Postcard: April 4, 2016

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sun, 04/03/2016 - 7:02pm

Categories: Citizens

Poems in Process: April 3, 2016

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sun, 04/03/2016 - 5:24am

Yellow Slicker

I put it on, and the floppy hat, too.
The arms hang way past my hands.
We each claim our place at the railing—
Mom, clinging tight to squirrely little Kurt,
Karla, calm and watchful, and Dad,
stowing his science fiction in a dry pocket.

Kitty is safe at home, fed by a neighbor.

The sturdy tub begins to rock,
drawing nearer and nearer.
The approaching roar
is like the vast silence
and heavy dark
a mile under the earth
in Carlsbad Caverns. It was wet there,
too, but here, the whole world
is made of water and the water
is singing, is pouring its stinging
notes, needles made of mist,
each one a tempting siren
calling me closer to the dark adventure
the song of my life.

Leslie Schultz

Finger Exercises

I dream I am speaking to the mother
of a dark-haired girl.
The girl, seven or eight years old, is crying.

She doesn’t believe it.
How can practicing the flow
of her handwriting compete

or help with her dancing.
Distraught, her tutu shakes,
there in the barn, where we gather.

Oh, yes, I say. It’s true.
Scientific research. Amazing—
when the littlest finger moves,

muscles fire in the legs, too,
run neural music up and down
the whole body, like wild fire.

My words quiver in her ear, tickle
those tiny internal cilia.
Her smile breaks like a tsunami.

She reaches up for a large sheet
of foolscap, dips the steel
nib into the inkwell.

I, who could never dance,
clap as the flowing blue swoops
and curls across the page

like a dancer on a spotlit stage
reinventing each timeworn move anew.
I tap my foot, my silk-and-steel toeshoe.

Leslie Schultz

Until Tomorrow!

Categories: Citizens

Poem in Process: April 2, 2016

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 8:00am

for John A. Wood

Your words about Williams lodge as proem.
I am still there in that sultry classroom.

We discussed his vanished, Platonic plums
shimmering in the mind of the reader.

You weighed the merits of plums, coming
down, hard, for the value of his po-em.

Leslie Schultz

What do you think? Does the word “poem” have one or two syllables?

That memorable class discussion was the first time I had ever heard the word said so decisively, in conversation, with two syllables.

After yesterday’s post, a sharp-eyed and thoughtful reader raised the question (off-line) of whether the word “poem” has one or two syllables. (Thank you!) This is a great question, one I have been pondering since that graduate workshop at McNeese State University.

We were discussing William Carlos Williams’ famous and evocative “This is just to say…” (see full text, more than a hundred poems, and a full bio of him at the Poetry Foundation website). For those who may not have seen it recently, the poem takes the form of a short note left near the icebox in a kitchen where the hungry person to whom the poem is addressed sought to find those last plums “so sweet and so cold.” The note–one unpunctuated sentence–asks forgiveness because the addresee was probably saving them for breakfast.

In this tiny poem, the most vivid image by far is of those shimmering plums, so desirable and now forever out of reach. Someone in the class, I recall, said that he would not find the theft of the plums easy to forgive. John said decisively, in his resonant, Southern-accented voice, “The plums were gone, true. But in their place was a po-em.”

Two full syllables.

As the reader yesterday rightly observed, illustrating with the famous lines by Joyce Kilmer, (“I think that I shall never see / a poem lovely as a tree”), the word “poem” is traditionally given two syllables. My most recent dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, gives both options nearly equal weight, though lists the two-syllable option first. Is this a regional difference? (I grew up in the Midwest, hearing “pome” rather than “po-em”.) Is the language evolving along telegraphic, Twitteresque lines? Or is it, in some respects, inherently ambiguous?

One puzzle often occurs when two vowel sounds (or a long diphthong) are side-by-side. The word “fir,” for example, in unambiguous in its single syllable. Once a silent “e” is added, however, to make “fire” the vowel sound shifts and lengthens. One syllable? Or two? Or, as I do in speech, for “poem”, something in between, a sort-of nestled-in, semi-swallowed, one-and-a-half syllables?

