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T he strip-center parking lot where the Reverend Charles Moore chose to end his life is as large as a football field and as lonely as prairie, the cracked gray asphalt dotted with weeds, shards of glass, and crushed Copenhagen cans. The faded yellow paint on the pavement recalls other days, when the Dollar General here was a Piggly Wiggly and members of the Night Prowlers, a teenage car club, would come park their hot rods and open the hoods.

Residents of Grand Saline population 3, know the lot as the Bear Grounds, and on Friday and Saturday nights, high school kids still gather to hang out and play music on their truck radios. On any given Friday night, as many as two dozen kids may meet at the Bear Grounds. But on the morning of Monday, June 23, the parking lot was almost empty. Angi McPherson, a receptionist at Sophistikutz, a hair and tanning salon next to the Dollar General, got to work at eleven and noticed an elderly man standing some feet away from the storefront. He could have been one of the many locals going to pick up a prescription at Economy Drug or a cane at BT Medical Supplies, a few Grand saline TX wife swapping down.

Monday is a slow day at Sophistikutz, and as morning turned to afternoon, McPherson found herself watching the man. Other shoppers came and went, but he stood by his car, a Volkswagen hatchback, leaning against it with his ankles crossed, looking toward the road. It was a hot, windless afternoon that only got hotter; still, the man stayed out there. Mallie Munn, one of the Sophistikutz stylists, noticed him too. She saw him move the car a few times to other parking spaces, but never too far away.

He had stuck a few pieces of paper on the hatchback window; maybe, she thought, he was selling it. He watched as cars and eighteen-wheelers rolled by on their way to Dallas, seventy miles west, and east to Mineola. Several times every hour, the earth would shake and the air would fill with the deafening blast of a horn as a train approached on the railroad tracks just across the highway.

He began to pace back and forth between his car and a particular parking space not far from the road. Munn and McPherson, on a work break, went out to sit on the curb in front of Sophistikutz. The man got on his knees. Was that a gardening cushion? After standing around all day, the man now seemed full of purpose. He began pouring something on himself—over his left leg, over his shoulder, down his Grand saline TX wife swapping side, and finally on his head.

It was such a hot day that maybe, the friends thought, it was water. But he was using a red can. She and Munn stood up. The four stared as the man set the can aside and picked up something long and thin. The man was still kneeling, his back straight. He raised the lighter to his head. Charles in the early nineties. Photograph courtesy of Guy Moore. For almost 75 years, Charles Robert Moore sought to hear, understand, and heed the call of God, wrestling every day with the words and deeds of Jesus Christ, trying to figure out how best to live.

As a preacher—whether his work took him to Austin, Chicago, or Maliwada, India—he often ministered to those on the margins. He could be bold and fearless, confronting authorities and upending social expectations. Mankind, Charles thought, had made a terrible mess of this world, and he felt an obligation to help set things right. of the Depression, he was born on July 18,in the tiny community of Union Springs, also known as Bugtussle, just down the road from Grand Saline. His father, John, worked at the local salt mine, loading sacks of rock salt onto the railroad cars that stopped next to U.

The shy, melancholy boy was inspired by Jesus, whom he saw as lonely and heroic. He wanted to be a leader like his pastor, Brother Harold Fagan, and soon became president of the youth fellowship. Charles was bright, liked to read, and dreamed of being a writer; his mother encouraged his studies so he could be the first in the family to go to college. Though her son enjoyed the outdoors and working with his hands—he and his friend Don Vickery would disappear for hours to swim in local creeks and build go-karts and boats—he was also reflective.

During one of the ceremonies, as he watched a spotlight shine on the American flag, he had an epiphany: the image, he felt, was a that he should return home and preach a sermon about the light of God. Wesley had gone on to articulate a stirring theology based on the concept of divine grace, a gift from God that inspired a deep and actively lived faith. Charles felt passionate about inviting others to experience this grace, and by seventeen, he was preaching once a month at a nearby rural church; two years later, after enrolling at Tyler Junior College, he was preaching weekly Grand saline TX wife swapping a small church in Starr-ville, just down the road.

It was the fifties, however—a time when African Americans received very little love from small East Texas congregations, let alone status as neighbors. Growing up, Charles had seen the out on U. Nevertheless, the civil rights era was dawning, and protests and boycotts of segregated classrooms, buses, and restaurants had begun around the country.

In May the Supreme Court ordered the integration of schools with its decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Appalled by the prejudice he saw around him, that summer Charles stated from the pulpit in Starrville that he agreed with the Supreme Court.

His words did not go unnoticed. When Charles said yes, the trustee angrily ordered him off his property. Around that same time, preaching at First Methodist in Grand Saline, Charles also managed to infuriate his home church. He hurt some feelings with that message, stunned a lot of people. He was told not to come back. But Charles was already moving on.

He had met a striking woman from the neighboring town of Van named Patricia Tunnell; he and Pat, as she was known, soon married, and in Charles transferred to Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. He also studied the early-twentieth-century Social Gospel movement, which argued that genuine spirituality should bring about the end of problems such as poverty and prejudice.

