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Talking About Race
December 3, 2017 7:01 pm / Leave a comment
—Cindy Geary, Co-Author of Going to School in Black and White
LaHoma and I found ourselves talking about race during our writing group a few years ago. Specifically, we were talking about school re-segregation and white flight in the district where we had both gone to school. This conversation happened after we discovered that we had both been participants in the 1970 court-ordered desegregation plan in Durham, NC. Before 1970, a few black children attended previously white schools, but no white children attended black schools. The new court order required substantive redistricting to create a racial balance that the “freedom of choice” policy had not. My sophomore year, I was among the first white students to go to the previous all-black Hillside High School.
During an earlier group meeting, I read an excerpt from a writing prompt: “the place where you lived when you were in junior high.” I mentioned in my piece that I was a Hillside graduate. LaHoma said, “You went to Hillside? I went to Hillside!” As it turned out, I was a senior her sophomore year. LaHoma is black; she always expected to go to Hillside. Neither of us had known until then that we had walked the same high school corridors. We were excited to know, after years of acquaintance, that we were both Hillside “Hornets.”
That day, after reminiscing about former teachers and classmates, we started to talk about how we felt about court-ordered desegregation, controversial at the time. We were both surprised at each other’s responses. She was surprised that I had thought it was a good experience—years after graduation, she had heard otherwise from former classmates. I was stunned to hear LaHoma had not been at all happy about desegregation. She was utterly content at her junior high school and unhappy to be reassigned to a different one just to be with white kids. It was not the story I had assumed.
Thus began an extended conversation about our experiences as white and black people in and out of our usual white and black spaces. Our stories unveiled different worlds, defined by race, that we inhabited before, during and after our school desegregation experiences. These stories became a dual memoir, Going to School in Black and White. Writing this book gave us the opportunity to speak openly with each other about our own previously unexamined biases in a way that we might not have been able to without these real school experiences to ground us.
Having these sometimes tricky conversations created a strong bond of trust between us. To honor this and to make the book worthy of our readers’ trust, our goal was complete honesty, even when what surfaced in our writing process was not as pretty as we wanted it to be. Peeling back layers of memory was sometimes painful, but also liberating. Our wish is that readers will find something of themselves in our stories, start to talk to others about the formation of their racial attitudes and beliefs, and that eventually, this will create enough comfort with each other to have further conversations about the present realities of school segregation and racial injustice.
For more information about our book and resource materials, see:
Why Bishops and Our Dioceses are Vital to Our Giving as Episcopalians
November 9, 2017 9:50 pm / Leave a comment
–The Reverend Tom Andrews
“Episcopal” means having bishops, and bishops and the diocese are the center,
the heartbeat of what it means to be part of this church. The diocese is where
we come together as a Church with our bishops in democratic decision-making
processes. As such, we are reminded that as individual believers, we are
connected with other Christians, both in heaven and on earth. We connect out
of mutual support in faith, not because we are completely in agreement,
completely perfect, or complete in any way.
It’s important for Episcopalians to support our Bishops and the work of our
Church in the Diocese of Maryland. We pledge to Old Saint Paul’s knowing that
part of our giving supports the mission of the Bishops, the Diocese and the
National Church. Our delegates to the annual Diocesan Convention vote for the
mission of the Episcopal Church in Maryland, and choose our Deputies to the
General Convention where God’s mission for the Church is decided and acted
upon. The full name of our Church is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary
Society of the Episcopal Church. I have worked with a number of Bishops in the
dioceses where I’ve lived and know firsthand of the importance of the ordained
and laity working together to accomplish the mission of the Church and
responding to such needs wherever they may be.
The Church, led by our bishops, fulfills three important functions. The first
purpose is worship. We don’t worship God because we have to or because
we’re afraid of what God might do to us if we don’t. We worship God because
we believe that God is a being who fully deserves our respect and love.