James Joyce’s Pomes Pennyeach, is a collection of thirteen poems composed over a twenty-year period and published in 1927 by the Parisian-based book store and publishing concern, Shakespeare and Company. The small volume sold for a shilling (twelve pennies) and was a play on “poems” and “pommes” (the French word for “apples”)–and, perhaps, knowing Joyce’s multi-layered humor–also on “peach”. It was an Irish tradesman’s “baker’s dozen” or a French merchant’s ligniappe, a little something extra. (Today, I think the American phrase is the bald-faced “gift with purchase”.)

Poets, especially those English language poets who sometimes work within strict metrical schemes, are delighted and daunted by words that taunt us with “now you see ’em, now you don’t” syllables.Certainly it opens up more choices.  I think it is part of the magic of English that this feature is embedded with the very word “poem.”

If you have a strong opinion or a stray thought on this topic, please let me know!

Until tomorrow!


Categories: Citizens

300 miles in 30 Days

Myrna CG Mibus - Idyllwild - Fri, 04/01/2016 - 4:38pm
It's April 1st which means it's Day 1 of the next round of 30 Days of Biking!

Today's ride was on the Cannon Valley Trail.
Had to go around a tree that fell on the trail.I signed up to do the challenge again, of course, because I've been doing in April ever since 2010. Wow! Now that I think of it it appears I'm either dedicated or a bit crazy - perhaps I'm a bit of both.

Don't know what 30 Days of Biking is? Well, it's a challenge where people pledge to ride their bikes every day during the month of April. As of this moment, 7,658 people from all over the world are officially on the roster stating they have pledged to do the challenge. People don't have to ride any certain number of miles. There are no prizes or people policing you to make sure you ride. You just commit to riding every day and do your best to complete the challenge.

After completing the challenge six years in a row I certainly know I can ride my bike every day for 30 days so I wondered if I should pledge to do 30 Days of Biking again this year. I decided I would do the challenge again but create a personal challenge within the challenge. I decided to create a milage goal for the month but really didn't know what number of miles would be reasonable for me. I came up with a goal of 300 miles in the month of April.

I suppose I liked the way that sounded - 300 Miles in 30 Days - and that's part of why I picked that number of miles because, now that I think of it, 300 miles in a month isn't really a reasonable goal for me. I think I have biked 300 miles in a month since I started bicycling in 2009 but I'm actually not sure. Last summer, my biggest milage month was 288 miles. I know some people bike 300 miles in a weekend a thousand or more miles a month but that's some people and this is me and my goal. 300 miles in 30 days is a stretch goal for me. But I can do it. Okay, I have doubts I can do this but I am going to say I can do it because that will help me accomplish my goal.

At the suggestion of my instructor/coach Amy from my Life.REVAMP class, I created a chart so I can color in a block every time I bike 10 miles. Guess what? I colored in a square and then some on my chart this afternoon! Yep, for the first day of 30 Days of Biking/300 Miles in 30 Days I biked 12 miles!

My 300 Miles in 30 Days chartI find it motivating to fill in a chart like this. Not sure why - but I know it helps me to see how I'm doing. It also helps me greatly to write about my goal and share it with all of you because then I feel like I'm accountable to someone other than myself.

So I'm off to a good start! I can do this. Wait, let me reword that - I AM doing this!
I am biking 300 miles in the month of April. Yay!

Categories: Citizens

Poem in Progress: April 1, 2016

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Fri, 04/01/2016 - 6:26am

for Northfield, Minnesota

During the wanderings of my childhood,
I would dream of a little wooden house
set on a quiet street, sheltered by lush trees.
There would be rising fragrance of cut grass
and roses. Near the doorbell, my own mailbox.
All hopes centered on one syllable: HOME.

Now, I see double-heavenily. Here,
on the edge of the prairie, just uphill
from the blue river, really quite near
to our local shops, arts guild, and library—
and twin shining campuses—I put roots down
every day, among friends, in a HOME TOWN.

Leslie Schultz

It interests me that the first poem of this experimental month (of the National Poetry Writing Month challenge) is a meditation on both my physical home in Northfield and my artistic home in poetry. As a yoga student and poet, I have often pondered the connections and resonances vibrating between the single syllables of “poem” and “home” and “OM”. Lately, I have been preoccupied by the expansion of the ideas expressed by the doubling of that one syllable in the concept-word “home town”.

