A Tribute to Herbert R. Dymale

Dr. Herbert DymaleThe other day a friend emailed to let me know that our Bible and Theology professor from Malone College (now University), Herbert R. Dymale, passed away this last week. Dr. Dymale was a hero for many of us who had him over the forty years he taught at Malone. Here was this old German theologian who had served in Hitler’s army as a medic, was taken prisoner of war, and while he served his time in the states decided to study at get his masters at Princeton theological seminary. Later he became a “working theologian,” not unlike the Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, as he taught theology and pastored as a way to maintain his grounding in ministry. Actually, in a way, Dymale was our living Barth, he shared story after story of his service to the church, his deep passion for sharing Christ, and living and preaching the “Christ Event.”

I took at least 5 classes with Dymale, and he was my adviser, during my time at Malone and while he was getting up there in years when I had him, and we, more often then not, found him wandering in and out of his lecturs as though on a casual walk around Myer’s Lake (where he lived in Canton), many things he taught us still stick with me even today. One, of course, was his incessant demand that every sermon we preach contain at its central core the “Christ Event.” Dymale, who was no stranger to Friends history and theology, saw the Christ Event as the central historical moment in human history and the point of which everything the church does and says needs to turn. What Jesus did in his ministry, on the cross, and through the life offered to the church through the resurrection is what makes us truly the body of Christ. I’ll never be able to pen a sermon without thinking about my semester with Dymale proclaiming that a sermon is not really a sermon unless it contains within it, as its central point, the Christ Event.

And certainly one aspect of the Christ Event is its power to call us to live changed lives and beckon us to live according to our calling; for me Dr. Dymale fully embodied this feature of Christian witness. Shortly after starting my junior year at Malone, I approached Dr. Dymale after a class I had with him (he was also my advisor) to talk about where I was headed with my studies. I think finally he must have realized that I didn’t have any clear direction because he asked me what it was I planned to do when I graduated. Up to that point, I planned to go into ministry. Dr. Dymale questioned me further, where was I working now, he asked. Earlier that summer I started work at Berean Christian Bookstore over on 30th street. For Dymale, this was an unacceptable response. He asked rhetorically, “If you think you’re being called into ministry, then don’t you think you should be working in a church to see if it’s really what you’re called to do?” It was rather frank but also a pretty reasonable question to ask.

He was right of course; interning at a church made a lot more sense for a student of Theology than stamping names onto people’s Bibles and selling “Testamints (though that latter required an equal amount of patience!). ”

I know it seems like a small thing, but Dr. Dymale’s prodding me to get serious about ministry set me on a trajectory that might not have happened otherwise. Within just a couple months of this conversation I quit my job at Berean and was hired at small Friends Church in Akron. From there I not only became a member of that church, but I felt God draw me to working in and with the Quaker tradition as a whole. Subsequently, I went to seminary and am now pursuing doctoral studies on issues relating to the Friends church in our contemporary culture. Without Dr. Dymale’s very gentle but stern push towards the vision I thought God was calling me toward, I would have never found what was in fact my true calling.

Dr. Dymale, as well as a handful of other professors at Malone College, played a very important role in changing my perceptions of the Gospel, showing me what it meant to be faithful in day-to-day life and our helped to shape my ideas of ministry and the role the church in our society. For all of this I am grateful of Dr. Dymale ministry as a professor.

15 responses to “A Tribute to Herbert R. Dymale”

  1. thanks for this post. it reminded me of those who have mentored me. it also reminded me that we owe much to those who have plowed the ground before we came on the scene. and finally, it reminded me of a book i read many years ago now entitled, “no little people, no little places.”

  2. Thanks for posting this Wess. I never took a class with Dr. Dymale. I never even met him. But most of what you've written is very familiar to me from things I've heard you and Joel etc. say.

    requiescat in pacem

  3. I do recall that story JR. Even though I didn't have Dymale I remember all of the stories…didn't he always have some sort of mints in his mouth? that's what I can remember…and how he walked so gingerly across campus-

    Thanks Wess, I enjoy reading stuff on this site and it was good to hear about your journey in your post about Dymale

  4. So sad to hear the news. Knowing Dr. Dymale was a joy and his classes were incredibly formative for me. More than anything, I think I'll remember that he forgave me for trying to save his life when he passed out in class 🙂

  5. It was a morning probably not so much unlike today in Canton and Dymale (as he always did) rode his bike to the school. It was an 8AM class and as he began to lecture he seemed weak and a bit spacey. A few times his mind just seemed to drift off and he would ask, "what was I saying." All of a sudden he just collapsed. A bunch of students ran to his side and I ran to the office across the hall and had them call 911. We tried to revive him until the ambulance got there and by the time they did he was starting to come back around. They hooked hum up to some oxygen and took him away on a stretcher in the ambulance. We heard later that day that he was alright and that it was probably just a combination of exhaustion from the ride, the cold, and his age. If I remember right, he was there for the very next class. He began by asking who had called for the paramedics. Ready to receive my praise for "saving his life" in front of the whole class, I raised my hand. He said, "Rozko. You?" "Yes, Dr. Dymale," I said. "I want you to know that I forgive you," he said. I (along with the rest of the class) kind of laughed, but then realized he wasn't joking. He went on and on about what an embarrassing ordeal it was and encouraged us to just let him be if it happened again. Guess he was just the sort of guy who was ready to go and be with Jesus if that's what it came to.

  6. As I head into Missionary work in Hungary, I thank God for my friend Herb, who's lessons to me as a friend, not a student, touched me as much as anyone else. A humble servant of God, a sinner, I go forward, because I knew Dr. Dymale, and his beautiful bride Marj! Thanks Doc! I'm headed in the Jesus direction because I knew you.

  7. To understand the story of Malone University and Evangelical Friends – Easterm Region – I recommend your looking at Jeff Sharlet, The Family. The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. To their credit, Herbert Dymale and John David Geib resisted the impact of this movement, and each paid a heavy price for what I see to be speaking truth to power,

    I hope to take a closer look at this in the forthcoming Seeing Small, to be published by SE Missouri University Press.
    john oliver

  8. What a sad day for the Malone community. As a theology student back in the 80's, in preparation for homoletics, I can still hear him say it, "You MUST have the Christ Event!"

    I have been out of touch with the Malone community for some time, and was getting back in touch as my son is considering Malone.

    A sad day indeed, but a celabration as Dr. Dymale is now experiencing the "Christ Event" first hand!!!

  9. Rev. Dymale was my pastor at the Blanchard United Brethren Church in Portland
    Oregon. This was in the l950's. He was one of my favorites. We all loved him.
    I babysat his children. He had a wonderful since of humor!

  10. Best Professor I had… He taught me Old Testament and possibly took his New Testament as well….

    Riding His Bike.