church involvement today as he grew up. When he was not at church or school, Dr. Emmons and his siblings hung around the farm, playing in the hayloft, working in the garden, and picking up potatoes from under soil to sell. He and his brothers played games with objects like cans where they played “Kick the Can.” Dr. Emmons learned to ride a bicycle in the yard of the farm around the age of six or seven, and a few years later was allowed to ride a few miles away with his brothers to the swimming hole.
Throughout the 40s and 50s, Dr. Emmons wore long pants, a nice shirt, and leather “Buster Brown” shoes to school. When coming home from school or church, he changed into work clothes which included jeans, a work shirt, and boots or sneakers. At that time, children were not permitted to wear sneakers to school or church, and were only to be worn for working conditions. Dressing up for church was not only expected but was a norm in the 1940s -50s. Richard’s parents also brought their children to church whenever it was open: twice on Sundays, Wednesday nights, and other nights for good news clubs. Dr. Emmons’s father took seriously the act of resting on Sunday by only performing necessary tasks on the farm, such as milking and feeding the cows. He taught his sons early on to value the seventh day as a time of rest dedicated to God. Other values Dr. Emmons’s parents taught him by example were tithing to the church, working hard to earn one’s pay, and practicing honesty and respect for others in authority. Emmons states, “A policeman was never despised…you respected the people who were around you in the community. It wasn’t an issue of whether they deserved it or not, it’s just what we did because of who they were.” Giving to others in the community was also an important value Dr. Emmons’s father stressed. Every year, his father would plant a large garden 10x too big in order to give away that produce to the community. “I learned that if he wasn’t there, and somebody came, I learned to give on his behalf, and I learned the joy of giving in doing that.”
When it came to discipline, Dr. Emmons’s parents corrected their children through the method of spanking. But, as he and his siblings grew older, the punishments matured into having certain privileges revoked. Dr. Emmons remembers not wanting to disappoint his dad because he was respected in the community and he looked up to him. He comments, “The discipline… and the expectations were consistent…there was never any doubt in what they expected.” Such correction was also applicable in other areas of life as a youth, like school and church. Dr. Emmons says the discipline he received from his parents and teachers benefited him growing up, because he learned to respect authority and not talk back. Any disputes between his parents Dr. Emmons admits he never saw since they kept their disagreements private. The roles of his parents included his mother taking care of the home as a homemaker while his father tended to the farm duties with his sons. Farm work was not deemed women’s work back then because it was considered beneath them; instead women performed tasks inside the home. Dr. Emmons’s extended family was very close with his immediate family as well because they lived so close. His grandfather, who owned the two farms on the street run by his two sons, Dr. Emmons’s father and his father’s brother, visited every day to check on the farms, so they were very close as well. Dr. Emmons’s dad also had two sisters, and his mother’s side of the family was pretty close, so Dr. Emmons grew up with numerous aunt, uncles, and cousins to associate with at get-togethers. Only two of his cousins were older than him, while nine or ten were younger than him. He lived in a close-knit family environment with plenty of cohorts to grow up with over the years.
Multiple technical advances in the years proceeding changed the normality of life as Dr. Emmons grew up. The first change he remembers was the change of the wall telephone to the pocket-portable cellphone. The telephone back in his youth was shared by four or five other families, or “parties,” and each family had their own telephone ring. Another change is the invention of the television. His family had no TV growing up, but his grandparents did purchase a small, round box-like television set in which he and his brothers watched shows like “Howdy Dooty” and “Hop-Along Cassidy” when they came over. Plumbing was another significant change since childhood. Outside bathrooms were not uncommon at that time, but his family was fortunate enough to have an indoor bathroom. Medical care was another huge difference in comparison to the 50s and today. Dr. Emmons says he was born in the farmhouse that he grew up in, and the doctor came to their house to help deliver him. The final major change he remembers is the use and availability of transportation. “I can barely remember my dad having teams of horses which he used on the farm…and then you go on and see the progression in terms of the machinery in what machines can do.” He adds, “We went from…using electric milking machines for the cows to eventually having a milking parlor, where instead of us coming to the cow, the cow came to us, and we stood in the pit with cows on each side milking.” Dr. Emmons’s brother took on the family dairy business himself by pasteurizing and bottling the milk, and sold it directly from the farm.
