The SS France was a magnificent ship. Sailing to Southampton booked into an inside cabin cost $262 one way in 1968 according to the receipt. Dad had gone halfsies on it with me. I worked all summer to earn my portion. Every penny of babysitting money and retail sales salary went into the purchase. Dad never said ‘no’ . He expected that if I came to him with an idea, I was to have thought it through and considered the viability. He would ask questions about my considerations and then we split the cost. Girl Scout horseback riding camp, tickets to see the Beatles , the Rolling Stones, expenses for the car – I paid gas, he paid insurance—all were split down the middle.
As the only girl in a family with three sons, he gave me another affirmation. The expectations for me were the same as for my brothers. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t do according to him. He expected me to hold my own in debates, conversation, dancing – particularly the fox trot which I learned with my feet on his—social graces, work ethic, and recreation.
Now, as the purser called ‘All ashore who are going ashore” over the loudspeaker, he turned back to me, just before exiting. Crossing the lobby, he embraced me and wouldn’t let me go. Every girl needs a Dad who really loves her. It took me a while to sort things out and realize that, but it has made a life giving difference in my life.
Which segues the conversation into Ministerial Association 1992-1995. Men, all men, except for, occasionally, Sally Thompson the associate pastor from the Wesleyan community, and, for a few months before Tom Martin came, Laurie Alioto. I hope I have spelled her name correctly. By fall of 1993 it had settled into pretty much me and the guys.
We met for breakfast regularly. From Quaker to Assemblies of God and everything in between, every single leader of a Christian fellowship on the Island plus a retired pastor and a pastoral counselor, ate together, shared our lives, our ministries, our cares, our hopes, our vision, our calling. I had twelve brothers. It was the sweetest fellowship I’ll ever know with any group of men. Thanksgiving worship was rotated. Good Friday we all drew ‘words’ and seven of us would preach on the seven last words of Christ. The new guy always got Easter Sunrise sermon. John Erickson held the helm. Meaning, he had the manila folder with previous worship services’ bulletins.
Our combined Vacation Bible School had the final potluck held at St John Vianney’s because there were too many people involved to hold it anywhere else. Some of us agreed to be targets in the dunk tank at the Salmon Festival dinner. Many of us made our favorite dishes for the “Holy Smoke” fundraiser for one of the charities, while people paid to taste our wares. We were a team serving Island Christians.
Father Tryphon was celebrating worship at St Patrick’s in Dockton and living with Father Paul in a little blue house. But he had a set of blueprints and a dream of a new monastery. The other guys had blueprints too. David, Paul, Tom, one the Johns, and Frank all had plans for expansion. The churches were growing and they needed more functional and worshipful space. Five of the six men saw their building plans come to full fruition.
The time around those pushed together tables at Sound Food in the early morning while Nan waited on us were holy moments, sacred conversations.
Eventually a couple of us got the edict from on high, in our respective denominations, that we were not to work collaboratively in ecumenical situations. Some of us died. Some retired. Three of us were terminated although we did not move off the Island. There were some new leaders who felt only pastors currently leading a church ought to be included. One guy was told he couldn’t associate with women in senior positions of leadership. The last time I remember attending was the day after 9/11. We were a small and fragmented group by that time.
Nowadays you will sometimes hear me talk about the need to end Patriarchy and establish Egalitarianism, particularly in the church. Patriarchy hurts men. It places too many false expectations on them. Men are fragile creatures with insecurities and doubts and, sometimes, inept abilities just like women. Nobody is really strong unless they have been affirmed and confirmed of the abilities and worth from another human being.
That’s what happened around that table. For three years I saw humble men of God being very transparent, living out their faith, sharing their concerns and cautions. They heard my heart the same as any of their colleagues sitting around that table. Not one of them ever patronized me with reference to my gender. In fact the one time someone spoke sharply to me, he drove to my house to apologize.
When the higher ups from the denominations got involved and started requiring the men to be patriarchs, and separatists, my heart was very sad. Their original impulse was what Jesus had in mind I think when he was walking around with the disciples. Each of us had a strength to share and each of us lacked something filled by one of the others. For three years we were Christian community the way it’s supposed to be done. We were better for it. None of the churches has ever regained that strength. You can’t. Shared calling, shared faith, shared struggles, shared vision, shared burdens equal unity, the cord of three strands that cannot be broken all around our faith.
Wherever you are in heaven or on earth, John, John, John, John, Tom, David, Paul, Frank, Lou, Bob, Jeff, and Father Tryphon. I cherish that time together, before it changed, before we all went our separate ways and gathered in groups of similar minds, forgetting our similar hearts, our similar love of the Lord. At that moment, at that table, you were exactly the kind of men God intended for men to be. Thank you for including me.
Happy Father’s Day.