Dr. Jack Snell

There are some amazing people in the world who, if we are lucky, we get to meet along the journey of life. I was thinking about one of them recently when I went to my family’s church of 60+ years in Jacksonville for Mom’s funeral. Mom worked at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church (HABC) for about 30 years. She worked part time at first, when my brother Dale and I were young, then she worked full time for most of her career, serving as the pastor’s secretary. HABC is a unique church for a Baptist church in that it is “progressive” – a church friend recently called it “Baptist Episcopalian.” The first minister I remember, Dr. Clyde Lipscomb, probably warrants his own post for his foresight, about which I’ll digress long enough to say he and a few other Baptist preachers got together to start a hospital. It was, appropriately, called Baptist Hospital, but what was interesting is that it was open to all, and had considerable support from the Jewish community in Jacksonville who were less welcome at other area hospitals. The interfaith connections Clyde started were taken further by his successor, Dr. Jack Snell. When Clyde retired, finding his replacement (after his decades of service) was a big project. My Dad was on the search committee and they finally narrowed the choices down to see the candidate preach in his then home church near Atlanta. Such visits are usually kept low profile so as not to tip off the church members at the prospect’s church. However, on that Sunday, there was a winter storm in Atlanta and about the only people there were members of the search committee who could not hide their presence. So, from that beginning, I met and got to know Jack. The first time I spent much time with him was when I went to Atlanta to load his books, and car, on a truck to bring to Jacksonville. You see, Jack was a reader. He had thousands of books and, partly as a way to save moving expenses, a church member provided a truck he owned but labor was needed. That was Dale and me. The bonus was the car, which was driven onto the truck after the books. A Triumph TR-6. White. One of my favorite cars of all times! How cool was a preacher who drove a TR-6?! I got to know Jack over the next 20 years and was impressed with his kindness and thoughtfulness. His level of care and concern for me, and all the church members, was remarkable. He is one of 2 people I know who I believe were self-actualized (you know, in Maslow’s hierarchy). And, it impressed me that, after 20 years at HABC, when things were going strong, he decided to resign to become a foreign missionary. He spent several years thereafter in Singapore and elsewhere fulfilling a lifelong dream of being a missionary. I was impressed that he followed his dream. Alas, he passed away too young. But many people are better off for having known Jack Snell. This is a detail of which I was reminded on the campus of HABC and in thinking about Mom, Jack, and the strong connection they had. It is fitting that they now reside close to one another at the church.

Thanks to David, I, too, have met 2 people who were self actualizers, Dr. Jack Snell and Dr. Fran Kinne.  Although most people have heard the term, “self actualization,” which is defined as the highest level of psychological development, in which a person’s full potential is achieved, few people have been fortunate enough to meet a truly self actualized person, not to mention 2.  When I met David in 1986, Dr. Snell was the pastor of David’s and his family’s church, Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, in Jacksonville.  Like David, I was a member of a Baptist church (although I had been brought up, for most of my life, as a Methodist).  Jack was nothing like the other Baptist preachers I knew, or for that matter, nothing like the other pastors, priests, and rabbis I had ever met.  He was, in a word, cool!  Not only did Jack have the ability to portray a calm and spiritual demeanor, he was, surprisingly to me, fun!  Given David’s mother’s fondness for fun, it must have been great for her and Jack to work together for many years.  I’m sure they were a great pair!  When Jack announced his retirement from being a full time church pastor, in order to become a missionary, it was quite a shock to me, at first.  He had a good job, a comfortable home, nice family and friends in Jacksonville, and to me, seemed to be living “the good life.”  Upon further reflection, however, I realized that Jack must have realized he had it made, so to speak, such that he would spend the rest of his all too short life helping people who needed him the most.  I am honored to have known Dr. Jack Snell and I share David’s joy in knowing Jack and Carole are now reunited.


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