Worshipping God is simply the best response to God’s generous love and a
church service is an effective and time-honored way of carrying out this
The second purpose is teaching. To some extent, this is something we do for
each other by reading passages from the Bible aloud in church combined with
sermons commenting and connecting spiritual teachings and secular issues that
relate Christianity to real life. Christians have a responsibility to make their own
insights about God available to the rest of the world and an organized Church
can provide that framework of tried and true insights for individual Christians
who don’t have time, energy, or even feel the need, to reinvent the wheel.
Our third purpose is fellowship. We are a community of people with a common
goal, supporting and strengthening each other as we work towards that goal. An
important part of Christian teaching is compassion for others and the Church
provides material support for the needy, as it attempts to promote social justice
to the rest of society. While Christians have certainly done some very unchristian
things, that’s only part of the story. On the whole, the world is healthier, better
fed, better educated, with more rights because of Christianity than it would be
without it. Just because Christians have sometimes failed to live up to our high
ideals doesn’t mean we haven’t made great progress in striving toward them. A
current example is our Bishop’s appeal to help with the vitally needed rebuilding
of Puerto Rico.
We believe in a God who loves us and calls us, the Church community, to follow
the teachings of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Individual
giving is extremely important and appropriately led by our parishes under the
guidance of our Bishops and our dioceses in accomplishing our mission. This is
who we are, and it’s vital to who we are as Episcopalians.
To pledge to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, who contributes to The Episcopal
Diocese of Maryland and the National Episcopal Church, please use this link: http://stpaulsbaltimore.net/pledge/
Uncovering the Hidden History of Enslaved People at St. Paul’s Parish, Baltimore
November 2, 2017 3:00 pm / Leave a comment
—The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland invited me to research the history of St. Paul’s Church in relationship to chattel slavery, and to present at the Trail of Souls Pilgrimage. I am grateful to Audry Gagnon, a former intern with the Episcopal Service Corps, for her research at the Maryland Historical Society. Thanks also to John Henderson, civil rights attorney and former Sr. Warden, for his research into the story of Reverdy Johnson.
When the Diocese of London founded St. Paul’s Parish in 1692 as an established member of the Church of England, people living within the parish boundaries were taxed forty pounds of tobacco per year, paid to the Church. For the first hundred years of this congregation’s life, tobacco income was the main source of support. The clergy of St. Paul’s were granted “glebe land” to grow tobacco, thus providing for their income. Typically, enslaved people farmed the tobacco. St. Paul’s Church was built on the labor of enslaved people.
Baptisms and Marriages
Beginning in the 1790s, and for the following hundred years, more than one hundred people of African descent were recorded in the parish register as being baptized by the clergy of St. Paul’s. A slave balcony was included in the third church that seated 1700 people, before it burned down in 1854. The parish register lists “slave, mulatto, negro, and free black” names both for baptisms and marriages up until the 1830’s. Presumably, the opening of St. James’ Parish for African Americans, founded in 1824, caused the drop off in baptisms.
“Under the wing of St. Paul’s: In 1873, when St. James’ Church had been greatly weakened by withdrawals and other causes, the vestry requested the Rev. Dr. Hodges, rector of St. Paul’s Parish, to assume charge of the spiritualities of the parish. Hence, from then until the end of 1888, the priests in charge of the parish were assistants of the Rev. Dr. Hodges. The last priest furnished by St. Paul’s was a colored clergyman, Father B. W. Timothy.” —St. James Church: History 1824-1949, Anniversary Pamphlet from 1849, page 5.
As part of a diocesan ministry, at the request of the bishop of Maryland, the clergy from St. Paul’s also took on some of the pastoral ministry for the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum. There are almost fifty names of girls at the Colored Orphan Asylum who were listed in the register as being baptized in the twenty years that St. Paul’s was in charge of their care.