For those who don’t pour over books of prosody, a “spondee” is a metrical unit of two long (or “stressed” or “accented”) syllables. A spondee acts like a brick wall (another spondee!) Spondees slow things down with their inherent solidity and, in this way, contrast markedly with the natural flow of English speech as represent in the heart beat (spondee) of the iambic line: “That time of year thou mayst in me behold….” (Shakespeare, sonnet 73)

I see (spondee) from The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics that “spondee” comes from the Greek, ” ‘used at a libation’ poured to the accompaniment of the 2 long notes…” I think I shall go out and pour a small libation of my own onto the bricks of the patio Tim laid down (spondee), two thimblefuls of red wine (spondee) to concretely express this moment’s joy of a full heart. Then sit down and savor a cup of green tea.

Until tomorrow!


Categories: Citizens

Mallets, ready to hammer

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Mon, 03/28/2016 - 6:32pm

My preferred fatbike pedal is the [Mallet by Crank Brothers]( – technically a downhiller’s pedal, but perfect for winter riding because the big platform supports your foot even when you can’t or don’t want to clip in.

I’ve been using a pair of Mallet 3s for about a year and a half now, through at least four fatbike ultramarathons plus untold snow and gravel training miles – tough use, but without any trouble at all.

Till a ride about ten days ago, when the left one failed on a short ride near home. I limped back to the house and wrote to Crank Brothers to see about repair or replacement. They told me to send the pedals back. Today, I received the repaired pedals – rebuilt at no charge. I like that they still look worn, but aren’t now worn out. Pretty sweet. Great customer service.

Categories: Citizens

Earliest Ever First Bloom

My Northern Garden - Mary Schier - Mon, 03/14/2016 - 10:54am

Sunday (March 13) I noticed this little Iris reticulata blooming in my front garden. This plant is often the first one to bloom in my Minnesota garden, and 2016 is the earliest ever for it to bloom.

In 2012, a notably warm spring, the plant bloomed on March 15. However, in many years, it is well into April before it blooms. Here are the bloom dates I have noted in the blog in the past:

2009 — April 16
2010 — March 25
2011 — April 4
2012 — March 15
2013 —  April 22
2014 — after April 20 (no exact date noted)
2015 — last year I dropped the ball and did not note when the iris bloomed.

As you can see, there has been almost six weeks in variation when the iris blooms. I’m actually hoping we get some cooler weather over the next couple of weeks—spring needs to slow down. One thing I remember from 2012 is that the fruit trees bloomed early. Later there was a freeze, causing devastation for apple growers around the state.

Is anything blooming in your garden yet?




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Categories: Citizens

Sad Day for Skyline Restaurant, Lake City, MN

Bright's Northfield Restaurant Blog - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:06pm

I learned today that Skyline Restaurant, where the of Skyline Hotel Condos are on Hwy 61 in Lake City, MN has gone down and out.
It was one of my favorite places, located at the end of Lake Pepin, right there next to the water, where the Pearl boat harbors. The food, though sometimes missed a beat, was more often good and plentiful with very fair pricing.
A little word of advice on the side; never order a steak unless you are in a place that calls themselves a Steak House. It’s a special sort of situation that a restaurant that offers some of everything usually cannot cope with.
Anyway, I am so sad about them going down. A couple of new restaurants came to town and that may have pushed the sack over the bridge. I have been to one, called The Rail House, and it’s good, it has some original recipies, like pizza, and such, but it’s not that much different in its offerings, i think that its just that people like something new. We may get “5 senses blind” to a restaurant, it’s food, it’s ambiance and even it’s staff after a few dozen trips. So we go where everyone else is going to hit the latest trend in dining out.
Good luck to the new owners, if there will be new owners and if so, I hope to write about you, too.

Categories: Citizens

Test Post

Tom Swift - Writer's Notebook - Wed, 02/05/2014 - 6:15pm

Ex usu modo sadipscing disputando. Eu principes persequeris, voluptua hendrerit mel ex. Qui ad dico expetenda, numquam iracundia mei in. Has cetero eloquentiam voluptatibus id.[1]
Ubique eripuit an eam. Cu nec minim tritani albucius, quo quod sumo cu. Munere tamquam in mea. Ut tota omnes vituperatoribus usu, pro persius quaeque cu.

Mel te unum doming, est te cetero iudicabit repudiandae. Tempor sapientem vis ea, ex est duis mutat intellegebat. Ne tractatos necessitatibus eam, ex idque officiis disputando mel. An sit voluptua ponderum.[2]

Melius omittam deterruisset vix id, no his labore postulant. An essent electram per, quas everti epicurei eu per. Albucius appareat eu his. Ex nec ipsum invidunt, possim constituto eam an, usu id consul insolens. Fugit saepe vis no. Te nam noster accusata, vis regione vocibus in.

