Archive for the ‘Athens Georgia’ Tag

Berlin, Georgia   Leave a comment

 

Above:  Berlin United Methodist Church

Late 1980s on the left

February 1987 on the right

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Recently I have been thinking about some places in which I grew up and in which I am glad to have ceased to live.  One such place is Vidette, Georgia, where my family and I lived from June 1980 to June 1982.  Berlin, Georgia, where my parents and I lived from June 1986 to June 1989, is another.

Colquitt County 1951

Above:  Colquitt County in Context, 1951

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Berlin (with the stress on the first syllable) is a small town in southern Colquitt County, near the boundary with Brooks County.  I recall it as being a reactionary town of about 400 people.

In the late 1980s Berlin was an openly racist town stuck in a time warp in terms of mindsets.  My father’s letter to the Moultrie Observer, the local newspaper, in support of the then-new Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday contributed to our move in 1989.  Old white men and young white people used racial slurs openly, even in the presence of African Americans.  Berlin Baptist Church, with its openly racist, Communist-baiting pastor, was the major cultural institution in town.  (The minister was convinced that liberal columnist Mary McGrory  (1918-2004), who had been close politically to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and earned a spot on President Richard Nixon’s infamous enemies list, was a Communist, card-carrying or otherwise.)  And, when cable television came to town, opposition to it was vigorous, to the point of one man pointing a loaded gun at the workers laying cable when they came to his property.  The stated reason for opposition was some of the programming on the premium channels, but opposition weakened considerably when news that a country music channel was part of the basic package spread.

Above:  The Parsonage, next to Berlin United Methodist Church, 1986-1987

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

My father was the pastor of the Berlin-Wesley Chapel Charge.

Berlin Church Cornerstone

Above:  The Cornerstone of Berlin United Methodist Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Berlin United Methodist Church, rebuilt in 1953, was next door to the rundown parsonage, renovated after we moved out.  The Berlin congregation was nearly functionally dead.  It had an adult Sunday School class, but little else.  The congregation had once been so active that it had sponsored a Boy Scouts troop, but those days were long past by 1986.  One Sunday School room was vacant, as if waiting for a class that never gathered there.  The other had become a storage room for boxes my family and I had no room for in the parsonage.

Wesley Chapel Church August 21, 1988

Above:  Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, Berlin, Georgia, April 21, 1988

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

I belonged to Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, located a few miles outside of town.  My Sunday School class was there.

The two congregations functioned as one in most ways.  On the first and third Sundays one church hosted the morning and evening services; the other one did the same on the second and fourth Sundays.  The congregations also alternated hosting duties on fifth Sundays.  I have never seen that nice arrangement anywhere else.

Berlin United Methodist Church is no more; only Wesley Chapel remains.  The building of the former Berlin Church now hosts a Hispanic ministry within the denomination.

I was 13-16 years old at the time, so 1986-1989 were years replete with adolescent awkwardness.  Nevertheless, the schools in Moultrie were very good, and leaving for the inferior high school in Berrien County was a difficult transition for me.

I wonder if the town has become sufficiently progressive to move into the twentieth century in terms of its collective mindset.  I doubt it.

These memories remind me to thank God that I live in Athens-Clarke County.  I am a person born to live in a college or university town, where I am less likely to feel like an outcast and  am more likely to find people with whom to conduct an intelligent conversation.  In a college or university town I have more opportunities to grow intellectually and spiritually, given my temperament.

I know some of what I have, and thank God for it in the present tense, not in hindsight, with regret for having lost it.  I also thank God, with the benefit of hindsight, for a positive development at Berlin-Wesley Chapel.

There I began to choose how to participate in church activities; I began to say “no.”  For years parishioners at various congregations had been drafting me into church pageants and other activities.  At Wesley Chapel I had no choice but to accept a role in a terrible Christmas play.  The parishioner who had written the play seemed to like exposition and clunky dialogue.  Maybe she imagined herself to be a good playwright.  By the time of the creation of the youth choir, with its woeful musical selections, I had decided to refuse.  This created a diplomatic incident for my father, but, to his credit, he did not force me to participate in it.

Now I carry a strong aversion to people volunteering me for tasks.  Asking me if I will participate is not too difficult, is it?

I am active in my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  All the roles I fill are ones I want to perform, and enjoy doing.  One function (teacher of the lectionary class) is something I sought.  The others are roles I accepted when someone asked me.  Almost all of my functions (lectionary class teacher, lector scheduler, parish librarian, movie series coordinator) at St. Gregory the Great are those I could not taken on in the Berlin area, if I were to live there today, given the different ecclesiastical cultures.  Certainly I would not feel free, as I do in Athens, to speak my mind freely in Sunday School, lest I face an accusation of heresy, as I would in the Berlin area.

