Thursday, September 12, 2013

St. Mary's Manhattanville Did Not Burn

Inspired by the work of the Search Committee, of which I am not a member, I have begun to put together a history of my parish church, St. Mary's Manhattanville, which I first attended in 1958 when I was a graduate student at Columbia.

St. Mary's was organinzed in December 1823 and a wooden church was built and dedicated in 1826.  In 1900 it was decided that the church was not big enough, and it was decided to plan for the erection of a new church.  Financial considerations delayed the project, but the old church was torn down in 1908 and a new church constructed.  The new church was dedicated in 1909.

In Harlem Lost and Found, Michael Henry Adams says that the wooden frame church burned.  This is an error, and it has been repeated since, on many websites.   In fact, as noted on St. Mary's Blog, the sermon at the last service in the old church was given by the son of a former rector (and the grandson of the first rector.)

Among the websites which repeat the error are:
Immigrant Entrepreneurship: Jacob Schieffelin, a site with valuable biographical information on one of the founders and a first warden of St. Mary's;
Lost Manhattanville ?, Michael Henry Adams own site - well worth visiting; and
St. Mary's Church - Manhattanville, a site of the American Guild of Organists.  and another page worth visiting.

Friday, August 30, 2013

1974 and 1975

Just over six and a half years ago, I posted Elegy and Epithalamion -- a piece that looked back to early 1973 when my partner Rex Slauson died after suffering a massive heart attack in a gay bathhouse.  The post included this picture of Rex taken at the 1973 Twelfth Night party at St. Mary's.
Beside Rex is Jane Dudley -- they were the King and Queen of the evening.  Also featured is a copy of Women Priests: Yes or No? by Suzanne Hiatt and St. Mary's own Emily Hewitt.  A little over a month later, Rex was dead.  A little over two years later, I married Jane's mother Liz Dudley  and now Jane is my daughter and the mother of my grandchildren.  In between, Emily Hewitt  and Suzanne Hiatt were ordained priests in Philadelphia.  Along with Emily, another of the Philadelphia Eleven at St. Mary's was Carter Heyward. 

The push for women's ordination was only peripherally connected to St. Mary's.  We were hospitable and many of us were supportive, but the drive came from the women themselves.  It appeared to some of the Afro American and Afro Caribbean women in the congregation that this was a white women's movement.  In early 1973 the involvement of Philadelphia's Church of the Advocate, the sermon by Charles Willie, and the participation of Barbara Harris as crucifer were all in the future.

In 1973 I was Clerk of the Vestry at St. Mary's.  Carter and Emily were ordained deacons at the regular spring ordinations.  Come December, St. Mary's implored Bishop Paul Moore to ordain them to the priesthood, along with the male deacons from the spring, but of course he did not.  On April 21, Low Sunday, in 1974, my 38th birthday, at St. Mary's Annual Meeting,  Liz Dudley nominated me as Warden and I was elected.  [In those days, our Annual Meeting was officially on the Tuesday in Easter week, but it was always adjourned to the following Sunday.]

In May, Doug Clark, another deacon who was serving at St. Mary's, was scheduled to be ordained priest in New York and at St. Mary's on behalf of his Florida bishop.  Again we implored Bishop Moore and the Standing Committee to consent to the concurrent priesting of our two women deacons.  Our request was denied.  In the event, Carter Heyward preached at Doug's ordination. As Clerk and then Warden, I was the author of several letters to the Bishop and Standing Committee at that time.  As it happens, I kept carbons of my letters and also my copies of the replies.  I recently gave those papers to the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship at The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary (both Emily and Carter were at Union while they were at St, Mary's.)  Included in that gift were the picture above of Rex and Jane and the very copy of Women Priests: Yes or No? that Rex is holding in the picture.

This spring, archival copies of my papers, as well as other material, was included in an exhibit at General Theological Seminary's Keller Libray called “…because they are women and not men”, a quotation from Neale A. Secor, our then rector.

And now I come to the point of this post. In June, Liz and I, Neale, his partner Ricardo, his son and daughter in law Tom and Carla, and a few others met at General to see the exhibit.  We had a picnic lunch in a conference room and over lunch Neale, Liz,  and I were reminiscing about St. Mary's in the mid 1970's.  It was Neale who remarked that the women were in charge of the ordination project -- certainly not St. Mary's and especially not we men at St. Mary's.  (It was only a few years since women were allowed on vestries in New York.)

