Where are they now?
Hello from Twin Falls Idaho!
I can’t believe that it has already been 6 years since I was serving among you as a transitional deacon and seminarian. In that time, I have been ordained a priest, served as a Curate at All Saints Church and Day School in Phoenix Arizona, got married (at All Souls), served as Associate for Congregational Care at Saint James in Lancaster Pennsylvania, had a baby, and am now serving as Co-Rector with my husband Rob at Ascension Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. Wow, looking at that list, there has been a lot of change in my life over the past few years as we have followed the Spirit into new missional horizons!
The Episcopal Church of the Ascension is the only Episcopal church in town of about 45,000 people. Located on the picturesque Snake River Canyon, Twin Falls is a growing community that is home to Chobani, the largest employer of newly resettled refugees and the largest yogurt factory in the world. After 2 years in transition, the parish has about 70 people on a Sunday and is ready to respond to the growth in the surrounding area. This was a unique search and call process as Ascension was looking for one priest, but with open and discerning hearts they followed the stirrings of the Holy Spirit to call both Rob and me as Co-Rectors. So in January of this year, we packed up our house in Lancaster and with tearful goodbyes to friends and family we trekked across the country to Idaho, beginning a new season of our life and ministry.
So far, we received an amazingly warm welcome and have spent these past months getting to know each other. We are also getting to know more about how this community of faith is bearing witness to the Good News of Jesus in Twin Falls. We have enjoyed coming alongside the people of Ascension in their work of welcoming refugees through our community garden plots that are on the church grounds. Each year the parishioners, with help from different local organizations, prepare twenty-four plots for community members to come and grow food for their homes. It has been a wonderful experience to labor together as we try to be an oasis in an anxious world.
As I reflected on my formation at All Souls and how that has impacted who I am as a priest and the ministry I have offered to others, there are certain memories that come to mind; memories that have served as a fundamental foundation to my sense of call to help create a loving and welcoming community.
One memory that stands out was chanting the Exultet at the Easter Vigil with Liz+ and Jocelyn. That challenging experience gave me the confidence to chant other prayers and parts of the liturgy in each of the parishes I have served. Every Lent, I practice the Exultet daily, just as Christopher instructed us, so that it remains a prayer of my heart offered on behalf of the community rather than a performance.
Another memory that has formed my ministry was participating in the Liturgy of Lament for those who have suffered neonatal loss or infertility. I can still vividly picture placing floating candles into the baptismal font. I have offered this lament service twice since being at All Souls and it has been a sacred space of healing and prayer.
I could continue to share many more memories of my time at All Souls, but alas I am at my word limit. I will forever cherish the time I spent serving with your beloved community. Thank you.
Gloria Beatryce Fleming’s Amazing Romantic Adventure
We know our Gloria, usually all dressed up to beat the band at the 11:15 Eucharist. We know she was a singer, pianist, and lived in Sweden. But the story of how she met her husband is the romance of the century.
Gloria was born Montgomery, Alabama, and her family moved a lot. She lived in Rochester, New York and Warren, Ohio. Her father worked as a physicist for the U.S. Army during WWII, one of very few black Americans with a Ph.D. in the 1940s. Her mom got her degree from Fisk University, where Gloria later went.
“Well, we were not poor, but the high salary neighborhoods didn’t want us.”
Her brothers would get waylaid on the way home from school, but Gloria wasn’t going to let that happen. “I love to fight,” she said, and if her brothers were in trouble, “I’d take over. They couldn’t beat me. They would look cross eyed at us and that was it.”
She had always loved music, and majored in it at Fisk University, “the finest black university.” Then she went to Eastman School of Music but was required to have special admissions status because of her race. At Northwestern University she was awarded her MA with Honors, the first black woman to do so.
She was ready to settle into the life as a teacher in the NY public school system, but a summer doing theatre at the Karamu House, the oldest African-American Theater in the U.S., changed everything. They were so good that they were invited to come to New York for an off Broadway performance. Gloria’s mother encouraged her to audition for Porgy and Bess, which she didn’t do. But it was meant to be, all the same. After having sung the role of Monica in Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium (“132 times!), she was invited to join the cast of Porgy and Bess for their European tour, and for the next two years performed in England, France, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia (where she left her appendix), and Turkey.
