Linda and I were married on January 5, 1970, at Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church in Riverside California. A Monday Evening at 7pm, in the midst of a significant Santa Ana wind storm, powerful wind storms in Southern California that blow from east to west off of the dry desert, it is said that the winds can make you crazy. You might ask how we scheduled a Monday Night wedding, so close after the holidays. I was on winter break from graduate school in Northern California. I had to be back to teach a graduate course in Bob Dylan, prophet, and poet. And, we were sort of sneaking home to get married.
Linda had moved to Northern California to live with me in September and as you might imagine in 1969 all hell broke loose with our parents, our priest, even our siblings. My parents suggested we sneak off to Vegas, my in laws want me to disappear… and for their daughter to return home. (The fact that I was a hippie draft dodger probably had something to do with that). We were clear however that we were to be married, and that our wedding would be in the church ….where we met, grew up together as teens in youth group. Our wedding was sort of a protest wedding…very high church wedding, bells and smells, white wedding gowns. last time I was beardless. My grandparents thought we were cool and to ignore our parents, they would get over it.
It was a complicated time. The midst of the Viet Nam conflict, I was in the middle of the process to obtain a CO status with the Selective Service. We were considering moving to Canada. The 60’s had been chaos: the Viet Nam conflict, assassinations, Nixon was president, Reagan was governor, anti-war demonstrations, the riots at the democratic convention, Weather Underground, SDS… We were on a timeline between the people’s park riots and the murders at Kent State. I was discerning if Church Divinity School was my next step, but the bishop of LA had issues with a CO Hippie Postulant.
I was not committed to the idea of having children, quoting Bob Dylan from Masters of War:
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins
Linda gently ignored me, she knew we would have children, that she would soften my fear…clearly, she was right. She left home and nursing school to escape a complicated relationship with her parents and to set off on her own, together we felt called to be together, and had great trust in ourselves and looking back the Holy Spirit, blowing that night in the Santa Ana winds.
We had no clear vision of what was next in our lives, except that we loved each other deeply, trusted each other. Our celebration filled St Michaels for probably the only time in its history with friends, family, teachers…and random hippies along the way. That memory has always been a joy for us. Sadly, one of my hippie friends was the photographer and somehow, he forgot to load film into his camera. I have my suspicions.
Saint Michael’s had a new beautiful Spanish style Building. probably 4 stories tall at the apex. red brick, adobe, a double size hand carved statue of Jesus on the cross from Italy.. (way too high church for this community) side doors that opened to a future garden area. A beautiful church, the best place in the world to be married….
There was a single wealthy family in the congregation, the Lawsons, who basically bought the building over the protests of most of the members. Most of the members, our parents as examples. were middle class, not even close to the wealth of the Senior Warden. They were very privileged. Andrew was the chair of Physics at the University and a member of the Manhattan Project, Mary Ann Wyman Lawson was from a wealthy family in Boston. The priest at the time supported this huge investment, a feather in his hat, and the congregation moved out of a small building to a fantastic oversized work of art, which they could not afford.
We loved Saint Michaels, we met there, most of our siblings were married there, our children were baptized there, 3 of our 4 parents celebrated their lives there, it was our church home.
As he walked away from the Temple, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at that stonework! Those buildings!” 2 Jesus said, “You’re impressed by this grandiose architecture? There’s not a stone in the whole works that is not going to end up in a heap of rubble.”
The gospel passage from Mark is often referred to as the little apocalypse, when compared to the Book of Revelation. Probably written about the time of the destruction of the Temple. Early Christians would have been overwhelmed, frightened of the persecution from Rome, wars, earthquakes, disasters. Zealots hanging on crosses would have lined the streets. Mark quotes Jesus telling his friends not to focus on these times or end times, but to look forward to the birthing of the reign of heaven. Not a foretelling of the end of time, but a call to an engagement as midwifes.
Jesus said there will be wars, and rumors of wars, wars that will shake the foundations of the world and our faith in human nature. There will be death, pandemics, personal violence. There will be environmental disasters. There will be overwhelming events in these days sufficient to rattle our souls. Our emotions will run wild with anxiety, fear, hatred, we will debate solutions for racism, injustice, terrorism. The world ends with flames, terror, political riots, and carnage.
Yet, Jesus instructs us that it is not the end of the world. Jesus tells us in the wake of violence and terrorism. His words at best disquieting. “The end is yet to come. Fear not. This is not how the world ends.”
God is our great midwife in the midst of our world’s birth pangs and labored groans. ME teaches that God’s primary intention is giving birth, giving birth of God’s son Jesus into us, and into our soul. Grace is infused into us to do the work of becoming. Grace flows out of God’s essence and into the essence of our soul. Saint Augustine writes that it is our greed to control time, greed to possess the corporal world, and lust for power that prevents the flow of Grace. For as long as our soul wants more and more, God cannot dwell and work within us.
Lose your life—Kenosis: As individual Christians, faith communities, and institutions, we can practice kenosis and release our hold on false narratives, privileges, and self-centric structures built to serve empire, White supremacy, and the established order. Let die what needs to die, so that God’s new creation can be born. Let the cracks form, let the jar break, so the oil can finally flow free. Spellers, Stephanie. The Church Cracked Open
Speaking to the captive Israelites at a critical time of their history The Prophet Daniel reminds us we shall be lead to righteousness, there will be a time of anguish, and a time of deliverance. He offers us hope to sustain, guide, and embolden. A promise of a relationship with God shared in the reign of heaven. Daniel strengthens us to follow a path of nonviolent resistance and fortitude to stand firm in the face of oppression and death.
About 10 years ago Saint Michael’s converted to a mission. As Lillian would tell you, after serving 6 decades as warden, secretary, vestry member, they never were able to support a full time priest, or pay the bills. They attempted to sell, without success. The bishop took responsibility, paid off debt, and St Michael’s became a community center….a homeless shelter, recovery center, food shelf, rented space to other faith communities. The small aging white church community moved back into the original building across the driveway. The Bishop assigned a priest in charge, The Reverend Dr. Mary Crist to lead renamed Saint Michael’s Episcopal Ministry Center. There was a birthing about to happen.
And watch out! They’re going to drag you into court. And then it will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry my name. You’re placed there as sentinels to truth. The Message has to be preached all across the world.
11 “When they bring you, betrayed, into court, don’t worry about what you’ll say. When the time comes, say what’s on your heart—the Holy Spirit will make his witness in and through you.
After 10 years of hard work, protests, fighting with the government, and the local neighborhood, Saint Michaels is being reborn. Soon to open in collaboration with the BIPOC community, and nonprofit agencies a residential campus for homeless and affordable housing complex is being built. The project will provide 50 one‐ and two‐bedroom rental units in two adjoining two‐story walk-up-style buildings.
St. Michael’s site will provide outdoor community spaces designed to serve the emotional and social places residents experience while they are residents. Seeds of Hope and the Church have developed a plan for an urban farm on site, utilizing edible landscaping, native plants, and a community garden to promote sustainable, healthy living. Produce grown onsite will be a resource for meals prepared in the onsite commercial kitchen where residents can learn basic cooking skills. As part of the comprehensive repositioning of the existing site, a new friary, chapel, and parish hall will be added.
Linda and I certainly had no idea on our wedding day what the Holy Spirit might have planned in the Santa Ana winds for Saint Michaels, or our lives together for that matter. We would never have expected this all-white congregation to become mostly BIPOC. The Sherman Institute, an Indian School less than 2 miles away that in the 60’s the community avoided, would become The Sherman Indian High School and become very involved in the ministry of Saint Michaels.
We would never have expected Saint Michaels to declare this as their mission statement… We are where people can start over, worship, get food, get sober, learn something new, study the Bible, make new friends, grow a garden, cook, get support for health problems, and learn about other cultures. We are filled with Joy.
What are the questions we might consider listening closely to the Holy Spirit for the community of Saint John’s looking into our future together?
What would we let go of?
What would the St John’s Branch of the Jesus Movement look like?
What would it feel like for you?
Where would you experience joy?
In the Way of Love, we trust in hopefulness that the world ends in peace. The end of our current chaotic violent world, the birthing a peaceful one. The end of an impoverished world, birthing a world of abundance. The end of a hateful world, birthing a world of justice, pulsing with love. The end of our planet at risk of extinction birthing a world of clean water, soil, and air. The Peace that passes understanding birthed from the depths of violence: the Holy Child of God.