Archive for the ‘Growing Up United Methodist’ Category

Spiritual Life and Cinema   Leave a comment

Above:  A Screen Capture from Bicycle Thieves (1948)

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I am preparing to start my fourth year as the person who chooses films for the Spiritual Life Movie Series at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  On the last Friday of each month, from January to October, I screen a film.  Others set up the equipment, arrange the chairs, and bring the refreshments.  My selections range from classics, such as Citizen Kane (1941) and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s revolutionary The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), the latter of which Spanish Fascist dictator Francisco Franco banned for its apparently leftist politics, to more recent works, such as Away from Her (2006)Second Best (1994), and Doubt (2008).  I program an occasional documentary, such as The Overnighters (2014).  Quality is of the essence.  Toward that end I avoid openly evangelical films, which hold no appeal to me.  Art, however, fascinates me.  At least one spiritual theme is mandatory, however.  Regardless of my great affection for the 1937 version of The Prisoner of Zenda (the one remade as The Androids of Tara during the Key to Time season (1978-1979) of Doctor Who), I cannot find a spiritual lesson in that classic movie.

That I find myself doing this monthly task (1) makes sense, (2) contributes to the life of the parish, (3) fulfills a need I have to share great movies, and (4) confirms that I am at the right place at the right time.  I recall feeling out-of-place in many of the congregations in which I worshiped prior to August 2005, when I arrived in Athens, Georgia, and transferred to St. Gregory the Great Church.  I cannot imagine screening movies of my liking at any of the previous churches–certainly not in the rural United Methodist churches in which my father served.  Now I rejoice to have become integrated into the parish to which I have belonged for more than 12 years.

The first movie of the 2018 season (my fourth year) will be Bicycle Thieves (1948), a film also known in English as The Bicycle Thief.  The haunting masterpiece, superficially about the search for a stolen bicycle, a vehicle essential for one man to work, and therefore to feed and clothe his family in post-World War II Rome, Italy, is really about what happens to the father and his young son along the way.  This choice is consistent with my appetite for Italian art movies.  A good story can teach a spiritual lesson or a set of lessons without becoming preachy.  Wonderful cinematography accompanying that story adds to one’s experience of art.

As long as I have this opportunity to direct this series of movie screenings, I intend to (1) enjoy doing so and (2) do my best.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NARCISSUS, ARGEUS, AND MARCELLINUS OF TOMI, ROMAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ODILO OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Library, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, December 29, 2017   Leave a comment

All Photographs by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I have been the parish librarian for St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, for several years.

I have belonged to a number of churches.  I grew up in a series of congregations (mostly rural United Methodist, in the South Georgia Conference).  Few of these churches had libraries.  Few of those few who did had well-stocked ones.  After I converted to The Episcopal Church in 1991, I found that most of my congregations had libraries, albeit not very impressive ones.  At one parish, in the parish hall, one could find the library–books stuffed into a double-sided bookcase on wheels.  There were books in boxes in a room in a mission church, but that collection was not a feasible congregational library.

When I arrived in Athens in August 2005, I joined St. Gregory the Great Church, on the advice of Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., then the Bishop of Georgia.  He was correct.  Immediately I found the library impressive and well-stocked.  Over the years I borrowed books from it, helped to reorganize it in 2007, and participated in meetings in the space.  Then, a few years ago, I became the librarian.  Since then I have continued to reorganize the library and have curated the collection.

I have also contributed much of my library to the collection.

Along the way I have redecorated, donating much of my iconography and a number of other items, ranging from a globe to crucifixes to sets of pinecone-shaped candles, to the library.  These I have added to decorative objects already present.

The emphasis on Roman Catholic iconography has been deliberate.  I have also added Eastern Orthodox and Jewish items.  The purpose of this redecorating has been to make the library a sacred space, not just a room containing many books.  All this has been for the glory of God and the spiritual benefit of all who enter the space.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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Reconstructed Floor Plan of the Late Parsonage of the Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia   Leave a comment

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I have been continuing my stroll down memory lane in Burke County, Georgia, where my family and I lived from June 1980 to June 1982.  I have worked from a combination of photographs and memories.  Photographs have stirred up memories.  For example, an old Google Street View image has reminded me of how small the car port (immediately outside the back door) was and shown a chimney on the back of the house) that I did not recall.  A scale on the image I scanned in my previous Vidette post has helped me to measure the house.