Habeo affert imperdiet ut sed, mazim aeque duo no. Mei habemus invenire ut. Vide aliquam neglegentur ut mel, an eum eros latine. Partem qualisque reprehendunt eos ad, agam assueverit sit et. Mei te dico erroribus scriptorem, an detracto interesset mei.

Eos no case mazim deseruisse. Eu duo ludus fastidii. Duo noster inimicus recteque ut. Illud clita ancillae usu ut. Vel euismod blandit evertitur ut, velit ludus id eam, eu choro iuvaret petentium quo. Cum reque detracto ex, in ius clita commune.

In vix affert vivendo recusabo, verear referrentur id pro. Vim ei noster suscipiantur conclusionemque, no est corpora percipit. Ei vidit mucius efficiendi est, at percipit urbanitas ius. Tritani ancillae deterruisset ius ei, euismod nonumes vix in.

Cu munere convenire aliquando sea, everti feugait eu cum. No vis iisque splendide. Mollis accusam praesent id his, augue nominati ne pri, pro accusam facilisis expetenda cu. Sea veri oblique ea.

Esse recusabo invenire ea vix. Mei debet ridens officiis no, movet molestiae qui eu. Harum malorum consectetuer ad nec. Id eam vide nemore invidunt, cu per reque oporteat. Vix eu inani accusamus disputationi, usu nibh persius abhorreant te, ne usu doctus expetenda.

Mel veritus percipit euripidis ut, tritani singulis delicatissimi ei his, eu fuisset quaestio antiopam mel. Cu eam prima feugait. Te vis dico fuisset, te eum modus exerci audiam. Laudem nostro duo in, ut usu etiam suavitate moderatius. Qui discere verterem maluisset ne, adhuc commune te quo, maluisset constituto ne eam. Te cum sint nullam, nam no voluptaria efficiantur.


[1] Yado, yado, yabbi.

[2] This is my footnote

Categories: Citizens

Cast of characters countdown: David Bailey Sindt

A Wretched Man - The Author's Blog - Wed, 11/13/2013 - 9:39am

Is Anybody Else Out There Gay?

Rev. David Bailey Sindt, a gay Presbyterian pastor, provoked the 1974 General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church when he asked this question with a sign held high. Pastor Sindt’s sign was no mere whim. It was part of a calculated strategy, a “ministry of presence,” that Sindt and other LGBT activists within the ecumenical denominations would pursue. By their openness and their presence, they implicitly proclaimed, “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re Presbyterian (or Lutheran, or Episcopalian, or Methodist, or UCC), but we’re not merely the gay issue; we’re flesh and blood human beings.”

Pastor Sindt’s assertive coming out serves as the pan-denominational theme for the seventies, and his courageous action at the General Assembly is credited as the birth of More Light Presbyterians. In the heady movement days of the early seventies, Sindt and Rev. Bill Johnson served on a task force originating with the San Francisco Council on Religion and Homosexuality and recognized by the National Council of Churches. The task force served as resource for the startups of denominational advocacy groups. In 1975 Sindt met with the organizers of the first gathering of gay Methodists, and Sindt was present as resource person during the first national gathering of Integrity, the Episcopal advocacy group, that same year. Three task force members served as resource persons at the 1974 Minneapolis gathering that birthed Lutherans Concerned.

As the decade wound down, Sindt was joined by gay seminarians Bill Silver and Chris Glaser as leaders of More Light Presbyterians. Silver’s request for ordination in the New York Presbytery was kicked upstairs to the General Assembly for “definitive guidance.” The General Assembly responded with the creation of a task force that included Glaser as a member. The task force eventually submitted a gay-friendly report to the 1978 General Assembly, but commissioners (delegates) rejected the report and overwhelmingly rendered definitive guidance that stated, “homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity” and “unrepentant homosexual practice does not accord with the requirements for ordination.” Subsequent decades would witness ecclesiastical trials that extended the scope and effect of this “definitive guidance.”

