Rev. Robert Molby BDiv ’60, MDiv ’70, was born in 1930 in Kansas, where he attended a one-room schoolhouse and worked on dairy farms. He answered a call to ministry at the encouragement of his pastor, Rev. Floyd L. Boyd, and decided to enroll at Central Seminary in 1956. In 1960 Rev. Molby graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity, the standard theological degree at the time, with an emphasis in Town and Country Ministry. After seminary he served in the Solomon Valley Baptist Parish which included five congregations in the small Kansas towns of Simpson, Asherville, Beloit, Cawker City, and Downs. In that time, he learned that Central Seminary was offering a Bachelor to Master exchange program which required a two-week course designed to meet the requirements for past graduates to exchange their Bachelor of Divinity to a Master of Divinity.
A portion of that two-week course included experiential education in the Kansas City area, spending 24 hours with the unhoused and hungry during an era of racial unrest. Before embarking on this “plunge,” as Rev. Molby calls it, the students met with community leaders who regularly worked with the homeless, including the Kansas City Black Panthers.
We learned that [the Black Panthers] were our friends and would be watching out for us. We also learned to be fearful of police when they gathered in groups. We learned that in some areas you were safer on the south side of the street than you were on the north side. It was a different world in which we would be living. I was glad that we were prepared for this plunge as much as we could be.
We walked around a lot, talking about where we might spend the night and how cold it might get. At one point we went into a place where you could get a cup of coffee for five cents. We got one cup and then sat there taking turns sipping that one cup and wrapping our hands around it to warm them up…Harry and I were hungry, and we did not have any money for food. We came to a place that said, “Free food!” That looked good to us and we started in that direction. Then we saw the rest of the sign. It was a Mission, trying to reach [the homeless and hungry]. The meal was free but first we had to listen to some preacher preach, then we could eat. Harry and I looked at one another and decided we were not that hungry, that we could last until this twenty-four hours was over.
After our plunge was over, and we were back at the seminary, we debriefed and shared our experiences. We shared that in common we felt more accepted by the homeless and so-called derelicts on the streets then those who were like us. Another of our classmates shared how one homeless person had found a bottle of wine that had not been totally consumed. This man shared his bottle with our classmate. Our classmate said that he was not a drinker of any kind of beer or wine, but he drank with this man because he felt accepted.
As classmates the terms liberal, fundamental, conservative, and whatever else we had thought about the other no longer existed or mattered. Neither did the terms homeless and derelict, we are all of the human race whom God loved without making any distinction.
I went back to my parish of five churches a changed man. I gave my report to the churches. I recall that after my presentation to the church at Cawker City, my son, Nathan, a junior in high school, embraced me, lifting me off my feet, and saying, “Dad, I am proud of you.”
In May of 1970, Dr. Fred Young of Central Seminary, came to a meeting in Kansas and presented me with the Masters of Divinity Degree. The Bachelor’s Degree had been exchanged for a Master’s Degree. I had taken the plunge and my life was changed forever. Thanks are to God!