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Old South Church
Boston MA 02116
This past year, Old South Church’s Women’s Guild went gently into that good night but not before commemorating its nearly 80 years of service in a touching and memorable farewell luncheon on November 6, 2004. Due to its declining and aging membership, the Women’s Guild decided to disband this past year in favor of the other Old South fellowship groups that have come into prominence to take its place. But in one final act of generosity, the Guild decided to turn over its $330,000 in funds over to the Board of Ministers and Deacons to help continue the work of the church.
The Women’s Guild at Old South Church was established in 1925 and had, at its height, its own board, bylaws, and a very large annual budget. For Old South members of more recent vintage (say, membership of under 30 years!) it may be hard to imagine what an active and powerful influence the Women’s Guild was for many years. At its height during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the Women’s Guild boasted hundreds of active members in five different service organizations (Morning Guild, Afternoon Guild, Evening Guild, Junior Guild, and the Dorcas Group) each encompassing a different age or interest group. They met so frequently that at one point they employed a full-time cook!
Historically, this was a time when church government (not only at Old South but throughout the US) was dominated by all-male Councils, Deacons and other standing committees. The Women’s Guild at Old South arose as a parallel organization to provide balance and perspective — as well as do much of the “real work” of the church. In paralleling the women’s liberation movement in the US, it is no accident that the Women’s Guild helped Old South to the forefront of that wave of change as well. Not only were women finally accepted as Deacons of the church, but in 1974, Catherine Dauber became the first woman Moderator of Old South Church.
At this farewell luncheon, many spoke movingly of their memories of service, fellowship, humor, and friendship over these many years. We thought the best way to commemorate the Women’s Guild was to bring you many of these thoughts in their own words.
Janet Butler: in 1963, I joined the Junior Guild which was really a joke, because we were not “juniors!” I remember delivering over 25 Christmas baskets in a station wagon with Edra Mercer in the back, and how we had to make sure we washed and polished all the grapes!
Jean Knudsen remembered how she worked in the church school when she first joined the Guild in 1971.
Marilyn Bryant recalled being one of the first woman deacons along with Mary Kendrick and Barbara Ames and how they had to “count the silver and make sure to iron out all the wrinkles from the tablecloth.”
Jane Shakespeare joined the Guild in 1947, and recalls how the Guild “did everything” and how Florence Scarpas in particular “stayed on top of everything” at the church!
Eleanor Jensen, another Guild member who continues to do everything at the church, recalled being one of the younger generation who joined the Dorcas group in 1959. She remembers the elegant sense of style she was introduced to at Guild events, including such things as “those decadent fresh strawberries in powdered sugar!”
Mary Kendrick joined the Guild in 1949 and served as Church Historian for many, many years. She recalled how Senior Minister Dr. Meek suggested to the Dorcas Group that their purpose be to serve as a “social organization that did good works.” She remembered them making over 150 sandwiches at a session to bring to the Charleston YMCA. Not only did they serve but they celebrated in style as well. “Each year, the Evening Guild celebrated all their birthdays at once at a winter meeting. As was customary, the evening meeting consisted of a dinner followed by a program with guest speakers or a musical rendition. But this winter meeting was special. The waitresses, dressed as always in their pink smocks, would each bear a decorated cake with a lighted candle and march single file around Mary Norton Hall and up the center aisle. As they filed around, they sang ‘Happy Birthday,’ the waitresses would then take their cakes to the tables. It was a happy, formal affair.”
Barbara Ames joined in 1949 and was one of the first women Deacons. Also many in Theater at Old South recall the countless beautiful scenery panels and backdrops that Barbara lent her wonderful artistic talents to over the years.
Marilyn MacIver Lord had many good memories of the 50s & 60s at the Guild and had particularly “fond memories of teaching Sunday School.”
Margaret Linda joined the Guild in 1950 and recalls part of the “women’s
job” to be serving dinner at the “Home for Little Wanderers.” She also
contributed a humorous poem, the Senility Prayer by Kate Howard:
God, grant me the Senility / To forget the people
I never liked anyway / The good fortune
To run into the ones I do / And the eyesight
To tell the difference.
“It’s a sample of the kind of thing that Catherine Dauber always managed to find and bring to our meetings. She had quite a collection — just wish I had kept more of them.”
Edra Mercer, a member for over 50 years, recalls being personally invited by Mrs. Erb, the Director of the Church School & Preschool to join the Junior Guild, which “I perceived to be an exclusive group. That was the ultimate!” She recalls the fine work needed in making layettes and even diapers which had to be “finished around the edges!” Edra recalls her nervousness at the standard the Guild set as she “tried to make everything so perfect.” Once, in preparing a casserole dish, her Pyrex top fell, rolled on the floor, hit and cracked in half. In tears, she recalls telling her friend, “I can’t come!” (She was persuaded that she would not be drummed out of the Guild for using aluminum foil as a top.) Through her experiences with the Women’s Guild and at Old South (where she has done Sunday childcare for many decades), she credits her own “self-actualization to be a parent, and an American citizen.” She recalls some of the furor and debate at church over women joining Council and becoming Deacons: “Would they wear tails, too?” some men asked, since ushers at worship service in those days wore coat and tails.
