He shared his own story and spoke with uncommon
energy, and with great eagerness and respect. When he told of how he was surprisingly
called from his work in Major League Baseball to a life of professional ministry, his
experience of God rang so true that it came to me like an invitation to share in something
wonderful and real. His story became a window into how to be the person God wanted
me to be.
That pastor, the Rev. Dr. Richard S. Armstrong, Ashenfelter Professor Emeritus of
Ministry and Evangelism at Princeton Seminary, has finally put his story to paper in his
recent book A Sense of Being Called. Chronicling his unexpected move from having been
the public relations director first of the Philadelphia Athletics and then the Baltimore
Orioles to becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister, Armstrong writes in great detail
about both the sweeping movements of God in his life and the gentle nudges and urgings
of the Spirit that might easily go unnoticed.
Including the devastating death from leukemia of his 5-year-old son, Ricky,
Armstrong’s is an awe-filled journey that shares the gift of discerning God’s presence
and action in all things – the thoughtful conversations, the quirky turns of events, the
awakened intuitions, the encouragements and discouragements of daily encounters. In
all of Armstrong’s books, and no less this one, he is a mentor in seeing God at work and
becoming God’s partner in the everyday wonders of that work.
At a time when there is renewed interest in the reality and theology of the call of God,
this book provides many timely and helpful insights into discerning and pursuing one’s
own sense of call. For that reason it is beneficial reading for those who are sincere about
seeking God’s will for their lives, as well as for those who call themselves agnostics but
are open to exploring the possibility that their lives are not governed by
In addition to the good practical theology of this book, if you are a
baseball fan there is certainly much to be enjoyed. The author regales his
readers with baseball lore of which he was a part, including creating the
first major league costumed mascot (Mr. Oriole) and what it was like
to work for the legendary Connie Mack. Baseball clearly remains an
enthusiasm of Dick Armstrong’s, and you will experience his delight in
his former profession. There are more than 100 captioned photographs,
which tell a fascinating parallel story of their own.
Originally written for and at the urging of his family and friends, this
memoir contains many minutely detailed recollections that one would
expect from one’s personal journaling. But often, as they say, God is in
the details, and those who know Armstrong know that he takes nothing
for granted when it comes to the possible movement of God’s Spirit. In his
writing, and in his life, he watches, he listens, he acts, and he shares his
story, not because yours or mine will be anything like his, but because he
recognizes God at work in you and me and hopes we will, too.
MELANIE HAMMOND CLARK is co-pastor of Covenant Presbyterian
Church in Racine, Wis.