Heritage: Something Handed Down from the Past

From time to time I get engaged in exploring my family’s genealogy. Not just looking for names and dates – but looking for anecdotes or information that future generations might be interested in.

A few weeks ago, on Heritage Sunday, I reflected on the history of the Episcopal Church, which has continually been a leader in social causes. And I remembered three of our curates who followed in that tradition – contributing to our own parish heritage.

In 1968 – three days after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King – Joel Henning, our young curate, delivered a sermon from the center aisle (not a practice here then) challenging us to confront the issue of race, not a comfortable subject in the suburbs of Chicago. Neighborhoods in Chicago were burning and people rioting. Nevertheless, Joel spoke forcefully and bravely, even while knowing his message might not be received well, yet believing Jesus would not stand by idly, and neither should we.

Another curate, Curtis Almquist , served for a time at St. Simon’s in the late seventies or early eighties. We could tell in his quiet intensity that he was thoughtfully passionate in his beliefs and had much to offer. After leaving St. Simon’s, Curtis joined the Society of St. John the Evangelist – an order of Episcopal monks based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has contributed greatly to the Church at large through his writings, including the following ideas which Elizabeth referred to in a recent reflection: “Contentment is about the now. Be really present to your life now. Accept your life……Live your life on its terms; live your life as a yes. Don’t live your life constantly itching for something more or resentful for something less. Be grateful for what is. Be content.”

During her tenure here, Wendy Lane – with courage and conviction – gave a sermon reminding us that gays and lesbians are God’s children and, therefore, deserve acceptance and respect. Though she was speaking not that long ago, many in our communities were not at ease with these ways of life. Wendy suggested that most likely each of us knew someone who was gay or lesbian, and by recognizing this – putting a face on the issue or personalizing it – quite likely would change our beliefs might evolve.

Each of these three – Joel, Curtis, and Wendy – displayed outwardly their commitment to Christ’s teachings. In doing so, they have challenged us and enhanced our heritage as a congregation and should be remembered for their contributions. They preached and taught what we try to live in our identity statement: Celebrating God’s love for All. Seeking to embody Christ in the World.