Neale happened to mention that St. Mary's was involved in accepting donations to the establishment of Integrity -- we provided tax deductibility.  I was intrigued.  In 1974, I was Warden, and gay. and I knew nothing about it.  Neale said Louie Crew twisted his arm and I could find out more from him.  As it happens, I am Facebook friends with Louie Crew, although I do not know him personally.  The other day I saw a post that Louie and his husband Ernest, who were married in a religious ceremony about a year before Liz and I were married, had just had a civil marriage in New York State.  I took the opportunity to congratulate Louie and Ernest and then I asked him about his recollection of the "money washing."   He doen't have a clear recollection either and suggested it was to do with the New York chapter of Integrity.

Well!  It was time for mongoosing ("The motto of the mongoose family, so Mr. Kippling tells us, is 'Go and find out.'" - Murder of Roger Ackroyd)   From A Brief History of Integrity, I learned that Integrity began as a newsletter in November 1974.

November, 1974.  I met Rex in a bar at 415 Amsterdam Avenue in the wee hours of November 5, 1958.  Sixteen years later, in 1974, I think it was November 6, Liz invited me to a concert at St. Thomas Church where her nephew Chuck was a chorister.  At the end of that week, I invited myself to move in with Liz.  We have been together ever since.

I was transitioning from a nearly 15 year gay relationship to marriage with Liz.  We were married on February 8, 1975.   At the time, Liz's daughter Jane was living with her grandparents in Vermont.  At the end of the school year, Jane came back to New York to live with us.  Also we moved from Liz's two bedroom apartment to our new three bedroom apartment.

Remember stress points?  In the period from February 1973 to July 1975 I had (a) lost a male partner  (to death), (b) married a woman, (c) moved twice, (d) acquired a thirteen year old daughter.  Mongoosing hasn't helped me find how many points that is.  But it's a lot.  No wonder I didn't notice that Integrity was being founded under my nose.  Especially since I was convinced that it didn't matter that I had been gay.  (By the way, it took me almost twenty years to admit to myself and to Liz that I am and always have been gay.)

The chronology is not completely clear from sources on the internet, but apparently the first convention of Integrity was held in Chicago in the late summer of 1975, before September 7 when four women were ordained in Washington.   The Brief History says that immediately after the convention "Co-President Jim Wickliff and Editor Louie Crew called the first meetings of chapters in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City, on their way to meet in September with the Presidng Bishop."  So Louie Crew was involved in founding the New York chapter.

Memory is an odd thing.  I was 77 in April of this year.  According to, Louie Crew will be 77 on December 9 and Neale Secor was 79 on July 3.  We are all in the same cohort.  And we all have different memories of that time almost forty years ago.

It was clear to Rex, on Twelfth Night 1973; it was clear to me; it is clear to Bishop Robinson; but it is not clear to every gay man now nor was it in 1973, that the oppression of  gay men and the oppression of women, straight or gay, are inextricably intertwined.

More later

Thursday, August 29, 2013


I spend an awful lot of time at the computer. For many years I have been listening to (classical) music on the radio all the time. Let's say for over fifty years -- when I first came to New York, there were at least three 24 hours classical musivc stations. at Heart Lake there are two -- well, they're now 24 hour, but not 24 hour music -- or not classical music. Anyway, I now mostly listen live to the BBC (Radio 3) on the computer. The music helps me work. Recently, I discovered that there are full operas and operettas on youtube. Two days age I watched the met Opera Bartered Bride with Teresa Stratas, Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers and Msrtti Talvea. I have long been wanting to see and hear this again, Then last night I watched the NYC Opera production of The Merry Widow, a glorious production which inspired me to mongoose a little and I'll write abohut that later. Tonight I watched a concert production of HMS Pinafore from the BBC Proms ion 2005, conducted by Charles Mackerras. The problem with videos is that I get engaged in them and don't write. Audio files without video are better for writing. More later.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Last Sunday I blogged about wellness problems that Liz and I are enduring right now.  I informed a few friends about the blog post and two of them acknowledged it in emails.