Claire Flury joined the Guild in 1958 and continues to serve the church in the Sunday childcare program. She remembers how the Women’s Guild was so welcoming to her and in its absence, she “hopes that welcome can continue and not get lost.”
Agnes Maloof went “back and forth” in the Women’s Guild over the years. She and several Guild members wanted to extol such extraordinary women as Edna Leper, Elsbeth Percy, and Catherine Dauber — all Moderators of the Church, and “all of these women who could do anything! Women of such vision and competence, that we may not see their likes again.” Others highlighted the many contributions of past women guild members, such as Dorthea Walker, Grace Guy, Florence Scarpas, Edna Lepper, Amy Meek, Edra Toppen, Margaret Cocker, Mildred Scott, and Virginia Tansey among the many others.
Janet Bayley, one of the mainstays of the Guild, writes that what we now call the “Christian Service & Outreach committee used to be known as the Women’s Guild!” Among their duties included the following: 1)delivering Sunday flowers to shut-ins and the hospitalized, 2)visiting Nursing Homes and taking residents out for a drive and a meal, 3)setting up tables, waitressing, cleanup and working in the kitchen at many church functions, 4)providing layettes for the City Missionary Society and delivered toys at Christmas for their bazaars, 5)driving for the blind and giving them a monthly meeting, meal and program. 6)doing all the church housekeeping jobs; 7)folding bandages for the Red Cross, 8)sponsoring a Girl Scout troop; 9)contributing substantially to the annual Church budget; 10)helping to start the Nursery School as a safe place for young mothers to leave their children while they worked or needed some time off, or to attend Guild meetings; and 11)holding weekly meetings with speakers on both religious and current events.
Duane & Janice Day joined the church in 1979 thanks to an invitation
by Guild stalwart Grace Guy. They hosted many Women’s Guild lunches up
in New Hampshire, even coaxing Amy Meek down from Maine on occasion. Duane
writes, “I marvel at all the service projects of the Women’s Guild . .
. I believe the world became a more peaceful place as more and more women
assumed senior political positions. Somehow God made women more sensitive,
nurturing and loving . . .”
Della Schultz recalled the warm welcome she received from the Women’s Guild upon their arrival two years ago and how they invited her to speak at a luncheon. She returned the favor to these angels of the church by presenting each of them at the time with “a silver angel to watch over them.”
At this luncheon, the Women’s Guild received tributes and thanks from Dwight Crane of the Trustees who thanked the Guild for their legacy of service, value, and empowerment of women leaders in the church. Thanks also came from Senior Deacon Betty Smith, Kate Layzer (who helped organize this event with the staff) and finally, in summation, by Carl Schultz who thanked the Women’s Guild for their “long service and faithfulness.” He credited the Women’s Guild for paving the way for groups such as Women Doing Theology and Women at the Well, and for all the women ministers who have come into the church, even to the point where Old South has now named Nancy Taylor as its first woman Senior Minister.
Carl closed the luncheon by recalling some advice he received early in his ministerial career from a colleague, “The deacons of the church may think they’re in charge, but never forget the real power in the church are the women — they do all the heavy lifting. . . . We at Old South Church are indebted to every one of you.”+
Over the last two plus years, Old South Church has been truly graced by the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Carl F. Schultz, Jr. as its Interim Senior Minister. When he and his wife Della first arrived at OSC in the fall of 2002, the Winter 2003 Reporter called him an “Interim Extraordinaire” based on his 34 years of experience as a Senior Minister in the First Church of Christ UCC in Glastonbury, Connecticut. After two years, we see that description was no hyperbole as his steady and visionary leadership has made these past two years not one of standing still but one of accomplishment and growth.
As he completes his interim assignment on January 23, 2005 and Nancy Taylor takes her place as Old South’s new Senior Minister, we thought it appropriate to achieve some closure on Carl’s tenure by interviewing him one last time. In a far-ranging discussion that touched on many different aspects of the church, we once again were impressed by his insights, his thoughtfulness, and his wisdom. We bring you some excerpts of that conversation and hope they will also make you further appreciate how lucky Old South has been to have Carl Schultz as our Interim Senior Minister for the past two years.
On Expectations vs. Experience. “I didn’t come to Old South Church with any definite expectations on what this experience might bring,” Carl maintained. “Each church has its own personality.” But what Carl did find was that “this congregation has more diversity than I was used to in Glastonbury, which is a nice change as far as we were concerned.” The most striking change he found at an urban setting like Old South from the suburban church setting he was used to was in the large number of needy people who come in off the street, which requires both compassion and a certain street savvy. He credits the narthex desk staff and Jennifer Mills-Knutsen and Kate Layzer for being gracious enough to handle most of these situations. But as far as the urban living experience goes, he said, “we have enjoyed almost every moment of being at the church and being in the city. The church has been gracious enough to give us housing nearby. If we want to go to the symphony, we can walk or take the T. It has been a wonderful, wonderful experience.”