Yet he was quickly faced with the realities of the world when he became an associate pastor at First Methodist Church in Carthage, back in East Texas.

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Charles preaching from the pulpit in the mid-sixties. The budding integrationist yearned to the front lines of the civil rights movement in Mississippi and Alabama, but he settled for making a smaller statement closer to home, reaching out to the pastor of a local black church and arranging for a choir and preacher swap. He soon faced his first genuine crisis: in a young man in his congregation, a father of three whom Charles had counseled and gotten to know well, killed himself.

Charles was devastated. Charles was so affected that he began to question his calling. Around this time, he received a visit from an old Perkins classmate, Guy Garrett, who was entering a Ph. He knew how much Charles enjoyed studying theology himself—maybe, Garrett suggested, he would like to him. Charles said yes, and inafter securing a job at a church in West Roxbury, he again moved his family, which now included a second son, Guy.

What is this kingdom? Is it some future reality, one in which earthly powers are overthrown? For John Wesley, who wrote often on the subject, the kingdom of heaven was both a present reality and a future one. For the Ecumenical Institute, a radical Christian collective Charles encountered in Boston, the kingdom of heaven was a reality that could, and should, be built on earth right now. Charles was captivated. No longer did he have to be a lonely voice cautiously calling for change.

The EI, led by a long-haired, guru-like former Perkins professor named Joseph Mathews, was actually doing something, in particular for black Americans. As he and Pat attended EI seminars around New England, Charles grew more and more excited about fighting racial injustice. Pat was not enthused. He felt if you could give yourself to solving a problem, you could find a solution. The hundred or so EI members shared houses or bunked in dorm-style apartments.

Every morning, they rose at five-thirty, ate breakfast together, and listened to a sermon. Then they went to work, partnering with local residents to help build a preschool, a clinic, and a community center. They also held seminars and brought in new members. Over the course of four years, the Moores were sent to live and work all over the Chicago area, in rich neighborhoods and poor ones.

Though this required them to leave their two sons behind, Charles did not hesitate; Steve, who was sixteen, was packed off to an EI home in Montana, and Guy, who was eleven, moved in with a group of EI families in Chicago. Pat was torn but still accompanied her husband. While Charles networked with local leaders, Pat managed a community center, rising at three in Grand saline TX wife swapping morning to oversee the cooks preparing food for villagers.

I think lives were changed. But while Charles was inspiring others, he was losing those closest to him.

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Over the two years that he and Pat spent in India, their boys, shuttled among other families, felt increasingly abandoned. By Steve had dropped out of high school and was on his own in Illinois; Guy was in the ninth grade in Saskatoon, Canada, and skipping class.

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I finally stopped going altogether. In she returned to the U. Charles, missing Pat and beset with intestinal parasites, followed three months later. He asked the leadership of the United Methodist Church to as him a congregation and was sent to the small town of Ingleside, near Corpus Christi.

Though Pat and Guy moved with him, she left Charles a year later, taking their son with her. Charles felt lost. He needed to be around people who were suffering to have a purpose in life. He needed to have that mission. For the next few years, Charles drifted. From Ingleside he moved to Corpus Christi to take a post as associate pastor at a black church, St. His roommate was a young local minister named Stephen Bryant, who had heard Charles lecture in Chicago.

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The two often talked late into the night. Charles had grown depressed, and he would visit Garrett, who was now in Dallas, trying to figure out what to do next. Stay in Texas? Charles went to visit her and her husband, then agreed to spend a week in a Colorado hospital psychiatric ward. Charles was consumed with guilt over the way he had behaved toward his sons. The brothers had been sharing an apartment in Houston, and in December Charles wrote them a forlorn letter.

Now he tried to make it up to them, buying Christmas presents and visiting. But God as his calling was primary in his life, period. Everything else came after. By this time the EI had morphed into the Institute of Cultural Affairs, an organization focused less on religious renewal and more on secular community development outside the U. In Charles reed the group, traveling around Europe, Africa, and India. In late he went on a six-week trip, leading workshops and speaking in villages across the globe. In his journal, he bemoaned the treatment of women, described what he saw Grand saline TX wife swapping African slums, and kept a record of his visits with health care workers, farmers, and tribal chiefs.

He was also on the cusp of fifty and trying to find himself. He went to see the statue of William Tyndale, who had been burned at the stake in for translating the Bible. When he ran out of money, Charles returned to Texas. He spent time with Guy, who was now in Tyler doing manual labor and little else. Though he liked the ecumenical nature of the church and enjoyed ministering to the many elderly in the congregation, visiting them at nursing homes and hospitals, after three years he asked for a transfer, hoping to move to Austin.

The closest he could get was another federated church, this one in Lockhart. It was only an interim position, but Charles took it. He was 55, a temp, and alone. Charles regained his sense of purpose inwhen he was offered a post at Grace United Methodist in Austin. He jumped at the chance to lead the small church in a quiet neighborhood south of the river. When he arrived, he found an aging congregation of about sixty members; the building itself, constructed inwas in disrepair.

Charles got to work, rehabbing the choir loft and installing stained-glass windows.

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