The placement of rooms is correct.  Precise dimensions and approximate placements of doors and windows are generally less certain, however.  I recall a door connecting the bathroom to the master bedroom, but not where in the bathroom it was.  I am not certain of the dimensions of the front room and my bedroom either, or whether only right angles defined them.  I also seem to remember a door between the kitchen and the dining room, but not precisely where.

Either way, looking at this floor plan stirs up more memories.  I have clear memories of certain moments in some of those rooms, for example.  The number of these is increasing.

From my temporal perspective, as fallible as it is, I recognize the truth of the old statement that the child is the father of the man.  I also understand that the range of piety within United Methodism, especially its Southern rural variants, does not fit me.  I know for sure that life in very small towns does not agree with me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 25, 2017 COMMON ERA

Vidette United Methodist Church Parsonage, January 29, 2015   1 comment

Above:  A Scan of a Printout of a Satellite Image, Courtesy of Google Earth

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Key:  

1 = Front porch

2 = Front steps

3 = Front room

4 = Sister’s bedroom

5 = Dining room

6 = Kitchen

7 = Den

8 = Car port

9 = Master bedroom

10 = My bedroom

11= Bathroom

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My past–especially the two years (June 1980-June 1982) I spent in Vidette, Georgia, continue to fascinate me.

I have posted about the town, church, parsonage here, here, and here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS.  At ORIGINAL POEMS AND FAMILY HISTORY BLOG I have posted germane posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  I have also found an image of the church building from Easter Sunday 1971 here.

Now I offer an analysis of the house based on the last satellite image of the house I can find, for the image dated October 30, 2016, shows where the house was.  The combination of photographic evidence from the family archives (in my possession) and my memories makes me confident that I am correct in my estimation of the internal arrangement of the now-demolished structure, which was well into its decline when my family and I lived there.  The scale on the image leads me to estimate that the house was about 1100 square feet, excluding the front porch and the car port.

All of this strolling down memory lane makes me grateful to live where I do–in Athens, Georgia, a city with many amenities.  I have my choice of grocery stores just a few miles away from my home, as opposed to having to take a trip 20 or so miles to Waynesboro, for example.

It is indeed good to know what one has while one has it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Growing Into Myself   1 comment

Learning from My Past

Recently I have spent much time plumbing the depths of my memory regarding some of my childhood years, especially the two years spanning June 1980-June 1982, when my family and I lived in Vidette, Georgia.  I have covered much of that ground on this weblog, as in a post about memories and another one regarding the now-demolished parsonage at Vidette.  As I have examined old photographs, studied images from Google Earth, and poured over artifacts from that time, I have pondered who I was then–at the ages of seven, eight, and nine years–and why I was that way.  I have done this out of a desire to, as much as possible, stand on the ground of objective reality, not to assign blame.

Besides, what good would assigning blame in these matters accomplish?  Stating objective reality, however, proves helpful.

To borrow a line from Sigmund Freud, the child is the father of the man.  For once I agree with the figure my Psychology 101 professor referred to as “Sigmund Fraud.”  The child is the father of the man; this is self-obvious.  Our early experiences shape us, for better and worse.  I can trace intergenerational influences upon my development back as far as two great-grandfathers.  Many more intergenerational influences upon me exist, I am sure, but I cannot document them.  Many of the positive and negative influences upon me reach back at least to George Washington Barrett (1873-1956) and John Dodson Taylor, Sr. (1860-1936).   Understanding that many of the positive and negative aspects of my past are partially due to previous generations proves helpful in determining an objectively accurate understanding of my past.

Another factor, of course, is me.  How I respond to various stimuli is my responsibility.  Yet I know I should refrain from being too harsh toward my younger selves, for, as much as I ought to forgive others, I need to forgive myself also.  Without making undue excuses, I focus on acknowledging and learning from my past.

Just as my parents did the best they could much of the time, so did I.  Just they made mistakes, so did I.