On Preaching. One of the most memorable things Carl will remember about these past two years is “preaching in the Old South pulpit from Sunday after Sunday.” He adds, “You know this is a wonderful congregation to preach to. People are very attentive, very responsive, sometimes they even anticipate the direction in which you are going. There is a saying that ‘Congregations get the preaching they deserve.’ This congregation encourages and loves the best out of a preacher. When you are looking forward to that pulpit, you just want to give it the very best you can. It’s a great congregation to preach to.”
One preaching highlight in particular stands out for him. “Preaching downtown at the historic Old South Meeting House is tremendous! To think of standing in that pulpit where not only Jim Crawford stood but where George Washington and Samuel Adams stood — it’s like a Who’s Who of American history. Then to say, ‘Well, here am I.’”
On the Challenges & Accomplishments. When he first arrived at Old South, Carl reported being asked pointedly, “Are we going to go forward or are we going to just mark time?” He answered back then, “I don’t believe there’s any standing still. You are either going forward or you are slipsliding away.” During these past two years, not only have substantial new pledges come in but also over 75 new members have joined the church, which, not surprisingly, is most unusual during an interim ministry. Carl noted that “these statistics are like the vital signs of the body for a church. Giving has not fallen back, in fact it has increased by some $150,000 in new pledges over two years. This speaks well for the morale of the congregation and what we have been able to accomplish.”
While Carl feels that he has largely left the Old South liturgy intact, that is not to say he hasn’t done a little tweaking here and there. Many have observed that the length of Sunday worship seems to be more regular and timely. Carl admits that timing has “been a priority of mine” and that running a “tighter ship” perhaps came out of his experience in running a two service church, where he says with a twinkle in his eye, “if the first service doesn’t get out in time, the second service people can’t get in the parking lot!” Also, in particular, he points to Communion Sundays as one time when “if it goes on too long, it becomes counterproductive.”
Without a doubt, there are also a lot of serious administrative concerns that most in the church are unaware of such as the transition of sexton staff with the retirement of David Clark, the promotion of Elias Perez as Senior Sexton, along with other administrative changes have taken place to enable Old South to achieve a more efficient and flexible sexton staff. “We burned a lot of calories on these issues,” said Carl.
When praised for tackling the tough issues rather than smoothing them over and leaving the real cleanup work for the next minister to handle, he credited the Interim Staff Relations Committee of Russell Gregg, Bill Bulkely, Deborah Berman, Eli Pierce, John Weingartner, and Tom Bulkeley that has helped him steer the ship and for giving him the sounding board and feedback he needed to know which issues needed to be tackled right away and not ignored. “Oh, I’ve let some sleeping dogs lie,” he adds with a smile, “I want to give Nancy some things to do!”
On the OSC Staff. “I was very fortunate to have Lael [Murphy, now Atkinson] here when I arrived.” Carl noted. “As Associate Minister, she stepped aside and made room for me, something which does not always happen. She was tremendously helpful. In addition, Carl says that Jennifer Mills-Knutsen has “proven to be such a wonderful, wonderful colleague. She is wise in the ways of the church beyond her years and has been an unfailing source of solid counsel. She has done a marvelous job representing the church in the community.”
Gregory Peterson has also been a “valued colleague, a tremendous musician, a person of deep faith and a love of the church.” He further notes that Kate Layzer “has brought the pastoral ministry forward in a way that has been a significant contribution, such as with the new Care Teams” Tricia Hazeltine continues to provide “a solid ministry with the children.” Carl went on to observe that “it has been a joy and a learning experience to work alongside this talented and committed staff: Eliza Blanchard, Helen McCrady, Carolyn Davis, Elias Perez and all the sextons, Rhoda Harding, Ellie Marshall and Ruby Reyes.
Carl adds that the continued interest and sage advice of one retired minister by the name of James W. Crawford has also been invaluable over this time as well. He can also credit Jim for hosting he and Della to another once-in-a-lifetime type experience: all twelve heart-pounding innings of Game 4 of the Red Sox/Yankees Championship Series (you know, the game that changed everything!)
Carl continued that one of the strongest aspects of Old South Church is that “We have wonderful, wonderful lay leadership. . . .We’ve made some progress in a lot of important areas. . . .The ministry is made up of all one piece of cloth. We rise and fall together.”
On Our Facility. Carl says that we have made “tremendous improvements in the building.” He modestly admits that he has “pushed to improve security of the building,” advocating for such changes as the surveillance cameras, remotes on the door locks and sensors to tell when the doors are shut. “It is important to protect the security of our own staff and our own members when they are in the building.”