Pastor Sindt continued his advocacy efforts until his life was cut short as an early victim of the AIDS epidemic in 1986. David lived alone, but his church friends formed a team to care for him in his home during the last months of his life. Each evening, someone prepared dinner, and they shared the meal. His former congregation continues this ministry by taking a Sunday evening meal to the residents of a Chicago House facility. David’s own home became the first Chicago House residence owned by the agency. More Light Presbyterians has named their annual service award after Pastor Sindt. He was one of 13 persons inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Wednesday, October 25, 1995, at the Cultural Center in Chicago.


This is the sixth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in my soon-to-be-released book, Queer Clergy. Here’s the list of prior posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement(gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1970-72 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1972-77 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)

Related Posts:
Categories: Citizens

Cast of characters countdown: James Siefkes

A Wretched Man - The Author's Blog - Tue, 11/12/2013 - 10:03am

A straight ally, Lutheran Pastor James Siefkes, a “rather rotund church executive” in the home offices of the American Lutheran Church (ALC), a predecessor to the ELCA, was the principal inspiration for the founding of “Lutherans Concerned for Gay People” in 1974. That’s the short version; here are the details. Well, even what follows is a condensed version; read Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism for the full story, woven into an overarching narrative.

After a couple of stops as a parish pastor, Iowan James Siefkes landed in the western regional office of the ALC in Palo Alto, California. Rev. Siefkes was a third-generation Lutheran pastor after his father and grandfather. Serving in the San Francisco area during the tumultuous 1960s, Siefkes developed a program designed to introduce clergy and spouses to hot-button issues such as the Vietnam war, campus riots, runaway youth, drugs, and more. His Matrix program offered the streets of San Francisco as Petri dish for clergy to examine life on the edge.

I would set up a program, take maybe thirty, forty people and move them into the YMCA in the Tenderloin in San Francisco and, then, would try to introduce them to what was going on in the Bay Area at that time.

Matrix came to the attention of the ALC home office in Minneapolis, and Pastor Siefkes was offered a position to develop something similar; he was to establish and lead a new ALC department to be called, “Congregational Social Concerns.” So far, so good, but when he invited approximately sixty persons from the Twin Cities (Lutheran and Catholic Social Services, ALC executives, an ALC bishop, the YMCA, the University of Minnesota Medical School, and more) to a seminar to evaluate the potential for ministry in the area of human sexuality, “the milieu heated up,” according to Siefkes. In particular, the scandalized director of Catholic Social Services published an unfriendly report in Commonweal magazine entitled, “Sex, Sex, Sex!”

Undeterred, Siefkes successfully sought a small ALC appropriation of a few thousand dollars:

To enable at least one national meeting of up to twenty ALC homosexual persons plus 5 resource persons to discuss their sexual orientation and their relationship because of it, to society and their church; to the end that they may address the church and the church might respond to them and become less a source of oppression to ALC and other persons with homosexual orientation.

Earlier, Siefkes had been interviewed by a reporter from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Howard Erickson, who was a closeted gay man who also published in the gay periodical, The Advocate, under the pseudonym, Bjorn Bjornson. Erickson’s Advocate article introduced Siefkes to the gay community as an ally, and Siefkes used contacts he attained following that article to invite around twenty gay and lesbian persons to an inaugural meeting in Minneapolis in June 1974. Five persons actually attended the weekend event, including reporter Erickson. Siefkes himself stepped back and let the five persons plus three facilitators conduct the meeting themselves.

On Sunday evening, June 16, 1974, Siefkes and his wife, Sally, joined the others for a social event and report at a professor’s home near the University of Minnesota campus. When he arrived, he learned that Lutherans Concerned had been born, the LGBT advocacy group that would grown in size and strength and become the lobbying force that encouraged the ELCA to revise its attitude and policies toward gays and lesbians. Five LGBT Lutherans and three facilitators would have “an impact way out of proportion to their numbers.” Sort of like five fishes and two loaves.

The conservative Lutheran press picked up on the story and lambasted the “Dollars for Disobedience” appropriation. By printing copies of the organizational newsletter, including the subscription form, the conservative publication unwittingly helped to spread the word. Four years later at the first national gathering of Lutherans Concerned, reporter Erickson would reminisce, “We five had our differences, all right, but it started to look like this nestling we’d hatched just might be around for awhile.”