I harbor no ill will toward them or myself.  No, I embrace the exploration of my past for the purpose of learning more about who I was and who I am.  I seek lessons regarding how I should proceed from the present.  To dismiss the past as irrelevant (“That’s history.”) is wrong-headed.  To live in it is also erroneous.  I embrace my younger selves and thereby understand myself better than I did.  I focus not on sins and errors, but on growth.

We human beings learn by doing.  If we do not attempt anything, we will fail by default.  If we do attempt something, we risk failure.  We might also succeed.  Hopefully we will learn the proper lessons, regardless of whether we succeed or fail in our ventures.

One lesson I have learned from analyzing my past is that moving as often as I did during my childhood (every two or three years, usually) was more of a negative factor than a negative one.

This was beyond my control; I was just a child in a parsonage family.  My way of coping was to become more inwardly focused.  This was easy for me, an introvert.  I chose not to get too close to anyone, for I knew I would not be staying long.  This made saying goodbye easier than it would have been otherwise.  Yet the protective bubble I entered became self-destructive.  Opening myself up to others has been my great project for the last few years.  My father, with his entrenched inferiority complex, contributed greatly to these moves.  He perceived the world through a filter that led him to react to other people in ways that were not helpful.  I recall hearing him complain about many patronizing people, for example.  Some of them were patronizing, I am sure, but not all of them were.  Yet he acted as if they were.  That caused needless problems for him, my mother, my sister, and myself.  The blame for moves was not only his, however; each of those congregations included people notorious for engineering the departures of ministers.  I have come to sympathize with my father (now deceased).  He struggled with that inferiority complex and with the frustration of constantly being a fish out of water.  He did the best he could.  I was not kind and understanding toward him when he was alive.  I did not do the best I could.  I have forgiven myself for that sin.

As I strive to move along the proper course into the future, I seek to do so unencumbered by guilt and resentment yet aware of my previous path.  The future-not the past–awaits.  Many of what I perceive as my missteps may have actually prepared me for a better future.  My record lacks certain large mistakes because I have learned from smaller errors, for example.  Also, grace can transform a negative into an opportunity for the positive.  I look to the future, therefore, and hope and work for the best.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

Site of the Former Parsonage, Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia   4 comments

Related to my previous post is this one.

I visited Google Earth again and saved some pictures of the Vidette United Methodist Church, the former parsonage (in street view, dated January 2008 and August 2008) and of the site where the parsonage was (from above, dated October 30, 2016).  Then I cropped one of those images, inserted it into a Word document, and dredged up memories from 1980-1982.

I have examined this fuzzy image, for which I have no street view counterpart yet.  I have noticed the shadow in it–presumably from a chimney.  In my bedroom I did have a closed-up fireplace with a heater in front of it.  That chimney had therefore marked one corner of the site of my former bedroom.

My memories regarding the dining room are vague.  I recall about where it was (between the kitchen and my sister’s bedroom), but I do not recall the relative size of the room.  I am likewise vague about the size of the kitchen.  It was a small house, however, so none of the rooms was cavernous.

I will not post any of the saved images, except for scan of a printed, black-and-white version of a cropped satellite photograph.  I do, however, encourage any of you who might to curious to look up Vidette in Google Earth, find the church and the site of the parsonage next to it.  Finding the church should not be difficult, for the town is really small.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

Memories of Vidette, Georgia   6 comments

Vidette UMC 01

Vidette United Methodist Church 1980-1982

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I have been spending much time using Google Earth recently.  In particular I have been examining satellite and street view images of Vidette, Georgia, in western Burke County, where my family and I lived from June 1980 to June 1982.   My father was the pastor of the Vidette-Friendship-Green’s Cut United Methodist Charge.  I was seven, eight, and nine years old at the time, so I did not pay attention to most of the local ecclesiastical matters.  (Battle of the Planets, a dreadful  and frequently nonsensical American dubbing of a superior Japanese cartoon series, was much more interesting to me.)  I have learned, however, that the responsibility for the move in 1982 was a joint matter shared by my father and certain lay members.  Moving away was also a blessing.