When asked about the dichotomy of the desire to open our doors to more ministries and more people, combined with the need to maintain a secure facility, Carl says that the ability to walk this fine line might be called a kind of “Heads Up Christianity,” where one can be open to new possibilities of outreach but still on-guard to the possible dangers that can jeopardize the church.
On the Challenges Ahead for the Church. Carl is not shy about making suggestions of where the future challenges for Old South lie, but he prefaced his remarks by saying “I have every confidence that Nancy will make a very significant contribution to Old South” and that he, of course, “can’t speak for her.”
That being said, some of the ideas he has discussed as possibilities for the future are as follows:
a) increasing the frequency of communion, perhaps with a monthly chancel
communion, or family service communion;
b) increasing the number of services as Carl said, “rule of thumb: the more services you have, the greater the attendance. Consider an Sunday evening service for college students (one large untapped potential group) and young people with an alternate service of worship with different music. Consider an earlier morning Sunday worship service or a regular healing service;
c) offer more hospitality to the large number of people who come in the doors during the week;
d) open the church to other church youth groups to stay
e) use the church do create a vacation church school with the City Mission Society or else create after-school tutorial program;
f) consider using the church as a center for special workshops on urban ministry, or on UCC Heritage, or on preaching — in general, find more ways to use this building as part of the church’s greater mission;
g) develop more small group and intergenerational ministries, such as a marriage enrichment group, a divorce recovery group, or a “dining by 9” (group of 9 people who eat together – odd number so not just all couples). “Some people prefer to come into the church for the first time not via worship but in a perceived safer way such as a study or fellowship group,” explained Carl;
h) the single biggest budget problem may be that we need to put away money for maintenance against future needs. “It’s never easy raising money to retire debt or maintain facilities;”
Does the Church really want to grow? Changes such as most of those noted above “are going to cost money — where will it come from?” said Carl. “It goes back to my question of ‘Does the Old South church really want to grow?’ “(Reporter, Spring 2004). “People tend to get pretty comfortable and feel it’s okay to grow . . . as long as its pretty much the same,” Carl said. “But growth means some radical changes and will take some getting used to. Change the culture and it may change the church you love.”
“If Old South does decide to sustain an emphasis of growth,” then hand
in hand, Carl added that the “church needs to do a better job of honoring
its long-term members, honor the people who are foundation of the congregation
as well as to have some way to say good-bye to members who are moving away.”
What’s Next for Carl & Della? “Who knows, who knows?” answered Carl. But what we do know is that he is not burned out (“Far from it!”) and in fact anxious to take on another Interim position “later in the spring perhaps.” Having fielded a number of inquiries on his availability already, Carl has found that his multi-staff experience has made him much in demand, but for this next assignment, he and Della would like to find one closer to home in Glastonbury. “I love the parish ministry. I love the church, the people, working with the staff. As one of my colleagues said to me, ‘If you’ve got a little gas left in your tank, why don’t you do it?’ I just love the parish. It really is the greatest job in the world. . . . It has been a tremendous experience at Old South Church. People keep asking me, ‘Aren’t you glad it’s over?’ and I always answer, ‘No, I’m not!’ ”+
On November 14, 2005, Old South Church honored retiring Senior Sexton David Clark after over 25 years of faithful service at Old South Church. His achievements as Senior Sexton include overseeing a multi-sexton staff for most of those years and being instrumental in bringing the magnificent 1921 Skinner Organ from St. Paul, Minnesota to Old South Church in 1985.
After speeches from Moderator Russell Gregg and Senior Minister Carl F. Schultz, Jr. extolling his service and gifts from the congregation, David thanked everyone in his typical modest fashion. He leaves Old South not only the legacy of his wonderful care of Old South’s historic facility but also with the gift of his artwork, the stunning cross that adorns the southeast stairway of the Parish house (see photo above). The cross will be accompanied by a plaque in his honor. David left Old South with these final departing words, “I would like to remind you of what a treasure you have here in this building.” Amen to that! +
Four years ago, I was still in Denver working as a political science professor by day and a playwright and songwriter by night. I hatched a scheme to start a new theater company, so I could see more of my own new musical theater works actually up on stage. After one production, we were already in debt, so I hatched another scheme. I would write a new one-person show that I could perform to raise the needed cash. Within a month, the first version of The Diet Monologues was born.
Of course, we lost money yet again. If I’d been a smash success in Denver, we’d still be in Denver! I couldn’t get anyone to come and review the show, and I sometimes did a performance for as few as five people. We moved back East, and I performed the show in Providence and Cambridge, meanwhile working harder and harder at my playwriting skills. Finally, I decided to turn Diet Monologues into a multicast play with music.
Playwrights need places to see their work performed. We change things in rehearsal, we refine and cut and add. Unlike other forms of writing, a playwright needs the collaborative efforts of a number of people to make the work come to life. I was extremely grateful to find TAOS, Theater At Old South, all dressed up with nowhere to go at the beginning of this church year. We made an ideal match: a group of experienced, dedicated theater volunteers without a plan for a new production, and a new member of Old South with a new musical play in need of a willing theater group!