In 2018 I am where I belong.  Thank God for that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER IF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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Thirteen Years in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Double-Barreled Cannon, Downtown Athens, Georgia

Image in the Public Domain

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In early August 2005 I moved to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, to commence a doctoral program in history.  That degree program became a victim of an academic abortion–not the kind of last resort, to save the life of the mother, so to speak.  Or perhaps it was a case of academic euthanasia.  Either way, that was then, not that I have ever excused the nefarious actions of one professor in particular who accidentally did me a favor.  (At least there was grace in the accidental favor.)  My degree program died, but I remained in town and integrated into St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church.  The professor has destroyed himself, not that I have ever felt the desire to gloat.

I am responsible for the kind of person I am, after all.

As I approach the end of my thirteenth year and the beginning of my fourteenth year in Athens-Clarke County, I stand amazed at my longevity in one place.  I recall my formative years, a portion of which I moved every two years on average.  I can date events from that time in my life according to the house (usually a United Methodist parsonage) in which I lived.  Now I find myself having resided in one town for nearly thirteen years and at one address for nearly eleven years–a substantial proportion of my life so far.  I enjoy having roots.

One day the time to leave Athens-Clarke County might come.  If so, departure will be the correct decision; I will move toward opportunity and not flee from unpleasant memories.  I am in no hurry to depart from Athens-Clarke County, though.  This is home, after all.  It makes me a better person, and I seek to make it a better place.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALENE, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

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Gratitude for Athens, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Dome of the City Hall, Athens, Georgia, August 5, 2009

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-04138

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Seeking reasons for gratitude to God is a daily activity; it is an easy one, fortunately.

During the last few days I have been thinking deeply about a subset of those reasons; I have been pondering reasons I am blessed to live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  Many such reasons–too many to enumerate in a succinct blog post–have come to mind.

A few follow.

A visit to relatives in Americus, Georgia, followed shortly by a lecture at The University of Georgia (UGA), started me down this path.  Last Tuesday night I attended a lecture by Dr. Richard B. Miller, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Religious Ethics at The University of Chicago Divinity School.  Miller spoke about St. Augustine of Hippo‘s concept of the common good and of its implications for today.  The full explanation of St. Augustine’s definition of sin as disordered love proved especially helpful.  As I listened and learned, I also thought about how fortunate I was to live in the town in which that event happened.  UGA, my relationship with which has been both positive and tumultuous, at different times, since 2005, made that lecture possible.

Indeed, I have may reasons to be grateful for and to UGA.  It creates a wonderful intellectual environment in Athens.  I care nothing about the athletics of a university, for the purpose of such an institution is supposed to be primarily educational, is it not?  The presence of UGA in Athens not only makes Athens what it is, but also makes me feel at home in this town, a colony of members of the intelligentsia.

I grew up in a series of United Methodist parsonages in small towns and communities in southern Georgia.  The intellectual atmosphere (not in the parsonage, of course) was generally lackluster, even anti-intellectual.  (Nevertheless, I do recall that sometimes even my father angrily rebuffed some of my attempts at academic discussions, especially of the Bible.  There was no good reason to fear Higher Criticism.  No philosophical meat grinder will grind up the truth, after all; the truth will break the meat grinder.)  I usually felt like an intellectual outcast and the resident heretic.  (Today I wear the label “heretic” with pride.  As churchy as I am, given the option of avoiding church or facing allegations of heresy in a congregation, I would choose the former.)  Politically and socially most of the neighbors were or seemed to be beyond conservative–reactionary, actually.  Many were openly and unapologetically racist.

Of course I gravitated toward the left side of the spectrum.  I have remained a man of the left, although I have, with greater frequency, found myself in rooms with people to my left–sometimes far to my left.  I have shifted slightly to the right in some ways, and far to the left (relative to my former position) in others.  Overall, I have continued to occupy a center-left position.  (I tend to be center-right in liturgical matters and to the left politically, socially, and theologically.  My unapologetic Western Classicism in music is prominent in my daily life.)  I have ceased to be the resident heretic, for (1) I worship with people, many of whom are to my left, and (2) I worship in a faith community where nobody accuses me of heresy.  Charges of heresy have usually come from the right, not the left, after all.  (This is why most ecclesiastical schisms occur to the right and the majority of church mergers happen on the left.  Tolerance and acceptance are antidotes to Donatism.)

St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church has been my spiritual home since August 2005.  The parish has saved my life (in 2007) and become a means by which I offer gifts and talents to God.  I have, for years, curated a movie series, functioned as the librarian, and taught adult Sunday School, for example.  For nearly a decade I sang in the choir.  (I have many fond memories of that time.)  Although some people roll their eyes when I obsess over the proper arrangement of chairs, hymnals, and prayer books in the worship space, tending to that matter has long been something I have offered to God.  (I have come to long wistfully for pews.)  Also, the music has long been mostly excellent in the parish.  Last Sunday, for example, a string quartet performed at the 10:30 service and accompanied the choir during a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s Ave Verum Corpus.

