A memoir: coming to St Paul’s

As we told you previously, the history committee is collecting stories of SPC.  Here is a sample memoir. Everyone’s story is important, wherever you see yourself– congregant, chorister, visitor, clergy, staff….  The community is the whole body of us.  Please help us tell the story of all of us!
Sample memoir, from Robert Heylmun

In 1982 while living in Orange County, I happened to be in San Diego over Sunday night, and either by chance or divine design, I parked near St. Paul’s. It was just about 5:00PM, the doors were open, and I decided to go in to see if there might be an organ concert. I sat down in the quiet and dimly lit nave.

No concert, but the boys choir solemnly processed in to soft music from the organ. The officiant took his place and read the opening sentence, and then intoned the introit, answered by the choir. Then came the evening hymn which I still remember and now know as Bromley by Haydn (Hymn 29 in the 1982 hymnal). I sang along although the tune and words were new to me.

Then the suffrages, the anthem during the offering, and the prayers. A simple service, just as we celebrate Evensong these days. But this one had got into me somehow. I didn’t feel a whammy from the organ; we usually don’t get the organ’s full power displayed at Evensong anyway. What I experienced was more of an invasion, and I was aware that something mystical had happened to me, something that I am still unable to describe fully. It was nevertheless a palpable movement toward rendering me into being a different person, from one who had come into the church building completely indifferent to anything but the possibility of hearing a free concert, to one who fell to his knees in awe and admiration for the power that I knew had transformed me so suddenly.

All of the elements of that service combined to do the work that God intended: the organ, the choir, the officiant, the prayers—all of those were vehicular in bringing to my deepest consciousness a sense that I had come home, that I had returned from over twenty years of prodigal living, that a loving father was welcoming me back into the warm embrace of love.

Only then was I ready to look at the parts of the three-legged stool and begin my journey toward being an Episcopalian. Thirty years later, I am still here, still in that embrace, and one of the great honors and joys I am given at St. Paul’s Cathedral is to be an officiant at Evensong. Everything that helped find me and bring me home, works with me as I intone the introit, chant the suffrages, and sing the collects.

Oh, it was a whammy, no doubt about it, and when doubts arise, or problems come up, that Evensong settles me down, brings me back into harmony with that that ineffable and ultimately unknowable force that invaded me then and sustains me now.

That night was to lead me in a number of directions, one of them toward establishing a welcoming place for gay and lesbian Christians. That need presented itself as fully and strongly as had that something mystical at Evensong that night, something that drew me into itself. By 1986 another man and I sought permission for the first Integrity chapter to form, and Dean Jim Carroll not only gave us that permission, but celebrated Eucharist at our first meeting in the Guild Room.

And you see where we have arrived now. The events along the way to full inclusion and marriage of same-sex couples are the events that inform memoir, that recreate a significant world from the memories and dusts of the past, that produce for readers a record of the spiritual autobiography of a movement that has revealed yet another of the faces of God.

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