With the encouragement of Rev. Jennifer Mills-Knutsen, TAOS president Elizabeth Tustian, and the invaluable expertise and enthusiasm of director Tom Keydel along with sets wizard Elizabeth England, we were off and running.
Casting was a matter of luck, since we couldn’t pay any of the actors. Several church members brought their considerable talents to the project. Adrianna Repetto created an Irish accent for her speaking role, and sang like the angel she is. Alecia Battson, another section leader from our choir, gave amazing performances in the two most contrasting roles in the entire show, the Rapmaster and Sister Mary Rose. Phil Young gave a deliciously deadpan performance as Stevie, the construction worker, and Emma Stern played a teenager even though she isn’t old enough to be one yet!
Although I have had professional performances of my work in other places, this nonprofessional production will always hold a special place in my heart. We not only performed together but shared stories with each other and became a loving community on a mission. The last week before the show opened, I told the cast that this wasn’t just a play, I felt it was a “mission from God.” The show makes people laugh, and cry, and empathize, and care. The arts are part of God’s plan for helping us be better people, and I’m so proud that Old South knows this, and makes it part of the mission of this great, historic congregation.+
It should be a hymn for all of us after overdoing it this holiday season: “Comfort, comfort thou my overweight people.” Ring true? Of course it does! America has a weighty problem. We know this. But we at Old South also have Rev. Monica Bauer, former professor, holder of a “useless” PhD in research (her words), and playwright extraordinaire. And those are her words of comfort.
November 2004 saw the production of Monica’s musical, The Diet Monologues, at Old South and — if I may paraphrase Genesis without being struck down — it was good. Directed by Religion & Arts Chair Tom Keydel, it had a stellar cast featuring several Old South performers (Adriana Repetto, Phil Young, and Emma Stern) and a message that had audiences laughing, cheering, and tearing up.
Blame it on Eve Ensler, I suppose. She’s the one who wrote The Vagina Monologues, and spawned a raft of one-woman diatribes against the unfairness of this or that. I saw her play in New York and loved it. But, as a person who has struggled with weight all her life and who is aghast at the impossible body image crimes perpetrated against little girls by the media, The Diet Monologues really hit home for me.
Originally written as a one-woman performance (Monica has done all the parts herself), this production was cast for nine zaftig actors — three of whom could sing up a storm — and one young girl who was trying to discover the cause for her mother’s weight “problem.” The songs ranged from comic (“The Dieter’s Rap”) to heartbreaking (“Happiness”), and the presentation of “The Ten Commandments of Dieting” by Rev. Delphina Nasal was unforgettable. Take Commandment #3 on "the cream that is iced," for instance (see below this page). . . . Yup, been there. Done that.
This production has left the building, but I hope we’ll hear more from
Monica, who is currently writing at the prestigious Boston Playwright’s
Theater where she is enrolled in the Playwriting Program of the Graduate
Creative Writing Department at Boston University. After all, we want to
encourage as much Old South talent as we can, right? We want to hear more
truths. We want to hear more songs. We want to say “yes” to our strengths
and celebrate our differences. And as Rev. Delphina would say, “Can
I hear an
A-men for that? . . . [AMEN!] . . . I knew that I could!” +
Note: And now, by popular demand, here is an excerpt from the The Diet Monologues, “The Ten Commandments of Dieting.” If you want to get a copy of the entire script, it will be published soon by JAC Publishing and Promotions, and a CD of the songs will be available soon, contact <email@example.com>.
1. Thou shalt not eat of the fries that are called French, not even just one from somebody else’s portion, for if thou dost thy might as well go back and get the Biggie Sized for thyself, since thou hast already blown thy diet for the whole day.
2. Thou shalt not order Biggie Size, not even if thou plan to exercise later, for later shall turn into tomorrow verily, or even unto the next week.
3. Thou shalt not eat of the cream that is iced, but of the frozen yogurts thou must choose, for they are supposed to be healthy, even though the after-taste smite thy tongue and remindest thou of what thou art missing. Of the frozen yogurts, thou may choose of any kind, but not if thou addest toppings. For if thou addest Reese’s Pieces, then, sayest the Lord, who art thou trying to fool?
4. Thou shalt not eat of the miniature candy bars, of the Snickers or of the Musketeers, believing that ten or twenty of them does not count as a bar of normal size. For this reason, thou shalt not buy any Halloween candy that is any good; no, not even if neighborhood children shall call you names, or throw the eggs of the chicken at thy siding. Verily, it is better to give out sugar free gum, even if a small child occasionally flips thou the bird.
5. Of the bars of candy thou must not eat, except for those with the low fat. Of the low fat thou may eat, and of the Weight Watchers and Power Bars you may munch; but yea, neither ten or twenty of them either, lest thou miss the point entirely.