In 1992, Lutherans Concerned established the Jim Siefkes Justice-Maker Award, to recognize superior and tireless efforts of straight allies on behalf of LGBT Lutherans. Siefkes himself was honored with the 2010 Peace and Justice Award from the Hawkinson Foundation. The award honors individuals or couples who have made significant and sustained contributions to peace and justice. Now retired, Siefkes remains in Minneapolis and helped me with background information to the founding of Lutherans Concerned (now ReconcilingWorks).


This is the fifth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in Queer Clergy. Here’s the list of prior posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1970-72 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1972-77 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

Related Posts:
Categories: Citizens

Cast of characters countdown: Ellen Marie Barrett

A Wretched Man - The Author's Blog - Mon, 11/11/2013 - 10:09am

In 1970, the Episcopal General Convention authorized diaconal ordination for women, a non-sacerdotal role. Two years later, Bishop Paul Moore, Jr., of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, interviewed Ellen Marie Barrett, an early female candidate for ordination to the diaconate.

I asked her to sit down on the sofa across from the wing chair where I usually sit when someone comes to see me. Ellen is tall, with dark brown hair conservatively styled. She, like many tall people, stoops a little as she walks. Her most arresting feature is her eyes, which appear honest, deep, and welcoming … In conversation, she seems rather soft, until the discussion finds its way into an area of faith or conviction. Then you strike rock.

Though the progressive bishop was impressed with Barrett, he did not recommend her for ordination to the diaconate because she was an out lesbian. Barrett attended seminary. When she finished in 1975, she again asked Bishop Moore to approve her for ordination to the diaconate. He relented, and she was ordained a deacon in December, 1975 before a few church ladies, a few students, and her proud Southern mother. The ordination barely disturbed the church mice even though Barrett had been elected co-president of Integrity, an Episcopal LGBT advocacy group, at its inaugural national meeting earlier that year.

The following summer, the Episcopal General Convention went further; church canons were revised to allow women to be ordained to the priesthood, and many lined up for ordination when the policy would become effective in January, 1977. Deacon Barrett was among the hopeful women, but she and Bishop Moore weren’t prepared for the firestorm that awaited them. TV networks were there for her January ordination, which was a Time Magazine feature story.

The bishop and the lesbian priest were hounded mercilessly with calls, letters, and rejection. The last years of the decade of the seventies degenerated into the “height of homophobia” within the Episcopal Church. Barrett didn’t have a comfortable career and faced crushing depression. Eventually, she joined the Order of St. Benedict as Sister Bernadette.

In researching her story, I located her in the Diocese of Newark, and I asked her to comment. Months passed, and I heard nothing. Then, a long email arrived. With Sister Bernadette’s permission, the entire email appears as a poignant coda to the Episcopal section of my book.

Here’s a snippet:


Would I do it again? Knowing what I know now? That’s not a question that can possibly have an answer. Today is a very different time. I have no idea whether God would have moulded my combination of weakness, pig-headedness, and some talent into what another time would need. I was what I was, and I did what I did, in the context of a particular time and socio-political climate.

Am I still convinced it was the right thing to do? Yes. Done the right way by the right person? Who knows? It is what it is. And priesthood is as much a part of me as green eyes and once black hair turning white.

I am a priest forever. That’s all.


This is the fourth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in Queer Clergy. Here’s the list of prior posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1970-72 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

Related Posts:
Categories: Citizens

Cast of characters countdown: William R. Johnson

A Wretched Man - The Author's Blog - Fri, 11/08/2013 - 9:38am

The Christopher Street Liberation Day parade from Greenwich Village to Central Park on June 28, 1970 was peaceful. Though police turned their backs on the marchers, they honored their parade permit.

Across the nation in San Francisco, police were less respectful at a much smaller event that same day, consisting of a couple of hundred queers at a ”Gay In” at Golden Gate park; police arrested several of the participants. San Francisco was years away from its later reputation as an LGBT friendly city.

Five years earlier, on New Year’s eve 1965, San Francisco police had broken promises made to the clergy organizers of a ball sponsored by the Council on Religion and Homosexuality. When police attempted to crash the ball, the word went out to the clergy organizers: “Get down here and wear your collar.” Lutheran pastor Chuck Lewis kept flash bulbs popping, and his assistant, Jo Chadwick, stuffed his film negatives in her bra to prevent the police from confiscating the photos. At a later press conference, clergy offered the “cloak of the cloth” moral authority, and the eyes of the nation witnessed the reality of police harassment of the gay community.