“In 1789, leaders of St. Paul’s Church organized the founding of The Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes and Others Unlawfully held in Bondage. This was the fourth anti-slavery society in the United States and the sixth in the world. Founding members included Judge Samuel Chase, Attorney General Luther Martin, and Dr. George Buchanan, all from St. Paul’s.” —St. Paul’s Parish Baltimore: a chronicle of the Mother Church, by Francis F. Beirne, page 47.
“The manumission of slaves, which a decade before had received stimulus from Dr. George Buchanan and the anti-slavery society, was creating a problem. The freed men found much difficulty adjusting to their new condition for they had virtually nowhere to go. A possible solution which attracted many people was the proposal to establish a nation for them in Africa. Again some members of St. Paul’s took an active interest in the plan. John Eager Howard was vice president of the Colonization Society which was organized on a national scale with headquarters in Washington.” —St. Paul’s Parish Baltimore, page 84.
In 1931, the children and grandchildren of vestryman Reverdy Johnson (1796-1876) had a brass memorial mounted on a wall in the nave of St Paul’s. Inscribed on the plaque are the words, “lover of the Anglo-Saxon Race, of North and South, of Justice and of Peace.” The life of Reverdy Johnson reflects the fact that Baltimore was caught in the crosshairs of issues swirling around slavery and the Civil War. Johnson epitomizes these complexities, arguing, as an attorney, a pro-slavery position in the ruinous Dred Scott case, but also advocating for the 13th Amendment (ending slavery) a decade later. He favored the Union, and called the Confederates traitors, while also advocating for state autonomy. He condemned slavery and gave up the slaves he inherited, though he campaigned against extending citizenship, equal protection of the law, and voting rights to the freedmen, opposing both the 14th and 15th Amendments. Johnson regularly opposed Lincoln, but also became an ally in the war, ending up as a pallbearer at Lincoln’s funeral.
Building the Beloved Community
March 9, 2017 6:58 pm / Leave a comment
—The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley
Many in the United States are feeling that their basic human rights, privileges, and safety are being threatened. There is a lack of civility in our public discourse and an uptick in the number of hate crimes in the U.S. Yet each morning also brings news of radical changes in the capacity of our country to practice Christian principles such as compassion, mercy, service to others, welcoming strangers, and respect for the dignity of every human being.
Instead of allowing politicians to determine our “frame of reference,” it’s time for us, as Christians, to lift up the “frame of reference” that supersedes all others. We are followers of Jesus Christ. And the values that Jesus lived out are the ones that we are called to put first in our own lives. Our Judeo-Christian tradition tells us that every person is created in the image of God and is a beloved child of God who is worthy of our care.
It’s time for us to renew our efforts, as followers of Jesus, to practice the spiritual discipline of loving kindness. We take seriously St. Paul’s words from Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
The world’s major spiritual traditions have asserted the principle that if individuals look within and work on generating loving kindness, then that love has the power to ripple out into our relationships and communities, and to change the world. When we are feeling powerless to change what politicians and others are doing, we can still practice loving kindness as a way to transform the world into the “Kingdom of God.”
During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. invited people to build “The Beloved Community.” According to The King Center, “Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace and justice will prevail over war and military conflict.”
Let’s build The Beloved Community by practicing the sacred art of loving kindness, one action at a time, and so transform our world into a more just and loving home for all.
March for Refugees: Pray, Act, and Walk
February 2, 2017 5:01 pm / Leave a comment
A message from Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton
Coming Together for a Day of Service
December 6, 2016 9:00 am / Leave a comment
—Amber Herzer, Chair of OSP’s Social Justice and Service Committee
This year, Old St. Paul’s established a relationship with Civic Works and sponsored the Ricky Meyer’s Day of Service. Civic Works is a local non-profit that’s been working in Baltimore for twenty years, with a focus on strengthening Baltimore’s communities through education, skills development, and community service.
Our partnership with Civic Works enabled thirty OSP congregation members and over five hundred other Baltimore citizens to spend a day volunteering together across the city. The congregation’s financial gift was used to purchase trees, flower bulbs, tools, trash bags, paint, garden gloves, and refreshments to sustain volunteers.