Until today, I have never posted statuses in Facebook.  Every now and then, when i sign a petition, I have it posted to Facebook.  I have also used Facebook to send messages, for instance when the coroner called me to tell me that my brother Philip was found dead in his apartment, I used Facebook to get in touch with my nephew.  But I have never before used Facebook to report on my status.

I have 111 Facebook friends.  They fall into three (or four) categories.  One group is my relatives,  including my dead Uncle Chuck.  Another is people I got to know when I began blogging in earnest a few (maybe six or seven) years ago.  They range from June Butler (Grandmère Mimi,) a laywoman a year older than I to Toby Haller, a priest in the Diocese of New York; they are all Anglicans and all are gay or gay-friendly .  A third group is people I know either from Morningside Gardens or other contexts.  The fourth group is people I know from my 55 years at St. Mary's Manhattanville. (Forgive me, I'm speaking [that is, writing] impressionistically here, because obviously with only 111 people, I could figure out my connection to each of them.  But that is not the point of this post.)  

Facebook sends me emails that say that 5 friends have posted updates.  I used to click on them all the time.  My cousin Leslie posts Bible verses; Ken Arnold, an erstwhile deacon at St. Mary's, posts updates on his serious health issues; and several people post links to their blogs.

Today, I posted an update on Facebook on Liz's and my health issues.  As of now, I have received comments from two cousins, a St. Mary's friend, a Morningside Gardens friend, and my brother-in-law.  There's something to be said for Facebook.

More personal stuff

A week later, Liz and I are still not recovered.  It now appears that Liz's problem was not kidney stones after all.  Now her New York GP thinks it is most likely Lyme Disease.  She has begun a regime of pills for that, and may be beginning to feel somewhat better.

My ear and balance problem are still with me, and I expect to see my own doctor on Monday. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 2013

Here it is the middle of August and once again our family (daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters) are visiting us at Heart Lake.

It's been ages since I posted anything on this blog -- the reasons are various, and this post is going to be intensely personal.  At St. Mary's, which currently has no rector, Liz and I are both deeply involved although neither of us is on the vestry.  Liz is chair of the Property Committee and the point person on two significant construction projects, both of which require loans to fund them.  She is also on the Search Committee, which right now is engaged in putting together a parish profile.

I am once again treasurer, and I'm trying to get our financial reporting in order.  As a retired high school math teacher, and before that a pension actuary, you might think I would know something about bookkeeping and accounting, but in fact I never learned anything about either.  The saving grace is that I am pretty bright and also a good mongoose (the motto of the mongoose family is "go and find out.")  So I at least manage to keep up with the bookkeeping and am making slow progress towards improving the reporting.

This summer we knew we would be here at Heart Lake somewhat less than usual -- too many responsibilities keep pulling us back to New York and St. Mary's.   But three weeks ago we set out from New York with the expectation of having a pleasant and productive month here, with only two quick returns to the city.  On the way Liz began experiencing back pain.  It took a week and a half before it was diagnosed as kidney stones.   The pain medication is constipating, and Liz is often in great discomfort and/or severe pain.

Meanwhile, I had an incipient sore throat at the same time, and I kept expecting it to develop into either a chest cold or a head cold.   But it didn't -- in four or five days I began experiencing pain in my jaw and ear, as well as severe balance problems.  An emergency room doctor here in Montrose told me I had TMJ, with arthritis in the jaw joint.  A week later, I went to my own doctor in New York, and he saw a canker sore way in the corner of the back of my mouth.  I began using Orajel, and I think the canker sore is gone.  But the ear ache is still with me, although much milder.  Also my balance is closer to normal, but I am still not recovered.

The worst thing for me, apart from the discomfort, is that in the last three weeks I have not been at all productive.  Now I have to at least rise to the occasion of a vestry meeting next Sunday, for which I need to have a financial report.  I'll make it, but it will be a struggle.

I'm sorry for the tone of this post.  I really want to write about the concerns that normally occupy my attention -- environment, the state of the world politically and economically, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Trayvon Martin, the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA, all that stuff.  I'm usually stopped from writing about those things by the pressures of everyday life -- and by my aversion to saying something trite.  I hope to resume again before too long.