Felix Alfred Lorenz, Jr.
1922 - 2013
Throughout his life, Felix Lorenz charted a unique course, one driven by dedication to service and an adherence to deeply held views about being honest to one's convictions about truth and justice. In following those inner voices, he was a musician, teacher, businessman, magician, and minister - at times doing all these activities simultaneously. Additionally, along the way, he became a licensed electrician, taxi driver, surveyor, registered music therapist, accredited public-relations counselor, and a member of Mensa.
Felix was born in Kansas on April 5, 1922, the oldest of three children of Amanda Olga Jensen and Felix Alfred Lorenz. He graduated from Maplewood Academy in Minnesota, in 1939 and then attended Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.
In January 1943, as he was about to begin the second semester at UC he was invited to sing, lead the music for song services, and play his violin and trumpet at an evangelistic series 130 miles away, in Kearney. His wife, Frances Fern McGhee, moved into the girls' dormitory for the rest of the year. They then bought a car and small house trailer, and he became a singing evangelist and pastor for the next six years. They would have two children, Barbara (Bobbie) and Felix Alfred (Sonny). During this time he completed a B.Mus. in music and drama at McPhail College in 1948.
He enjoyed working as a singing evangelist and pastor, while also teaching music at Maplewood, Sheyenne River, and Auburn academies. In 1949, he traveled to Washington, D.C., where he attended the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary until 1953, going a year beyond the completion of an M.A. in religion. While in the area, he attended American University, where he completed coursework for a master's degree in public relations. He subsequently worked on a doctorate in educational administration at Peabody College for Teachers and a D.Min. at the Institute for Advanced Pastoral Studies in Detroit. He also attended Vanderbilt University, but left, along with other students, when a black student was expelled without just cause.
While living in the Washington, D.C., area, he also directed choirs at the Washington Sanitarium (now Washington Adventist Hospital) and the SDA seminary and then taught left to teach music at Campion and Sunnydale academies.
After a year of teaching at a public high school in Minnesota, he moved to Madison College in 1955, where he taught music, speech, and religion for three years. While there he divorced his first wife and married Lucille Gladys Dahltorp, a nurse and nursing instructor. She had two children, Ellen Lynn and David from a previous marriage, and she and Felix would have a son, Christian Alfred, and a daughter, Sally.
When he left Madison, he stayed in the Nashville, Tennessee, area, continuing his education while working as Director of Adjunctive Therapies in the state mental hospital and as Director of Public Relations at the U.S. Courthouse Credit Union.
In 1961, Lorenz moved to the Detroit area, where he lived for many years. For over four decades he directed several church choirs in the area and the Lighthouse Chorale (an interracial group of advanced musicians), taught in Lincoln Park High School for fifteen years, led bands in parochial schools for 35 years, owned a public relations firm and recording studio, and performed as a magician for forty years.
Through all of these activities, ministry was Lorenz's passion. A self-described "tentmaker" (self-supporting) minister, he felt comfortable in working for many denominations. He was associate minister of Cass Methodist Church for fifteen years, working with the senior minister in Detroits inner city, an experience which Lorenz described as a "new and thrilling ministry paradigm."
Lorenz worked as choir director in several churches and while in Detroit led song services for John Zoller, America's first radio preacher, Bob Jones, Sr., during his last crusade; E. E. Cleveland; C.D. Brooks, and others. He ministered for over twenty years in the United Church of Christ, serving most recently at St. Paul's UCC in Northville, Michigan, as well as at the Dearborn Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Through the years, he was also an active Seventh-day Adventist, maintaining dual memberships in that church and the United Church of Christ. He once observed,
My membership in the United Church of Christ does not violate Seventh-day Adventism, in policy or in principle. I am proud to be part of the UCC, proud of its history. Dual membership is in no way a repudiation of my Adventism. Unusual? Yes, my ministry is unique, structured only for me. . . . I know the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy and Adventism as well as any of my critics. I am a fourth-generation, lifelong Seventh-day Adventist. I taught Bible doctrines and Daniel and Revelation at Madison College and in several academies. Incidentally, the meditations in my church bulletins have for more than 20 years been quotes from Ellen G. White, usually from The Desire of Ages.
In commenting on his role as a magician, Lorenz recently wrote,
Magic was a ministry, both Gospel and secular. I never charged a fee, but my expenses were usually paid. (As an entertainer I was still a "tentmaker"!) Magic took me to nearly every state in the Union and all over Canada.
Lorenz served on numerous community boards and committees. Over the years, his unique multifaceted ministry was questioned by some and viewed as exemplary by others. He was honored in many ways. Andrews University chose him as an Alumnus of Achievement in 1977 and he was included in several Who's Who listings. He was given the Stewart Kerr Ecumenical Award in 1998. That same year he was a recipient of the Recognition of Achievement award by the Wayne County (Michigan) Sheriff, for his many years as Chief Chaplain in their Chaplain Corps.
Felix was living in Loma Linda, California, at the time of his death November 27, 2013, at age 91. He was survived by his wife, Lucille, and children, Barbara, Ellen Lynn, David, Christian, and Sally.
Sources: Interview, 2005; Listing of personal achievements and education provided by Felix Lorenz in the 1990s; Letters and notes to me in the 2000's, most recently, 23 April 2011; Marvel Jensen (a cousin), December 2013.