Together, the five hundred volunteers planted over 120 trees and 6,700 bulbs at the REACH! Partnership School, YMCA, eight city parks, a senior housing center, and more. Volunteers assembled one thousand energy-saver kits with Civic Works’ Baltimore Energy Challenge, made one hundred school supply kits for students in need, and crafted one hundred seed-bombs to help spread native flowers. Volunteers performed vital repairs at four homes belonging to low-income seniors, beautified six vacant lot green spaces along with a historic cemetery, built a rain garden in a city park, and made improvements to our Real Food Farm and Little Gunpowder Farm. The team at Civic Works beautifully stated,
“The rich and diverse community of volunteers who participate every year are a testament to the perseverance and boundless love present in our city.”
Fellow volunteer and Civic Works board member Robert Zdenek expanded on just this point, saying
“it was thrilling to observe and participate with more than thirty fellow OSP congregants to contribute to the Ricky Meyer Day of Service, our signature volunteer event at Civic Works. Community engagement and revitalization takes so many forms, from planting bulbs and trees to cleaning up parks and streets. The net effect is two-fold: a safer, more engaged community, and the individual and collective smiles of over five hundred volunteers.”
Throughout the day, congregation members were able to work with and learn from each other, engaging in meaningful conversations, sharing laughs, and creating new friendships. The pouring rain wasn’t even a deterrent! Amber Herzer, the OSP Social Justice and Service Chair noted,
“This was the first time the church participated in this city-wide volunteer day. It was a joy to participate and know that our church’s financial contribution facilitated the success of this important community activity.”
We look forward to hosting another Day of Service event in the Spring of 2017.
If you have any questions or would be interested in joining us for our next service event please contact Amber at AmberLHerzer@gmail.com.
Gratitude, Generosity, & Happiness
October 14, 2016 3:02 pm / Leave a comment
—Carol Sholes, Stewardship Task Force, Chair
On a recent Sunday, The Rev Mary Luck Stanley preached about gratitude and how it can change your life. She called gratitude the “mother of all virtues” and spoke about how gratitude is acted out as generosity. The Gospel reading (Luke 17:11-19) talked about the gratitude of one of the ten lepers who was healed by Jesus, while noting the lack of gratitude of the other nine. This sermon provided me with an opportunity to think about where I am on the gratitude scale. Am I like the “one” being grateful and showing my gratitude, or like the “nine”—happy, but not taking the time to really think about being grateful and generously showing my gratitude for said happiness? Sometimes I am definitely the “one,” but too many times I am part of the “nine.” I have wonderful ideas about how to generously show someone my gratitude, but then life takes over and I don’t follow through.
What better place to count your blessings than church? What better way to generously act on your gratitude than by making a pledge to Old St. Paul’s? As I reflect on my blessings and the role St. Paul’s plays in my life, I am grateful and happy to give generously. I don’t want to miss this chance to be the “one” who is grateful and generous, and not one of the “nine” who misses out on the opportunity to show my gratitude.
I will be increasing my pledge for 2017 because I am excited about so many things that are happening at our church. I am proud that our community is not only a great place to be, but is actually growing—not the typical story at an urban church, but it is ours. This year we have more children, more events, more outreach, and more people giving their time as we continue to maintain our beautiful historic buildings and provide a lovely Sunday service with amazing music and opportunities for Christian education for all ages. All of this needs our support.
Every member of the Vestry has completed their pledge for next year and they have all prayerfully reflected on their ability to increase their pledge for 2017. Please consider your blessings and what Old St. Paul’s means to you and your family. Then ask yourself if your gratitude can be expressed by giving generously to your church in 2017.
You can pledge online by clicking here, and if you pledge by November 30, you will receive an invitation to our Early Pledger Celebration at the Ritz Carlton. Our Stewardship Campaign will culminate with sealed pledges being blessed on the altar on December 11.
