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 Scriptures. 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 me. 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 welcome." 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 bed." 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. Refrain: Refrain: 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 Lutibelle/Louie Louie Crew, Chair of Newark Deputation. Member of Executive Council http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/rel.html Anglican Pages
Please sign my guestbook and view it.
Statistics courtesy of