6. Thou shalt not drink of the fruit of the vine, or of the tree of the Scotch, for it takes but a moment for these empty calories to deposit on thy hips, and many laps in the pool to removest them. Not even one drink shall pass through thy lips, lest thy willpower dissolve, and one beginneth to say, “What the hell, make it a double”.
7. Thou shalt not eat of the popped corn, except it be popped in air and receiveth no butter. Even though it tasteth then like wood shavings, eat of it, and thou shalt be filled up.
8. Of all the vegetables thou may eat, of the crunchy and of the soft, the red and the green mayest thou eat, but not with dip. For, lo, dip is the Devil’s Own Device for turning healthy food into an excuse for eating sour cream, and thou knowest this is true.
9. Thou shalt not eat dessert, except for a piece of fruit or cup of sugar free jello. Nay, even though the person sitting next to thou eateth cheesecake, with great smacking of the lips, and yummy sounds.
10. Thou shalt not complain, for others around you are sick of hearing thee whine about thy diet. And likewise, if thou mentionest one more time how much weight thou have lost, around thy friends who have not lost any, then at the time of Judgement it will be they who enter my Kingdom of Eternal Cheesecake, while thou remainest on the Cabbage Soup Diet for all eternity. +
The Annual Crawford Lecture was initiated in 2002 in honor of the retirement of Rev. James W. Crawford who served as Old South’s Senior Minister for 28 years. On the evening of November 4, 2004, Old South Church had the privilege of hearing Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. as its invited 2004 Crawford Lecture speaker. “Pastor Wright” as his congregation calls him has served as Senior Minister of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1972. Dr. Wright holds a Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary, a Master’s degree from Howard University, an additional Master’s degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and seven honorary doctorate degrees. He has lectured at many seminaries and universities in the nation, and has represented Trinity and The United Church of Christ around the world. He is recognized as a leading theologian and pastor and has published four books and numerous articles.
Under his watch, Trinity UCC grew from 87 members to 8500 active members.
(He stresses “active” since there are far more members who simply sit in
the pews or want bragging rights that they belong to the same church as
Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.) The over seventy vibrant ministries that
helped grow and sustain Trinity offer excellent ideas “To Serve This Present
Age,” the apropos title of his lecture.
Before Rev. Wright stepped up to speak we had the pleasure of participating in a gospel sing-a-long. (A personal aside: this is the kind of music that always stirs my soul and spirit!) Interestingly enough, the power of this music was one of the topics of his lecture. Up until the late 60s, many colleges and churches (even African American congregations) didn’t permit gospel music. At that time, however, introducing this music did increase attendance in general, but especially among young people. Another successful strategy was to stop simply “serving the poor project dwellers” but to welcome them into the congregation as full and equal partners.
Things are far more complicated today, however. There are ministries designed to deal with the issues of illiteracy, single-parent homes, HIV/AIDS, cancer, prison re-entry, homelessness and general counseling to help with the stress of everyday life. Rev. Wright also underscored the importance of a two-fold ministry: both head and heart. “Head” refers to religious education, knowing the Bible and engaging in Christian education. Although this sometimes brings people into the Church, with a few exceptions, this seldom is enough to keep people there. This must be coupled with “Heart,” truly feeling God. In addition to uplifting music and fellowship, this is also accomplished by the unique ministries and preaching that honestly addresses today’s problems but reinforces hope that God will never fail us.
We’ve often heard the concept of “Two Americas” but in Chicago, Rev. Wright clearly sees more. Some of the challenges that he faces there are, unfortunately, not unique to that city. In addition to re-gentrification and “white flight,” this racially diverse city regrettably deals with many layers of racism. The city is not only segregated by neighborhood but by intraracial racism which, for example, pits black Americans against black Africans against Caribbean natives in addition to parallel issues existing within the Asian, Latino and European communities. Trinity United has tried to mend these fences and build bridges by sponsoring many international trips. Pride in one’s own heritage is the first step, followed closely by respect for the cultures and traditions of others. The good pastor also believes the foundation for fighting homophobia, racism, sexism, and all prejudices and “-isms” is to forever banish the theory that “different equals deficient.”
Finally, Pastor Wright reminded us of how important yet challenging is ministering to young people, especially today’s youth. Keeping up with today’s trends, fashion, music and pop culture isn’t about “being cool” but about understanding what is influencing the children and teens in our church and our communities. His daughter loves how Rev. Wright is so familiar with her songs but he sees this as not only parent-child bonding but as critical in communication. A perfect example is how some young men were using a word that many older people found offensive, obscene and possibly sexist. When they were admonished by one of the ministers, they were honestly confused as to what they said wrong. In their lexicon, this was a perfectly benign expression. Knowing in advance, to the greatest extent possible, how our youth think and what they are being exposed to goes a long, long way in successfully ministering to them.