Learning About BUILD, Listening to Our Community
October 5, 2015 1:46 pm / Leave a comment
After the riots shook Baltimore, we at Old St. Paul’s, like many faith groups around the city, decided to reassess our methods of outreach and community engagement in order to better serve our neighbor Baltimoreans. Since this past June, various members of Old St. Paul’s have been serving on different discernment committees dedicated to doing just this. Today, we’ll focus on the discernment committee dedicated to researching the church’s possible partnership with the local nonprofit organization BUILD, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development.
As discernment committee leader Amber Herzer explains, “BUILD organizes congregations, listens to the needs of the community, and then works with the political and civic leadership to address those needs.” BUILD is thus, at its heart, a relationship-based outreach model rather than project-based. It uses “a true servant-leader model,” and is dedicated to “empowering, listening to, and supporting community leaders.”
When was the last time that you felt truly listened to? Amber asks. When was the last time you felt someone paying you sincere attention, someone seeking to understand your perspective and experience? —Think back to those rare times, and remember how empowering that can feel. How it can help restore a person’s sense of worth, power, and wholeness.
“Sometimes it can take more courage to stop and listen, than to charge forward,” Amber explains. “It’s the courage of humility. We at Old St. Paul’s do not have a solution for the city of Baltimore. We do have a collection of people well-versed in volunteering and social justice, however. Social workers, teachers, lawyers, city government employees, artists, activists—people who understand that our first reaction shouldn’t be Let’s Go Do Something, but Let’s Listen First.”
Eileen Brittain, also a discernment committee member, recalls the book of Jeremiah when she thinks of BUILD:
“But seek the welfare of the city…, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
According to Eileen, “Their strategy to put pressure on those who make the decisions and control the funding can cause situations to be changed. BUILD asks support of faith communities to appear at various meetings to show solidarity and be an ally to those who do not have a voice in the halls of power.”
Tom Andrews, another of the committee’s members, is particularly “excited about the possibility of Old St. Paul’s joining BUILD” for the way it seeks to bring “together people of various faith traditions, to get to know each other, to work together on the needs of the city, and to work with political leaders to address these needs.”
Committee member Bob Zdenek seconds this sentiment, saying, “BUILD’s significance is that it brings together diverse congregations, both clergy and lay leaders from throughout Baltimore City…. Baltimore is one of the most segregated cities in the U.S. …and that speaks to the importance of organizations like BUILD that can cut across racial, income, class, and geographic barriers.”
“BUILD is the long term,” Amber says, “because it is focused on changing the system and building relationships with people in other parts of the city.”
And while this may mean that BUILD engages the political system, it is important to note that BUILD itself is not political. “This element may feel uncomfortable to some,” Amber concedes, “but BUILD is not about picking sides. It’s about changing the current system. If the change we’re creating isn’t uncomfortable, then we’re not digging deep enough.”
Of course, there are still questions and challenges that the discernment committee are considering. “I don’t see a lot of new leadership development with IAF affiliates [which includes BUILD] other than clergy,” Bob explains. “There is usually a small group of lay leaders, but how do you build the leadership beyond a few people? …I think this is vital for Old St. Paul’s in particular, since we appear to be new to social justice and change initiatives beyond a few small services.”
For more information on BUILD, please join us for The Forum on November 1st:
Faith Based Organizing in Baltimore City
9:30-10:20 a.m. at The Grand, next door to the church
The Industrial Areas Foundation affiliate BUILD (Baltimoreons United in Leadership Development) is a 35+ year organization committed to organizing communities around their own self-interests. BUILD is comprised of 35 congregations and 15 city schools. The Rev. Glenna Huber, priest in the Diocese of Maryland is clergy co-chair of BUILD.
