Saturday, September 22, 2012

30 Years

I was too busy to mark an important anniversary last week.  I officially became Episcopalian on September 19, 1982 at Trinity Church, St. Louis, MO.

I've been attending Episcopal churches since Easter 1979.  Here are some of the churches I either joined or frequented in all of those years.

St. Mary's in Kansas City, MO; the very first Episcopal church I ever attended and still the most beautiful among all those that I joined or frequented.

Inside St. Mary's with its brick arcades, wooden vault, and Tiffany altar.  The organ behind the altar is new since I went there.
Young long-haired art student lapsed Texas Methodist me was very surprised, and very pleased, to hear Kierkegaard quoted from the pulpit here for the first time in my religious life.  I had no idea that clergy could talk to people as if they were adults up until that time.

All Saints, Pontiac, Michigan;  fond memories of the kindness of Father Derby here.

St. Paul's Cathedral, Detroit; good choir, and the Detroit Institute of Art was next door.

Trinity, St. Louis, where I was confirmed and where I was a member for many years.  There's a painting in the chapel by me that I made in memory of Fr. Charles Bewick.  This church was a big part of my education, religious and otherwise.  I have fond memories of the kindness of the late Fr. Bill Chapman and his wife Ellie.  Charles Bewick was an extraordinary man of great courage and patience who founded the first housing organization for AIDS patients and the HIV positive in St. Louis at a time when landlords regularly evicted people upon diagnosis.  He died of the disease himself.  I consider people from that parish like James and Janice Harbaugh, Jeff Bessler,  Peter Monat, and Harry Weber to be my mentors in what theological and ecclesiastical knowledge that I have.  I'm ever grateful for their learning, their insights, their great good sense, and above all, their generosity.

Saint James, Florence (La Chiesa Americana); I was a regular here when I lived in Florence in 1988.  At the time, only a handful of Yanks went here.  The rest were Koreans, West Africans, and Brits unhappy with the very high and very conservative C of E church in Florence.  Now, Italians make up enough of a presence in the congregation to require bilingual services.

No picture to be found, but I was a regular at Christ Church in Richmond, Kentucky when I taught at Berea College.  I found out that I had two relatives who went to that famously radical college that charges no tuition and was founded by abolitionists in the middle of a slave state to serve black and white together.

St. John's in the Village, New York City, where I served as Mother Barbara Crafton's acolyte for the Monday evening Eucharist for about 5 years.  As many people are  aware, Mother Crafton is a woman of extraordinary talents, kindness, and courage.  She's spent her life ministering to down and out sailors through the Seaman's Church Institute, first in Newark and then in New York (in our ever more competitive free market world, some once discredited practices are coming back to the high seas, like flogging; Mother Crafton knew several victims) .  She ministered to actors and theater people; she herself has a theater background and a fine singing voice.   And she ministered to the needs of the homeless and the friendless for years.  She helped rescue friends of mine from sleeping on the cold streets of New York.

St. Luke in the Fields, New York City, where I am currently a member.
I take tremendous satisfaction in knowing that this church founded by Clement Clarke Moore sits halfway between the old Westside piers and the Stonewall bar, on Hudson Street right off Christopher, in the middle of historic New York gaydom.  It also sits at the end of Grove Street, two blocks from where Thomas Paine died.

I am still happy after all these years to be part of a church that is happy to have the likes of me, and to make me welcome in a community that over time included George Washington, Sojourner Truth, King Kamehameha IV, Fiorello LaGuardia, Fred Astaire, Amelia Bloomer, Cecil B. DeMille, Eleanor Roosevelt, WH Auden, Phillip K. Dick, and Edward Albee (I don't know, but I like to think Margaret "I'm a Christian you fuckers!" Cho might be among us or at least with us).  Above all, I am overjoyed that this church found the courage and grace to make Gene Robinson and Mary Glasspool, both openly gay like me, bishops of the Church, leaders of the community.  The Episcopal Church willingly took upon itself the scorn, and even the hatred, that my kind have always endured.  I will always be grateful and I will never forget. 

Ring Dem Bells!


I'm too busy with college shit to go to church this morning.  Everything comes marked URGENT! with flashing lights, buzzers, sirens, and with a note that says "Get this in the right order with the right form or we kill the hostages!"

I miss church

So, here is something properly Anglican if not quite entirely Episcopalian; Kings College Choir sings a beautiful old Pentecost favorite harmonized by Ralph Vaughn Williams.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Lovely, lovely post, Counterlight. I well remember St Luke in the Fields and the long lunch following the service and the flu shot. You have a much longer history in the Episcopal Church than I. I'm a newbie, received into the church in 1997, and I've only ever been a regular at St John in Thibodaux.

JCF said...

What a great post! You're making me wish I had a blog, so I could include tribs/pics of all the Episcopal parishes I've been a member of...

Ciss B said...

Really grand post!

I'm one of those cradle Episcopalians and I am still glad I'm in this church. My list of churches though echo yours in number. Haven't changed too many times. Thanks for that wonderful Ellington song!

susan s. said...

Wonderful! And how neat that you taught at Berea! I was born in KY but was only 14mos. old when we left. Way before I became an Episcopalian! Love the hymn. It's one of my favorites.