The success that Trinity United has enjoyed in hundred-fold growth under Rev. Wright’s watch provides not only food for thought but great inspiration for any church in how “To Serve This Present Age”. +
On May 3, 2004, Kate Layzer joined the Old South family as our Interim Assistant Minister. Right away, you can sense this is a warm, caring person with a keen understanding of people. Appropriately enough, one of her major assignments is to serve on the Congregational Care and Support Committee. A couple months later, Kate graced the Old South pulpit with a sermon and incorporated an original hymn of hers into the service. A short biographical article on the Old South website <www.oldsouth.org> gives you some of the basic biographical information, but we wanted to give you a chance to know Kate better. She graciously agreed to the following interview where she shares her thoughts on the ministry and her own personal calling, her New England ties that preceded her West coast background, and on her coming into the church as adult. Reading about Kate in her own words will reinforce what a gifted and special person she is and how blessed we are to have her at Old South.
QUESTION: At what point in your life did you feel a calling to the ministry? Was there anything specific happening in the world or your own life at that time that made you feel this is the “defining moment?”
Kate Layzer: My experience of call really began in my childhood, with a call to be in relationship with God. I grew up in a family that avoided religion and religious beliefs. To move from skepticism to faith was a big step for me. I made it only because the sense of God’s reality and nearness finally became something I couldn’t ignore.
Once I began going to church, I was quickly drawn in. Church became the organizing center of my life. As I found myself spending more and more of my free time at church or working on church projects, I finally had to admit that what I really wanted to do with my life was go to theological school. I didn’t see myself as a minister in those days. I really didn’t know what I would do with a theological education. I just knew I wanted to serve the church in some way.
After I had been at Andover Newton for a while, I did have a vivid experience of being called by Jesus to ordained ministry. But in the beginning, I was simply following my heart. I didn’t know where it would lead.
Q. Ministers have so many diverse responsibilities. Is there any one that you consider your greatest joy? Conversely, is there any one that you consider your greatest challenge?
K. L.: My greatest joy at Old South right now is being part of the Congregational Care and Support Committee. The work that is being done by that group in partnership with the congregation fills me with gratitude, amazement, and hope. The committee itself is wonderfully caring and creative. I learn so much at our meetings. But what is equally moving to me is how the Old South congregation has responded to the invitation to reach out to one another. I could never have imagined what a warm and generous response we would get to our Care Crew initiative. The work we are doing together, committee and congregation, is holy work. I don’t know how else to describe it.
As for challenges, ministry is full of them. I’m learning every day, mostly by making mistakes. I suppose the biggest challenge of all is surviving my standards for myself. Preaching is still grueling work for me, because I have such a clear image of what I want to do in my sermons, and I rarely get there, even after much struggle. But that’s my own problem; that’s not something the job imposes on me.
Q. We are so blessed to have you here, but with so many churches that would surely welcome you, why did you pick Old South?
K. L.: The opportunity to serve at Old South came up unexpectedly. I had graduated from theological school in May 2003, but I was absorbed in a major project at my home congregation and had not yet put my ministerial profile together. When I was offered the Interim Assistant position, I had to make the decision whether to delay ordination for another year, because the Metro Boston Association of the UCC will not ordain a new minister to a one-year interim post. I decided to accept the position anyway, because I knew that it would be a wonderful learning opportunity for me. And it has been.
Q. You clearly have a gift for writing both poetry and song. When did you begin?
K. L.: I was an English major in college with a minor emphasis on creative writing, despite a total lack of talent. Fortunately I was able to recognize that and spare myself further embarrassment, though I did continue writing poetry privately. Then in 1989 the music director at my church issued an invitation to the congregation to contribute new hymn texts for a special celebration the church was planning. Give me a text, he said, and I’ll set it to music. I was intrigued, and started to experiment. We wrote two hymns together that year and have been writing together ever since.
Q. I understand your daughter Faith is away in college, but you and your husband Len still have a teenage boy, Sam, living at home. How do you balance your time to serve our church family and your own family?
K. L.: The answer is, “not very well.” I accepted the position at Old South on condition that I could limit my hours to three-quarter time. But I am quite busy, and it’s difficult to make enough time for the Mom side of my life—grocery shopping, cooking, making sure homework gets done. It’s hardest when there are a lot of evening meetings and events. Getting dinner on the table for my family is a challenge when I have to be back at church by 6:30 pm. My husband works long hours, so he’s not able to pick up a lot of slack.
Q. You’re originally from California. When did you come to New England and what brought you here?
K. L.: My mother grew up in Brookline, and my father spent his college and graduate years in the Boston area, so I grew up thinking of Boston as the ancestral homeland. On visits back, I fell in love with New England. I don’t think I ever seriously considered spending my college years anywhere else. I came to Brandeis in 1980 and have lived in the Boston area ever since except for some time abroad.
