Clouds of Harvest: Joe Bayly

by Wil Triggs

I love fall, but I get a little wistful at the season. I have a lot of memories of coming to Wheaton for the first time in late summer and trying to get my bearings. Looking back, I associate a lot of the season with people who are gone now. One of those people is Joe Bayly.

It’s strange to think that so many people at College Church don’t remember Joe Bayly or realize that he and his family went to church here.

That just doesn’t seem right.

So even if you have no idea who Joe Bayly is/was, indulge me—remember him with me.

To borrow a title from something he wrote, how shall we remember Joe?

Growing up in California, I had heard of Chicago, but never of Wheaton or Wheaton College. After I got serious about my faith, I decided to go to Biola College—and one of the first chapels I attended featured a reader's theater of “How Silently, How Silently,” a story Joe wrote about Jesus coming to a town at Christmas and not exactly finding open arms of welcome.

It was the first time I had ever seen a reader’s theater and the first time I had ever encountered a Christian story that was so funny and contemporary and right. It made me want to do reader’s theater and it made me want to write. I ended up doing a lot of both.

I went to the college bookstore and found Joe’s books. I read stories and psalms right there in the store and wondered how there could be a Christian voice like this from a guy so funny, honest, simple and complex at the same time. I prayed, asking God to let me meet him.

I had no idea that God would move me here and put me in Joe’s church or the Adult Community he taught. And when I moved here, one of the first families to invite me to their home for a dinner was the Baylys—Joe, Mary Lou, David and Nathan.

Looking back, here are some things I remember and celebrate about Joe Bayly.

•Good Priorities. When I met Joe, I expected a little more artiness. There was none of that. He was a solid, genuine and serious Christian. His art and craft didn’t take the place of God, which it tended to do for me when I was first aspiring to be a good writer.

•An Open Home. Joe and Mary Lou were always ready to add another place at their table. The food always tasted great. They opened their home to singles during holidays. In a community like ours, where schedules and lives tend to be plannedout, I felt like I could always stop by and be welcomed.

•Some Dissent it OK. The Bayly table was about more than eating. We talked. If you were quiet, Joe or someone else might call on you to find out what you thought. Everyone didn’t automatically agree—most often there were at least two perspectives on whatever was being discussed. Debate was welcome, but it was always in the context of respect and love.

•A Great Wife Covers a Multitude of… Mary Lou was amazing. Always there, but rarely in the forefront, making everything just happen. They were a team in every way—one that Lorraine and I aspire to be like.

•Keep Writing—the only advice I ever got from Joe on writing were these two words. I saw the discipline and focus in his ministry life and care for other people as well.

If you have someone like Joe in your life, or if you have an especially fond memory of Joe or someone like him, email ( and let me know.