One Baltimore: Respecting the Dignity of Every Human Being
May 11, 2015 12:34 am / Leave a comment
On Thursday, May 7, The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley asked me to join her in distributing some flowering plants to businesses in Old St. Paul’s neighborhood that were damaged in the recent demonstrations. Mary knew there were at least seven places (Café Poupon, Coffee-Land, 7Eleven, Subway, Lumbini’s, the Indian Grocery Store, and Mick O’Shea’s), because she and The Rev. Mark Stanley had walked the block along Charles Street on Tuesday (from Saratoga to Pleasant) with brooms and dust pans in-hand offering to help clean up. Most of the businesses had windows broken and some had suffered significant theft.
At each place we stopped, we told whoever took the plant that we were from Old St. Paul’s and that we wanted them to know we were sorry they had been damaged and that we supported them as neighbors. Almost every recipient, at first, seemed somewhat surprised but soon were smiling and thanking us for the plant. And, as we shook hands, their appreciation was reflected in the look of gratitude in their eyes.
A few days before this, I stopped in at Coffee-Land to see how they were progressing (and, truth be told, to get one of their delicious cherry Danishes). They were busy serving customers and, when it was my turn, I said to the owner and his wife:
“I am so sorry for what happened to you. It is so very sad.”
He replied: “It was probably more good than it was bad. So many have shown love to us afterwards.”
This week, Mary had a banner made that reads, “One Baltimore: respecting the dignity of every human being.” One of the promises we make at baptism (or when renewing our baptismal vows throughout the year), is to “respect the dignity of every human being.” Now this promise is displayed in front of Old St. Paul’s and is putting out a vision for the city.
We have a LOT to do in establishing “One Baltimore.” As we try to find our way in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, we can begin by looking for opportunities to connect. Smiling at people waiting at the bus stop and giving a pleasant “Good morning” might help break the ice. Engaging in short but sincere and caring conversations with strangers each day can give personal expression to our vow of “respecting the dignity of each human being.”
—Eileen Donahue Brittain, Treasurer for St. Paul’s Church, Baltimore
Praying for Baltimore, Singing, and Walking the Block
May 1, 2015 1:11 pm / 2 Comments on Praying for Baltimore, Singing, and Walking the Block
Last night our church, Old St. Paul’s, hosted a prayer service for healing in Baltimore. While three different protest groups passed down our street during the service, we sang “Amazing Grace” and prayed, and listened to a sermon from Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton about weeping, doing justice, and walking humbly with our God. After all that has happened in our beloved city, it was a relief and a comfort to gather with fellow Christians to lift up our hopes for equality and peace for all citizens of Baltimore.
At the end of the service, Bishop Sutton spontaneously invited all of us to go outside to stand on the front porch of our church to sing hymns as a few protesters and neighborhood folks walked by.
Singing “This Little Light of Mine,” we walked the block, with the bishop and our crucifer in the lead, and we waved to the many people having dinner in nearby restaurants and shops, many of which had been vandalized and looted in the recent uprisings.
As cars passed, people rolled down their windows to clap and wave and give us a thumbs-up. The bishop shook hands with a man sitting at the bus stop, and with people on the street. As we walked, the bishop kept prompting us to sing another new version of the song, apparently that he was making up as we walked along:
Up and down this street, I’m gonna let it shine!
Prayin for Freddie Gray, I’m gonna let it shine!
For Baltimore, I’m gonna let it shine!
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
Tears streamed down my face as I felt a sense of grief that we still live in a world where we have so much injustice and racial discrimination.
By the end of that short walk, there in the middle of downtown Baltimore, I also felt that our songs were healing our neighborhood. It made me smile when I saw that someone had put up balloons on every streetlight along the row of shops that had been vandalized near our church.
It was just a little prayer service with fifty-four people gathered, and it was just a short stroll around our neighborhood, singing a children’s song, but something significant happened as our group tried to do our small part to bring some healing and hope to the people in our beloved city.
It will take a million little acts of kindness and even more actions, large and small, to correct all the injustice in our world before we can get to the point when we will no longer feel the need to march around our city, proclaiming that all lives matter, especially to God, who loves all people equally and unconditionally.
–The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley
Photos by Rebecca Giordano Dreisbach