Five months after the arrests at the “Gay In” at Golden Gate Park, another historic event would quietly unfold across the Bay. Sitting atop “Holy Hill,” the neo-Gothic structures of the Pacific School of Religion (PSR) stand in stately vigil over San Francisco Bay across from the Golden Gate bridge. The stone and timber halls of PSR had long witnessed Christian activism. Founded by Yankee congregationalists from the east in 1866, the seminary prided itself on a “courage born of rashness.”

Four hundred students and others attended a homosexuality symposium in the seminary dining hall on November 11, 1970. When someone made an incendiary comment about gays, a young seminarian found himself rising to speak. His spontaneous comment changed his life and the course of church history.

I am not a faggot, I am not a queer, I am not a fairy–but I am a practicing homosexual. And I can say that with joy–it is an affirmation which I make with pride.

Despite his impromptu “coming out” and over the objections of the seminary president, William R. Johnson continued in seminary and the Golden Gate Association of the United Church of Christ (UCC) ordained him to the ministry in June 1972 around the third anniversary of Stonewall. The UCC had accomplished another historic “first”—the first ordination of an out gay man by any traditional Christian denomination.

Thus began a distinguished career as the pastor to countless gay Christians, including many closeted clergy, and as the pan-denominational prophetic leader of the movement toward full inclusion. Rev. Johnson served as inspiration and strategist for the fledgling LGBT advocacy organizations that appeared in Protestant denominations during the 1970s, including as founder and first leader of what came to be known as the UCC Coalition. Later, he served for many years in the UCC home office.

Pastor Johnson has only recently retired. Elmhurst College, his alma mater, has honored him with an annual lecture series in his name. Pastor Johnson has also been a fact-checking source and supporter during my compilation of Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism.

He offers this endorsement of the book:

“I have always known that this historical overview of the religious LGBT movement was needed not only to tell our movement stories to the masses but to make same-gender loving people aware of a significant but often overlooked part of their own history. This is a significant work by justice ally Obie Holmen — a singular contribution toward the full inclusion of LGBT people within Christian community and society. Many will be surprised by the breadth and depth of the movement in the Church.”




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Cast of characters countdown: Robert Mary Clement

A Wretched Man - The Author's Blog - Thu, 11/07/2013 - 8:58am

On a June summer’s evening in 1969, a gay Catholic priest and his partner heard a disturbance a few blocks away from their Greenwich Village home. It seems a routine police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, had gone awry, and the queers didn’t go quietly. Riots continued for the next couple of days, and the gay liberation movement was born.

A year later, the priest and his partner prepared to participate in a parade to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. A light beamed from the Oscar Wilde bookstore, and as if drawn by a beacon, a few faceless strangers shuffled out of the shadows to gather in awkward silence. By the time the sun first peeked over Brooklyn across the East River, a crowd of hundreds milled about the bookstore that had become the de facto headquarters for the audacious planners of Christopher Street Liberation Day to celebrate the first anniversary of Stonewall. At the time, they didn’t realize they would make history in the first Gay Pride march.

Father Robert Mary Clement, a priest associated with Old Catholicism, a non-Roman spinoff, donned his priestly garb, like he did every Sunday, while his partner prepared a placard and orange flyers that they would distribute at the parade. Father Clement’s presence in the parade garnered much attention, especially by the press and the picture-takers, second only to the drag queens; after all, he marched as an openly-gay priest, in collar and cassock, carrying the banner, “Gay People This Is Your Church.” Meanwhile, his partner distributed their colored fliers inviting queers to attend The Church of the Beloved Disciple.

A few weeks later, the tiny congregation of the Church of the Beloved Disciple paid more than they could afford to rent the spacious sanctuary of Holy Apostles Episcopal church in lower Manhattan, but as the time drew near for the Sunday afternoon service, it appeared that their invitation to the Christopher Street marchers would go unheeded. Father Clement peeked out from the sacristy fifteen minutes before the start and there was no one there, but then:

Two o’clock, we opened the side sacristy door for our procession. We couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t just that every seat in the church was filled, the aisles were packed. That church, which would hold maybe six hundred plus in a squeeze, had over eight hundred people in it, and we don’t know how many people were turned away that day who couldn’t get in.

Because we had all the Protestants, the Orthodox, the Catholics. And on top of it all, you had, the most incredible thing, we had Jewish people, a lot of them. Because they wanted a home. Even though it was Christian, people were seeking God, they were seeking a relationship to the divine, and they would come to us because everyone else had rejected or turned them away. They had nowhere to go. [emphasis added]

In the early years of the decade of the ‘70s, the Church of the Beloved Disciple would be a safe haven for gays and lesbians of lower Manhattan. Father Clement and his partner would later relocate to California where Father Clement  became an archbishop for an independent Catholic group, and he has remained active in the interfaith LGBT movement on the west coast.

This brief biographical sketch is merely a snippet, and Father Clement’s story receives greater treatment in Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism.

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Cast of characters countdown: Troy Perry

A Wretched Man - The Author's Blog - Wed, 11/06/2013 - 10:33am

Queer Clergy recounts the journey toward full LGBT inclusion in the church, and readers will encounter many pilgrims along the way. As we countdown to the release of the book (now looking like the end of November), I will provide brief biographical sketches of some of the wayfarers who criss-cross the pages of the book.

Troy Perry was born to a family of bootleggers in the Florida panhandle, and he exhibited a youthful bent toward preaching. Perry became a Baptist preacher at age 15, married a preacher’s daughter at age 19 with whom he fathered two children, and was assigned as pastor to a Pentecostal Church in Santa Ana, California at age 22. Six years later he attempted suicide after he had been defrocked and divorced, and then life got interesting.

In October 1968, 8 months before the Stonewall riots of Greenwich Village marked the birth of the gay liberation movement, Perry held a worship service in his Los Angeles home for members of his gay community. Twelve persons dared to show up. They sang. They read Scripture. They prayed. Perry preached. They shed tears as they shared bread and wine.

That was the first worship service of what became the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) movement with hundreds of predominantly gay congregations popping up around the country and around the world in what would become the first welcoming church for gays and lesbians at a time that the rest of Christendom, including the mainline, Protestant denominations, remained hostile.

In the early years, the MCC survived several arsonist fires, including a horrendous tragedy in New Orleans that claimed the lives of 32 persons. By the time of Perry’s retirement in 2005, the MCC had grown to over 250 congregations in 26 countries with 43,000 members.

Of course, the book goes into greater detail.

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Last minute edits

A Wretched Man - The Author's Blog - Wed, 10/30/2013 - 11:54am

Last week, I read my Queer Clergy manuscript for the umpteenth time. As I tell my wife, sometimes I really like it and other times I think it is fluff. This latest re-reading of the manuscript marked up by Pilgrim Press copy editor, Kris Firth, was positive. Perhaps it was her editorial feedback:

 I applaud you on your scholarship, writing, and the scope of the material, but also on the excellent condition of the manuscript. It’s obvious that you have had editorial review prior to submission.

Actually, the MS hadn’t been edited previously, except by me, but I confess to nit-picking scrupulosity. In any case, her suggested edits are now in place, and the “page proofs” will be available for final review soon. Galley copies are in the hands of potential reviewers, and I wait, mindful of my days as a trial attorney, sucking in a long, deep breath as the jury shuffled out of the courtroom to begin deliberations.

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Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “The Emperor of All Maladies”

Bill Ostrem, Northern Letter - Tue, 06/14/2011 - 8:38pm

I recently finished reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. I recommend it highly to those who want to know more about cancer.

It’s a long and challenging read, but it’s worth it. The main thing I learned: cancer is a many-headed hydra. Each type of cancer is a different disease that requires a different type of treatment.

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What we deserve

Bill Ostrem, Northern Letter - Mon, 05/23/2011 - 7:24am

The rich, the well-connected, the privileged, and the powerful have given themselves the society that they deserve. The rest of us deserve better.

Categories: Citizens

Hopes and Dreams

Northfield Cohousing Community - Mon, 11/30/2009 - 10:05pm

On November 22nd, all of the members of Norcoh met for their second programming meeting.   These cards with simple but effective drawings helped express their hopes, dreams, and goals for the neighborhood.

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Northfield Cohousing Community - Tue, 11/24/2009 - 5:34pm

The cohousing design discussion on November 5, 2009, was well-attended and lively conversation sprouted afterward. Attendees included ages from very young to retirement-age, which is a perfect match for our goals for our community.

In February, we will be offering a Community Ed course in four sessions for those who would like more information. Also, stay tuned to this blog for more opportunities to engage!

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