Members of an early 1970s Baptist student missions fine arts team never fulfilled their tongue-in-cheek dream of appearing on the “Cover of the Baptist Standard.”
But their summer of ministry in New York made a lasting imprint on their lives. And they eventually enjoyed hearing a studio recording of the parody song they created and performed at two Baptist Student Union events.
Members of the 1973 Texas Baptist student missions fine arts team—“Loveship”—were Milo Strawn, Ken Hugghins, John Ellisor, Theresa “Terry” Anderson, Debbie Bridges and Candy Smith.
“Some people thought the name was ‘Love Ship,’ like ‘Love Boat,’ but it was one word,” Strawn said. “The idea was we have more than a friendship with Jesus. It’s a ‘loveship.’ And that’s with each other, as well.”
The group spent the summer headquartered in Greenwich, Conn., but traveled around New York performing in churches and at various public venues.
“We performed with Ken Medema one time,” said Hugghins, who recently retired after more than three decades as pastor of Elkins Lake Baptist Church in Huntsville. He also recalled singing in the park at the base of the Statue of Liberty and in Washington Square.
Inspired by a song on the radio
One day, the team was traveling in a van when “Cover of the Rolling Stone” by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show came on the radio.
“That’s all it took for a bunch of crazy people to be inspired to come up with a parody,” Hugghins said.
Nobody remembers exactly who contributed which lyrics, but with several members of the fine arts team participating, the group created “Cover of the Baptist Standard.”
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“Well, we’re summer missionaries. We’ve got Kens and Johns and Terrys, and we’re loved by everybody we see. We sing about Jesus, and we sing about truth, and we’re doing it all for free,” the song says.
The song includes its fair share of namedropping, with all six members of “Loveship” mentioned at one point or another.
“Well, we’re driving ’cross the land, six of us in a van, with Milo at the wheel. Candy, she’s a-sleepin’, and Debbie’s she’s a-weepin’, ’cause we’re gonna miss another meal,” the lyrics say.
“Well, we’ve been to Manhattan, and we’ve done a lot of cattin’ on the days we were free to meander. But nothing’s quite as fun as for Mom to see her son on the cover of the Baptist Standard.”
Student work division staff immortalized
The song goes on to name the staff of the Baptist General Convention of Texas student work division.
“Well, we’re writing Uncle Chet, and you know you better bet that he prays for us every day. And there’s ol’ Charlie Baker. Did you know we was a Quaker ’til he learned about a better way? And there’s ol’ Jack Greever; he’s a real believer. Now, we really don’t want to slander. But even Dr. Howard, he ain’t got the power to get us on the Baptist Standard.”
W.F. Howard served 32 years as director of the student work division at the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
At the time, Chet Reames, Jack Greever and Charlie Baker were associates in the division. Reames and Greever later directed the student work office. Baker became pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla.
“We never sang it in public when we were in New York,” Strawn said, noting the inside jokes would have been lost on the audience there.
Performed at Glorieta
However, the fine arts team did perform the song during Student Missions Week at Glorieta Baptist Encampment in New Mexico at the end of the summer.
“I can’t remember how we smuggled that in,” Hugghins said. “But it was with Chet Reames’ approval.”
To understand how iconoclastic the parody song was in that context, Hugghins recalled Howard reminding the young men on the team they were representing Texas Baptists. So, they needed to shave off their thick moustaches before they performed at Glorieta.
“We shaved,” he said. “And we sang that song.”
The audience loved it, Strawn and Hugghins recalled.
“Everybody got a big kick out of it,” Strawn said. “Even Dr. Howard laughed a little bit.”
When the group performed later that fall at the Texas BSU Convention, they were invited to include “Cover of the Baptist Standard” as part of their set list.
Recently recalled and recorded
The song made enough of an impression that Baptist Standard reader Ruth Cook mentioned it in an email to Editor Eric Black. He wanted to know more.
So, Cook contacted Strawn, who wrote down the lyrics and, at Black’s request, made a rough acapella recording of the song.
That’s when Ruth Cook’s husband Joe became involved. He contacted a friend, Greg Oden, a choral director in West Monroe, La., and asked him to record the song.
“He has an amazing ability and did not charge,” Joe Cook said. “We all loved the song.”
The song stirred fond memories for some members of the fine arts team. For Hugghins, it reminded him how significant that missions experience in New York was in terms of his commitment to ministry.
“It was one of the most profound summers in my life,” he said, noting he had surrendered to the ministry as a senior in high school but had not yet served on a church staff. “When I came back, I realized I needed to get on with ministry.”
He became a music and youth minister at a small church, which led to a series of other staff positions in the years that followed. In 1990, he became pastor of Elkins Lake Baptist Church in Huntsville.
The 1973 student missions fine arts team made a lasting impression. And in a sense, they may have blazed a trail.
“No, we never got on the cover of the Baptist Standard,” Strawn said. “But as it turned out, the 1974 fine arts team did.”
Here is the “Cover of the Baptist Standard” parody song, as recorded by Greg Oden: