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[HoB/D] Old Fashioned Revival Hour -- Kleenex Alert

Dolly [not her real name] is a treasure in my parish and a bit of a kook. 
She volunteers for everything, and works independently at it like a 
Trojan.  Most find it impossible to work with her, because she is so 
bossy.  She scrubs, she cleans, she cooks, she ushers.....and at the same 
time she sometimes re-organizes things so that no one else can find them.  
She folds, stuffs and stamps with the rigor of Rosie the Riveter, not with 
the others, but alone in a room that she refers to as her "office."  "Put 
that in my office," she sometimes orders a passing choirboy as she points 
to a box of assorted items.

Recently two of my former students invited me to lunch.  One is an 
Arab/Puerto Rican, about to finish med school.  The other is a Portuguese 
poet and journalist. They are two of the brightest people I know, and I 
learn much from them.  They are not religious. They became friends when 
they took several of my classes together six and seven years ago.  We 
reconnect frequently.  The courses they liked the most were two Bible as 
Literature classes -- one semester of Hebrew Scriptures, one of Christian 

Since they wanted to go to lunch this time on a Sunday, I suggested that 
they join me at Grace Church en route.  "I'm not proselytizing," I 
stressed, "but you need to experience Anglocatholicism as part of your 
ongoing education."  They registered no reluctance.

The person in charge of ushers was late, so Dolly appointed herself to the 
task.  Before I noticed her, she whispered to my two guests that they were 
to take the oblations to the altar at the appropriate time in the service.  
(Not "Would you be willing to?" but "You are to ......"  Vintage Dolly.) 
When I realized what she had told them, they were politely shaking their 
heads 'no.'

No one says no to Dolly.  "But they are here as guests, Dolly," I 
importuned.  She glared daggers at me.

"We'll do it," one of them said.  I was silently fuming, sure that they 
would think that I had set Dolly up to ask them.  I apologized profusely 
over lunch.  They smiled graciously.  "No big deal," they said.

Yesterday my parish hosted a diocesan workshop on evangelism for all the 
Episcopal parishes in the city of Newark.  Dolly arrived late and joined 
the same breakout group with me just as we were discussing how each of us 
came into the Episcopal Church.  All except me had been Roman Catholics, 
including Dolly.  One who is now a school teacher had been a priest, and 
left because he was gay and couldn't take the repression anymore. Another 
found out about Grace years ago when a family member sang in our men and 
boys choir.  She left the Catholic Church for 10 years, and remembered how 
much she had liked Grace when she visited to hear him sing.  Meanwhile, 
she had lost a dear family member to AIDS, and she knew that Grace would 
provide space for healing in her grief.

All the "ex" Roman Catholics still go to Roman Catholic Masses and 
confession fairly often.  "I'm an Episcopalian," Dolly said, "but there is 
only one God."

"Why did you join Grace?" I asked Dolly; "what brought you here?"

"Well, I live across the street, so of course I checked it out, especially 
for some of the daily masses.  It's actually more like the Catholic Church 
I grew up in.  I can make my confessions in the booth beside our the side 
chapel.  And Father Holland is very nice to me.  But the reason I decided 
to stay was different.  I came to a wedding here that could not happen 
anywhere else.  I knew the groom. All of you know him too.  He's one of 
the nicest persons anywhere.  Clay.  You know Clay, don't you?"  she asked 

I nodded yes.  She had no extra twinkle in her eye, and intended no irony.

"I waited for the bride to appear, but no bride came.  Another man came 
instead.  I don't remember who he was.  He was a white guy.  And they were 
married right here in this church.  It was beautiful.  That's when I 
decided to stay.I want to remain a part of a church that can do that.

It did not seem the time to identify myself as the mystery second groom, 
nor the time to clarify that she had not attended a wedding, but rather a 
renewal of the wedding vows which Ernest and I had taken on February 2, 
1974 -- 25 years before the service she attended.

"I keep a stand," she continued.

"A what?" I asked.  I was quite caught up in my emotions at this time, and 
don't hear all that well even in the best of times.  I thought she meant 
to say, "I take a stand."

"I keep a stand," she said impatiently. "I sell things at my stand on 
Broad Street, just outside here.  And Clay has sometimes seen me when he's 
downtown to do treasurer stuff, and has occasionally helped me at my 
stand.  He such a nice guy.

"Also, lots of those people, the gays, walk by my stand.  I can detect 
them some of the time, and when I do, I like to make them feel good.  
'You look gorgeous, girl,' I say to some of the men, and they always break 
out in a great smile.

"At this church I can be a part of a group that makes all people feel 

When my mother-in-law Mae Del Clay died in 1998, the whole congregation at 
her Baptist church swayed in floods of grief.  It seemed like the building 
itself was rocking with us.  Ernest "lost it" big time for a while; this 
was a space safe for his paroxysms of grief.  The congregation marvelously 
enfolded us mourners with love.  Many rose to testify to what Ms. Mae 
Del had meant to them.  The most moving of all was a woman known as the 
neighborhood drunk.  Weeping, she said, "None of you knew the Ms. Mae Del 
that I knew.  Even when she had almost nothing left that month, she would 
give me something of what she had.  One day Ms. Mae Del was walking down 
to the store and saw me drunk and passed out in the ditch.  She woke me, 
took me to her house, gave me a bath, fed me, and put me on the bed to 
sober up.  She slept all that night on the couch so I could sleep in her 

Like mother, like son, Dolly!  Like mother, like son.

1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.


This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

--Fanny Crosby, No 269 in The Baptist Hymnal 1956

Louie Crew, Chair of Newark Deputation.  Member of Executive Council
http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/rel.html  Anglican Pages

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