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377 S. Harrison Street, 12D
East Orange, NJ 07018
Phone: 973-395-1068 h
Married February 2, 1974
377 S. Harrison Street, 12D, East Orange, NJ 07018-1222
email@example.com http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew, 973-395-1068
Monday, July 02, 2007
The Rev. Bill Terry, Rector
1313 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70116-1836
Gentle Father Bill,
I am enormously grateful for my opportunity to spend the weekend with you at St. Anna’s at the beginning of Pentecost. It was an honor to wrap up your distinguished Easter series on justice issues confronting the church. Those who came earlier offered an important array of concerns about race and eco-justice. You showed great courage in inviting me to promote ministry with lesbians and gays. All of us in your series learned more from your witness than we could possibly have given to it.
As a relatively small congregation St. Anna’s has an impressive commitment to substantive mission in the city of New Orleans. I observed that you were already hard at work serving the city even before Katrina increased the urgency and the challenges. Witness your long-term ministry to musicians in the city. Witness your commitment to hold up to public attention the plight of victims of street violence.
I was moved by your poster and pictures acknowledging all of the parishes outside the diocese that have connected with St. Anna’s to do ministry post Katrina. I treasure the tour that you cave me of New Orleans – all five hours of it spread over two days. You are a persistent spiritual director, and stressed that I should see and see and see, even when it would have been easier to shut my eyes after I had only a few mental snapshots.
The national media had not prepared me for the devastation that continues two years after Katrina. I had seen reports of the disproportionate effects upon the poor, but I had not seen it up close. Several times you stopped the car to speak with the few stragglers still in the largely abandoned neighborhoods. You always did so with great respect for them, and you always committed yourself in an ongoing way to connect them to resources.
At one point you asked a man to explain to me, your guest from out of state, why he chooses to rebuild on the same site rather than to move elsewhere. He pointed to several empty lots nearby, overgrown with weeds, foundation slabs of concrete visible only up close. “That was where I was born,” he pointed. “That’s where my grandmother lived,” he pointed across the street. “That’s where my son lived” – he pointed down the block one way, “and where my daughter lived” – he pointed down the block in the opposite direction. “I am not only from this place, I am of this place,” he said, looking at me eye –to-eye.”
True to your ordination vows, you care alike for rich and poor. You showed me destroyed homes of millionaires – block after block after block – still abandoned and over-grown.
When the House of Bishops meets in New Orleans in September, I hope they too will be discomforted. Those of you in New Orleans have been left too much alone.
The welcome for all is palpable at St. Anna’s. A couple of gay people have written to thank me for speaking there so they could discover the safety and welcome of the place.
Before the service, I asked your organist and choir master whether he would play two measures from “Jesus loves me, this I know” at a point that I specified in a prompt sheet as part of my sermon. I had forgotten that he is Jewish. Other musicians smiled sympathetically when he explained he had never heard the song. As I sang it down low for him, others in the jazz group sang it down low with me. It was an epiphany for all of us, at home in each other’s company.
Before this visit, I had experienced New Orleans as a tourist, and occasionally “visited” by reading fiction by William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. During this visit, you let me see Jesus, in your face and in the face of those with whom you serve.
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