Forms of modernization affected the rearing of his own children more than his childhood, observes Dr. Emmons. “It was very difficult to find work for my children… [because] they had to be sixteen to work… growing up, [from] the age of four or five,… there was always work, there was always jobs, there was always employment.” He admits this struggle has worsened for his grandchildren because they have multiple kinds of technology and have no inclination to work a job. Cairn University has helped solve this issue of unemployment amongst minors. Dr. Emmons mentioned that his neighbor regularly drives her teenage kids to work at Cairn’s cafeteria after school. “I applaud the parents for doing that,” he adds, because [at Cairn] “they learn the value of hard work.”
Dr. Emmons’s ministry on campus and at church has also been affected by the development of certain technologies. The internet enables him not only to read the Bible online, but the concordance and Bible programs as well. Such developments have made more work for him as well, though. He has to “prepare visuals for the power points… for the classroom [and] for sermons,” which years ago was not a part of teaching in a classroom or preaching at church. The email system also helps him, but sifting through the multiple unopened email becomes tedious and time consuming. These technologies, he says, can overall make one’s job and ministry easier, but they also have the ability to make it more difficult. His cellphone has helped him at work and throughout his ministry, because he can contact people easily and get quick responses when needed. “When I first started, there were very few answering machines in homes…If I needed to talk to somebody like an elder or deacon, and I called and I got an answer, great! But if I didn’t, I just had to call again until I reached someone.” Now, he can simply text that individual or leave a message after calling. Communication has overall become easier and more accessible since Dr. Emmons’s childhood. “I think [now] we have more communication with people, but we also tend to have people withdraw… the technology has provided a lot more distractions.” The availability of vast varieties of transportation and media have “drawn people away from…basic living and communicating with each other.” Such usage of technology has unfortunately carried over into the church, says Dr. Emmons, which directly affects the Church’s ministry. The distractions weaken one’s ability to fully focus on God’s Word when worshipping and learning about Him. Recent technical changes have presented both beneficial and unhealthy to church’s growth, but as Dr. Emmons points out, how those technologies are used is the issue instead of the devices themselves.
Although much has changed within the seventy-three years of Dr. Emmons’s life thus far, the “American Dream” of working hard towards one’s passions to obtain success has generally remained the same. Concepts within this idea may well have changed as technical advancements have evolved, but the freedom remains to work for one’s desired future. Dr. Emmons did just that to get where he is today. He knew the Lord was calling him to teach The Word, so pursuing that was his interpretation of the “American Dream.” Dr. Emmons earned his B.S. in Bible at Cairn University, his Masters in Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, and finally, his Ph. D. at Westminster Theological Seminary. He has involved himself in the church for many years since then, serving as a leader, and from 1992 to present, as a senior pastor at GraceWay Bible Church in Hamilton, New Jersey. Dr. Emmons also taught as a Professor of Bible & Doctrine in Cairn’s School of Divinity from 1985 to the Spring of 2016. The University’s website states that Dr. Emmons “has committed much of his life to knowing and applying God’s Word personally… [and] helping students ‘fall in love’ with God and His Word in turn.” His other ministry involvements include teaching in Bible conferences across the country, and serving on missions trips to Indonesia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Ireland. Dr. Emmons has also submitted various article for The Friends of Israel’s magazine, Israel My Glory, in the past.
This year, Dr. Dick Emmons has made the decision to retire from his position as Professor of Bible & Doctrine at Cairn University. He said the timing of this decision was carefully made three years ago when he turned seventy. Praying heavily about the idea, he and his wife consulted the Lord’s leadership and felt led to reduce his work on campus to a half-time position until he reached the age of seventy-three, in which he would retire completely. Dr. Emmons still remains as pastor at his church in Hamilton, New Jersey, and after the Spring semester will primarily focus on his involvement there. He has faithfully committed his life to serving the Lord by furthering the gospel in the church and in the classroom. Although his presence as part of the Cairn University faculty next year will be greatly missed, his dedication to his students and to the Lord will be remembered for the years to come by other faculty and his former students.