Vidette Parsonage 01

The Parsonage, 1980-1982. My sister’s bedroom was on the right. The front room was in the center, off the porch. My bedroom was to the left, behind the twin windows at the porch.

The parsonage, located next to Vidette United Methodist Church, was in need of repair.  It was an old structure with one bathroom, no corridors, and no central air or heating.  The den was a narrow room in the middle-back section of the house, located between the master bedroom and the bathroom on one side and the kitchen and the dining room on the other.

Vidette Parsonage 02

I come from a bookish family.

Vidette Parsonage 04

The den. The dining room was to the left and the bathroom as to the right. My sister’s bedroom was to the left, through the front room. My bedroom was to the right, through the front room.

Vidette Parsonage 03

Look at me!

How many parishioners would have chosen to live in a house in that condition?  But the structure was good enough for the pastor and his family, right?  No!

The front room, just off the front porch, separated my sister’s bedroom from mine.  My bedroom, facing onto the front porch, was obviously supposed to be the pastor’s study, for it had a built-in closet and lacked a closet.  It had to be my bedroom, however, for there was no other room.  It was good to have the use of a built-in bookcase, however.  The large heater provided heat during the winter.  I dressed in front of it on cold mornings.

Much of life during the main part of the week during the school year occurred in Waynesboro, the county seat.  There we visited the bakery some Mennonites owned.  In that town my mother worked in the city hall and my sister and I attended school.

Vidette UMC 02

Me

1980-1982 were not good years for me.  I was struggling with life.  Certainly moving every few years did not help with regard to that matter.  I was not very sociable, and not just because of my introversion.  So I was possibly the worst Cub Scout ever.  At least I tried to be sociable, I suppose.  When we moved away, I terminated my involvement in the Cub Scouts.  Also, my physical awkwardness (evident in P.E.) contributed to my social awkwardness, as some of my classmates took the opportunity to mock me.  When my third grade class received Honorable Mention in the dodgeball tournament at Waynesboro Elementary School, many classmates blamed me.  Also, when (not by my doing) classmates learned of my middle name (Randolph), I became “Randolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  My friend was Ola Mae Bailey, the kindly elderly woman who lived next door.  She did more for me than perhaps she knew.

Did I mention that I have never really wanted to have children?  My childhood experiences contributed to this decision.

The South Georgia Conference has broken up the Vidette-Friendship-Green’s Cut Charge.  As of last week, when the most recent round of ministerial appointments took effect:

  1. Vidette went onto a charge with Mt. Moriah, north of Matthews, in Jefferson County.  (By the way, I recall a pulpit exchange that took my father to Mt. Moriah one Sunday in 1980-1982.)
  2. Friendship was on a charge with First United Methodist Church, Waynesboro.
  3. Green’s Cut was a station church.

There have been changes to structures since 1982:

  1. Vidette U.M.C. has expanded its fellowship hall and covered the gap between the back of the church and the front of the fellowship hall.
  2. Eventually Vidette U.M.C. ceased to use its deteriorating parsonage.

The Google Earth street view image (dated August 2012) of the house shows a decrepit, abandoned building.  Plywood covers one half of the front windows of my sister’s former bedroom.  In the satellite view (dated October 30, 2016), however, the parsonage is absent.  I get the impression that the demolition of the house must have been fairly recent, based on the obviousness of where the parsonage had been.

As I examine satellite images of Vidette, I recall events, scenes, and routines.  I think of (God help me!) The Lawrence Welk Show.  I recall the church hayride through the local cemetery one Halloween.  I also remember that, one Halloween (I suppose), some people bobbed for apples outside the front of the fellowship hall.  I recall the Sunday morning that Buddy the dog went to church.  I also remember watching Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Greatest American Hero, and Pink Panther cartoons.  I recall my sister watching the Fame series, before it went into syndication.  I also remember the town park and the only store in town.  I recall ecumenical engagements with the Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (disbanded a few years ago), whose pastor had an obsession with the Book of Revelation.  One of their vacation Bible schools sticks in my memory.

As I examine satellite images of Vidette, I realize how fortunate I am not to live there any longer and to live in Athens-Clarke County.  I thank God in real time for what I have.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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