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Showing posts from October 14, 2007

Our two Family Doctors.

English people in the 1940’s and 1950’s (as I was growing up) could be counted upon to have three prejudices. They made fun of the Welsh, despised the Scots, and hated the Irish.

Not my Dad, at least as far as the Irish were concerned. As a plumber he worked with many Irish “navvies” (labourers) and adored them.

He would get angry if we told “Irish jokes”.

‘Twas just as well, as our family Doctor was an Irishman, Dr. Purcell.

He had a “surgery” (English for Doctor’s office) on Stapleton Road, just around the corner from where Dad had grown up.

His waiting room had cane chairs with latticed backs and seats. There we would sit, snuffling and sneezing until a “buzzer” summoned us into his office. There we would be greeted with clouds of smoke (Doctors smoked in their offices way back then); and by this affable Irishman who often prescribed a “tonic” (horrid tasting medicine laced with iron).

Dr. Purcell made house calls, carrying the inevitable black leather bag. But he never drove. H…

Four of my role models

Dr. Grace Sawyer Jones was a member of St. Stephen’s in Pittsfield. When I arrived there to be Rector (in 1984) she was the Assistant to the President of Berkshire Community College.

When he resigned under pressure, Grace did so too, and took a post with the Pittsfield School Department. It was not the best fit, and Grace left that job, and began a process of reflection on her career.

At that time she came to see me and said that in this period of “resting”, she now had a bit of time to serve Christ in the Church.

And she was true to her word, becoming Junior Warden. She was the best. Wise and intuitive as she is, her gift to me was to firmly and gracefully challenge me as Rector when that was important and necessary.

Dr. Jones moved on and is now President of Three Rivers Community College in Norwich Ct. We chat often, and I always trust her wisdom.

The Rt. Reverend Barbara C Harris was the first woman to be elected and consecrated as Bishop in the Episcopal Church. She became…

When I was horribly religious (2)

In 1956 five young American Missionaries were speared and hacked to death by members of the Woadani tribe in Ecuador. They became known as the “five martyrs of Ecuador”.

At least three of the five were Plymouth Brethren, so we took extra and somewhat exuberant pride in their deaths.

Sometime later in ‘56 or perhaps in ‘57 a group of we young “Peebs” took the ‘bus to the City of Bath to a Gospel Hall there, for a slide show of the five martyrs. It ended with the inevitable sunset slide, and we all sang “We rest on thee, our shield and our defender”, the hymn that had been sung by the men on the night of their murders.

Of course, I immediately wanted to be a missionary - except for that small matter of potential martyrdom. I devoured everything I could read about the men.

Elisabeth Elliott, widow of the martyr Jim Elliott, wrote a biography of her late husband “Shadow of the Almighty” I dare say that book influenced more young evangelicals of my generation than any other.

Jim had wr…

Oh - the things I have seen!

My old friend Jay tells the story of the Baptist Minister who asked the Episcopal Priest “do you believe in infant baptism?” “Believe in it?” replied the Priest, “dammit, I’ve seen it!”

These are some things I have seen.

At the top of the railway bridge on Devon Rd, by the steps which led down to Colston Rd there was an old gas street lamp and a ‘phone booth.

The lamp was lit each evening, and unlit the next morning by the “lamplighter”. This man would travel by bicycle, carrying a long pole with a hook at one end, and a ladder.

The pole was used to turn the lamp on and off - this was done by inserting the hook into a pivoted metal bar, with rings at each end - a tug on one ring would turn the gas “on”, and on the other would turn it “off”.

The ladder was in case the fragile gas mantle had burned through, in which case the lamplighter would have to climb it to attach a new mantle.

One of my fondest and earliest memories is of seeing the lamplighter, an “endangered species” even when …

When I was horribly religious (1)

By the time I was 13 I had been (re) baptized by immersion at Chelsea Gospel Hall. Not surprisingly, precocious as I was, I was quickly “in fellowship”, and able to sit in front of the boards, and eat the bread/drink the wine.

I was so “holy” that it makes me sick! I attended the weekly meetings for biblical exposition (the “Ministry Meeting”), and the weekly “Prayer Meetings”.

I was filled with sound, but without fury. Someone reported, with obvious pride, that I “prayed like an old man”, but Eddie Iles, one of the youth leaders, admonished me to “pray like a young man”. Mr. “Super Young Plymouth Brother” was not receptive to this advice!

Eddie Iles and others began a Boys Club - “the Venturers”. We met in Ernie Cox’s workshop. This was not to my liking. I was hopeless at table-tennis (ping-pong), and at wood-work - one of the skills taught at “Venturers”.

(Later, the “Venturers” moved to an old Church Hall off Russell Town Avenue. My youngest brother, Martyn, was quite ac…

Down the Tramway

Bristol, England, (there are 10 or 12 Bristols in the USA), is my home City.

The Bristol of my childhood and youth was yet recovering from the “Blitz” of World War II. And it had not one, but perhaps four centres.

First, there was Old Market Street and Carey’s Lane. From our home in Devon Road we would take the single decker # 83 ‘bus to Carey’s Lane. The #83 was my favourite route - after all it passed our home on Devon Road. The earliest ‘buses I remember had wooden seats, created in the War when fabrics were at a premium.

On Carey’s Lane was the old Empire Theatre - a grand building, at that time owned by the B.B.C. as a Concert Hall and Recording Studio. There, when I was 10, encountered my first urinal when my Eastville Junior Mixed School choir under Mr. Richards, recorded some singing for the B.B.C. Dad explained the urinal to me later.

Across the street from the Empire was the “Tatler Cinema” known for showing naughty movies. I snuck in there once to see a film about …

She works at my local "Publix" Supermarket

She works at my local Publix Supermarket. She has lovely eyes and a ready smile. You cannot miss her, for she wears a long skirt, a black apron and a black headscarf. That’s not the Publix Uniform. I “knew” that it was a religious dress.

Sarasota is a home to many Mennonites and Amish in their distinctive dress. They came here first to farm the lands (Amish were especially good at growing celery).

Now they are a settled population and we are used to seeing Amish men with their long beards, and Amish women with their long skirts (riding huge tricycles rather than using horse and buggy as they do in Lancaster County PA).

And we also see young Amish or Mennonites in their conservative dress - cruising down the street on skate-boards.

Some of the Mennonites are “snow birds” - going up north for the summer and returning here for the winter. There is a special Church for them - the Mennonite Tourist Church.

The year-rounders own some good Restaurants, for instance “Yoders” where you can …