Her friend Martha, who took over the role of Bess after Leontyne Price, invited her over for lunch. There, in a magazine, was a promotional photo of a handsome black musician.
“His name is John Fleming, and he is just the man for you. You must meet him.”
Then the woman who was the understudy piped up, “Oh, you must meet John Fleming. He is just perfect for you.”
By the time a third and fourth friend said the same thing, a party was arranged to connect this perfect couple. In an apartment still filled with suitcases and boxes from the tour, a party was arranged. But John didn’t show up. One of the party goers went out to get John and bring him to the party. John finally arrived… and then went home with somebody else!
Martha called him the next day and “gave him what for.” He relented and invited the formidable group of women over for dinner, but then he didn’t have any food prepared. His Caribbean landlady, quite a cook, gave him her supper (and then some) to share, and it was off the races for Gloria and John.
“Chicken, and rice, and string beans,” she told me, but I’ll bet it was more spicy and wonderful than just that. The new couple went to the movies, and dated, and were married the next year. They were married for 46 years.
John was awarded a Rockefeller scholarship, and they went on another European adventure, with him as singer, her as accompanist. They found a home in Sweden, and lived there for 26 year. It was a country where equality was practiced in full at all levels of life. Their son Christopher was born there and still lives there with his family.
I asked her how she came to All Souls.
“My daughter Joyce lives near here.” When she first walked in, there weren’t very many other women of color, but the welcome and openness appealed to her, and she found her church home with us. And yes, we are doing better now than when she first came. We may lose her, though — Sweden is very tempting for a woman of 90 years. We don’t take very good care of our elders in this country.
But I hope she stays. She is a ray of sunshine.
– Dana Kramer-Rolls
Twixt sorrow and the joy of being near,
We sing for comfort, and for God to hear.
Though fleeting comfort is, and absence long,
there is no cold despairing in our song.
For that same God who joined us also parts,
and strengthens for the breaking of our hearts.
Composer of the Heavens, make us new
That we might in all places sing for You,
And if it pleases, let it not be long
Til scattered friends again rejoice in song.
– Adam Michael Wood, 2013
Summer Sunday School
The last day of regular Sunday School was June 10th. We took a break Sunday the 17th, and then some wild and wonderful new things in Summer Sunday School begin this Sunday, June 24th.
Children between preschool and 5th grade will come together at 10:10 in the Common Room in one big group to wonder about God in all sorts of creative and hands-on ways.
If you are a teenager or adult who would like to help make this happen, please reach out to Lenore (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Walk With Us
Are you up for a lovely summer evening stroll? Interested in how we might see God on the street corner, in the grocery store, at the pizza place?
Join the Evangelism Committee to walk through our neighborhood and notice where we meet God and how we see Her acting in our community. We’ll be talking about sharing our faith in the world, reading poetry and scripture, and thinking about how the spirit is calling us to engage with our neighbors here in this corner of Berkeley.
Thursdays: July 12 and August 9 at 6:00 PM. For details, contact Dani Gabriel (email@example.com).
Big Sur Camping Trip
Every summer we have an all-parish camping trip at the Santa Lucia campground in Big Sur, right on the river. The weekend includes swimming, singing and s’mores—as well as a group dinner and informal Sunday morning Eucharist at the outside chapel at the campground. You can find more info here and sign up here!
Summer Book Group
Our Summer Book Group began June 10 with a discussion of Chapters 1 and 2 of Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran minister in Denver, a two-time New York Times bestselling author, and a former standup comic. In her book she shares stories of her life and work pastoring House of All Sinners and Saints, stories that help us to see God in unlikely situations and in people who society have typically dismissed.
The Summer Book Group schedule is:
- June 24 — Chapters 3-5
- July 1 — Chapters 6-8
- July 8 — Chapters 9-11
- July 15 — Chapters: 12-14
- July 29 — Chapters 15-16
- August 5 — Chapters 17-19