Q. What would you like to be doing in ten years?
K. L.: That’s a hard question for me to answer, because I love the church, but I also love learning. I’m certain I will return to theological school someday to pursue my studies, if nothing catastrophic prevents me. But for now, my life is in the church and in my formation as a minister. That’s where I feel called to learn, grow, and serve.
Q. Is there any one person, clergy or lay, that has been a guiding light to your ministry?
K. L.: I have had many wonderful models and teachers along the way, but the person who has shown me ministry as I would like to practice it is my pastor, Mary Luti. Mary’s theological imagination, wisdom, and pastoral gifts are truly special. She is a remarkable spirit, and I am grateful for her example.
Q. Anything else about you that you’d like to share with our Church family?
K. L.: One of the formative experiences of my life has been chairing
the Visioning Task Force at my home church. The work that was done over
a period of 13 months was deep, arduous, searching work, a process of identifying
our weaknesses and strengths, our core beliefs and our call as a congregation.
We dared to listen for the Spirit in our midst and dream of what the church
could be, if we were willing to follow. Amazing things are happening there
as a result. As Old South prepares to welcome a new pastor, I invite you
to dream and to dare. What is the Spirit calling you to next? You could
be in for a wonderful adventure. +
Do I dare to come before you
Do I dare to come before you,
Jesus, Lord of all my days?
Can I dare to place the whole truth
of my life within your gaze?
Gaze so quiet and unwavering,
sounding depths no words can reach,
searching wild, forgotten places
out beyond the bounds of speech---
---Out beyond the bounds of knowing,
where thought fails before what IS---
emptiness and silence waiting
in the inmost heart's abyss;
In the caverns of my hiding
where I fear to be set free---
can I bear to meet a mercy
that sees all and still loves me?
Kate Layzer, 2002
On January 6, we began the Season of Epiphany in our Christian calendar. The word “epiphany” means “manifestation,” “revelation,” or “disclosure.” Traditionally we celebrate January 6, Epiphany Day, as a time of the coming of the three wise men, a metaphor of Jesus as the One who reveals God to all people, represented by these foreign monarchs.
In this season of Epiphany, stretching out before us until Lent, the days slowly begin to lengthen again and we remember Jesus as the “light bearer,” the One who has come to bring new light, new consciousness, new understanding to us. Sometime we refer to seeing something in a “whole new light,” meaning we have an enriched or fuller or even a new perspective on something from the past. This year, we at Old South are very aware of the “new light” that will be coming through the leadership of our newly called senior minister, the Rev. Dr. Nancy Taylor. Surely this is a time of change for all of us in our community of faith.
One of my favorite poems by T.S. Eliot speaks to the reality of Epiphany
through the voice of one of the Wise Men:
In our spiritual lives, we find this voice may speak to our own reality, if we are faithful to our journey toward the Truth. As the light continues to grow with each passing day, what are the ways that we are willing to see things in a new light? How is the Spirit revealing more to you individually and to us a community gathered to let our light shine for all the world to see?
Sometimes the revelations of the Spirit are welcome and wonderful events. At other times, however, as in Eliot’s poem, the revelations may be difficult, or ask us to change some of the ways we have been living. New growth, new understandings often signal the end of old patterns of living and being, challenging us at times to release our “comfort zones” to which we cling even after they have finished their purpose in our lives and we are called into new ways of learning to love our neighbors, ourselves, and our God.
As we “practice the presence of God” in every part of our lives with Love as the central value, we may be called to dismantle some of the ways we have allowed our possessions, power, control, popularity, self-image, or rituals to become idols, taking the place of a lived Truth and an authentic Love. As we dare to answer God’s call to let go of this idolatry, we discover again the joy of a life in which “God is our only richness.”
As a community of faith, living into its own epiphany season, let us share with each other the reality of our losses and make room for our new insights as we travel together on this journey of faith, taking us ever deeper into the mystery and celebration of Emmanuel: “God with us!”
W. H. Auden, in his poem, “For the Time Being”, has the Wise Men explain
their rather strange mission in these words:
May we join with these wise ones in our journey through epiphany, as we allow Jesus, the light of the world, to shine every more brightly in our hearts and lives, creating ever new possibilities of life together as one family led by God into a future of hope, joy, peace, reconciliation, and love. +
Old South Reporter
OSC Reporter, a voice for the extended community of the Old South Church, explores the mission of the church and aspects of the Christian life through news, stories, poetry, essays, and commentaries
Evan H. Shu, chair; Lois Harvey; Steve Silver, Linda Jenkins, Janet Eldred, Elizabeth England, Eleanor Jensen, David Clark, Elisa Blanchard, Helen McCrady, & Michael Fiorentino.
Deadline for next issue: March 20, 2005
Old South Church in Boston
A congregation of the United Church of Christ
645 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116
Nancy S. Taylor, Senior Minister
Carl F. Schultz, Interim Senior Minister
Jennifer Mills-Knutsen, Assistant Minister
Katherine Layzer, Interim Assistant Minister
Gregory M. Peterson, Minister of Music