Dean Letter: St. Paul’s an Oral History (Part 4)

This is an excerpt from an interview of Sue Kelly by the Rev. Dick Anderson in 2017.

Hi, I’m Sue Kelly. And I’ve been a member of St. Paul’s for 60 years with some hiatus during college and traveling, but it’s been a big part of my life. And I want to tell you first about how I first came to St. Paul’s. I came with my family. I was the third child of Graham and Julia Kelly, who had eight children. And we were Presbyterians before we came to St. Paul’s. And then, when my younger brother John was about three years old, he finally got diagnosed as being mentally retarded, and my parents made the decision to move him to the state hospital up in Costa Mesa.

But before they did that, my mother sought every means she could to see if she could bring healing to my brother. One of the things that she heard about was a healing service at St. Paul’s. She had become a member of a healing prayer group that told her about St. Paul’s. And so she came to a Friday healing service when Father Robinson was the priest at St. Paul’s. And that brought us to St. Paul’s. Father Robinson talked to her afterwards and said your family needs to go here. We’d been Presbyterians, I think. And my parents didn’t want to just switch us without taking our feelings into account too.

So we got to vote on whether we wanted to go to St. Paul’s or remain Presbyterians: the idea was that my dad would take us to the Presbyterian Church and my mother would take us to the Episcopal Church, whoever wanted to go, each of us. But when we came and visited St. Paul’s, each of us voted. And we ended up going, all of us, to St. Paul’s. Part of that was because the children were allowed to participate in the services. For myself, I think, you know, I found St. Paul’s rather austere. It was all grey cement in those days. And although the windows were glorious, the rest of the church wasn’t particularly colorful. But we got through the service the first time, and in those days, the Gloria was sung at the end. And when the entire congregation stood up and sang the Gloria together, I thought, I like this. And so I voted for St. Paul’s because of that.

Those days in the Episcopal Church, you were given memory work to do at each grade level appropriate to the age. So I think if we were little you might learn a grace, and then you would do the Lord’s Prayer. And then you might learn one of the Creeds. And then, you know, depending on how old you were, you had different memory work assignments. Because of our Presbyterian background, we all cleaned up on all of them and we ended up getting class awards and memory work awards. Because my parents felt it was important. We had three services in those days. There was one at at 7:30 with a breakfast in between that and the 9:15 service where the girls sang, and then the 11 o’clock service with the adults in it. And the families were largely at the 9:15 service with classes. I think it was in between the services I can’t really remember. Yes, I think because we went to church, so it must have been after the services.

There were enough kids that every class, every grade had a class represented because this was the 1950’s. Men had come home from World War Two, and they’d all started families. So this place was just bursting with children. And it was a lot of fun. There were family dinners and bazaars and different fundraising things, and the youth group was active, and the church paid for a bus for the girls’ choir and the junior acolytes to go to Disneyland.

One of the things that I’ve seen over these 60 years is how the church has changed in different ways. The congregation has changed; the type of leadership has changed, depending on who the priests were, and the physical plant has changed too.

And of course, you yourself change. I think one of the biggest changes that you have when going from a child in the place to an adult is becoming an adult, and finding these people who you always addressed as Mrs., Mr. And Mrs. Now they want you to call them on a first name basis because you’re both teaching Sunday school together or in the choir. And so, when I joined the choir – I had been a singer in the girls’ choir and quit when I was a teenager, because I was too old, “sophisticated” for that. But I found that I needed music in my life as an adult, and I rejoined the adult choir and found out the woman that sat next to me in choir as an adult, had been our choir director when I was a child. One of the things I forgot to mention is children. There was a junior altar guild so the girls had a chance to learn how to do the  altar guild duties, and they were trained in that I didn’t do that. My older sister did.

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2 thoughts on “Dean Letter: St. Paul’s an Oral History (Part 4)”

  1. Susan is another parishioner who has a myriad of memories of the early days of St Paul’s. I hope you will feature more of her interview and those done by your former interviewees. I appreciate your doing these because it’s so good for all St Paul’s people to learn the history of our blessed Cathedral. Even though I’ve been here in the desert for some 16 years and dedicated to my parish at St Barnabas, St Paul’s will always be a beloved part of me, and I of her.

  2. I know Sue from my time at St. Paul’s. This is the first time that I have heard this story about her early years at St. Paul’s. Delightful to see and hear Sue tell her story in her own words.


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