As much as I enjoy visits to relatives in Americus, Athens is my place.  As much as I visit Calvary Episcopal Church, Americus, occasionally, and find my spot in a pew there comfortably, St. Gregory the Great Church is my place.  As much as I enjoy visiting Americus, I also enjoy returning to Athens.

I am also grateful for friends and acquaintances. all of whose privacy I respect in this post by preserving in this post by naming none of them.  Some of them have saved my life and seen me through difficult times.  I have also performed my sacred duty and helped one friend to the point of self-sacrifice.  If necessary, I would do it again, without hesitation.

I hope to reside in Athens for long time.  The possibility of leaving eventually remains, of course; I admit that doing so might be proper one day.  That hypothetical day is one I hope is far off, if it is extant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

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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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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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Into My Thirteenth Year in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Nu, the Thirteenth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, for twelve years–much longer than I lived in any other place.  During this time I have experienced great joys as well as the depths of despair.  I have pursued dreams and witnessed the termination of them.  (The death of a dream is the cruelest death one can experience, psychologically.)  I have felt at home in Athens and felt trapped in it as I have sought in vain to get the hell out of Dodge.  Through thick and thin I have remained, fortunately.

Here I have found a place I belong, at least for a while.  Here I have, for the only time so far, found a community in which I do not feel like a politically marginal person.  I have always been an odd duck, relative to the definition of normal.  I have always chafed against the term “abnormal,” for its negative connotations have always been clear to me.  Yet I have not wanted to be “normal” either.  I have simply wanted to be the best version of myself, as God created me to be, without having to cope with bullying, hard stares, and suspicions.  I was acutely aware of my odd duckness as a child.  I could not help but be aware of how much I stuck out like the proverbial odd thumb.  In Athens, however, I have found a community more welcoming to odd ducks.  I have also found, however, places in that community where odd ducks are not welcome.

In fact, I prefer the company of odd ducks.  Being “normal” is so boring and bland.

Conformity is a vice much of the time.  Certainly conformity enforced via bullying is never a virtue.  No, I prefer a high tolerance level (at least) for diversity.  (Aside: Barring extreme cases, when acceptance is not on the table, tolerance is superior to intolerance.  The allegation of being tolerant is not the worst charge one can face.)  We should not accept or tolerate everything in a healthy society, but we should tolerate or accept much in a good society.  Bullying, for example, is a behavior with no moral justification.  Diversity makes life more interesting in positive ways.  If we humans were supposed to be alike, why would God have created us to be so different from each other?  I accept diversity as a gift from God and refuse to do unto others as conformists have done unto me.

I have not changed my theological and political opinions much over the past twelve years.  I have moderated my theology, moving slightly to the right and the center, but I have remained left-of-center.  My politics have, during the last twelve months, shifted to the left.  I was already a man of the left; now I am moving closer to Fabian Socialism.  When I lived in South Georgia, I was frequently the most liberal person in any given room.  If I was not that person, others in any given room certainly made me feel as if I were and made me feel uncomfortable about it.  Immediately, in Athens, I found myself among the more conservative faction, whether at my new parish or in the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  The difference in Athens was that I was in different rooms–rooms filled with people to my left.  I adopted a policy of not looking askance at them, for I knew the feeling of being the object of askance looks.  I continued to practice this policy.  Over the years I have retained my generally liberal support for civil rights–on all bases.  I supported gay rights before I arrived in Athens; I have continued in that opinion.  I have remained a liberal voice.

I have concluded that I am best suited to life in a college town, regardless of whether I work at an institution of higher education.  (I keep my options open.)  Athens, then, has been a fine place for me to be.

As long as I should remain here, may I do so.  Then may I go where I should be next.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

Regarding Voting and Futility   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of the State of Georgia, Modeled after the Confederate First National Flag, Banner of a Treasonous Cause, Whose Cornerstone was Chattel Slavery, Allegedly Commanded by God

Image in the Public Domain

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Of Political Futility and the Right to Complain

I seek to be an informed voter.  I seek out information about candidates and their policy positions.  I also study a sample ballot days before I vote.  If I can find audio or video of a debate, I pay attention.  Some of the time all the candidates disappoint me, as in the case of the races for the Board of Education in Laurens County, Georgia, in 2004.  I recall that none of the candidates, based on how they constructed sentences and conjugated verbs, sounded properly educated.

I take the responsibility of voting seriously.  Yet I do not harbor any delusion that my vote matters most of the time.  The reality of politics in Georgia (statewide and in the case of the Congressional district in which I reside) means that my vote is irrelevant most of the time.  The gerrymandering of Athens-Clarke County means that my votes for candidates for the state Senate and House of Representatives mean nothing.  (Aside:  I oppose gerrymandering at all times and places; the practice depresses voting and discourages political moderation and legislative bipartisanship.)  With regard to presidential elections, the combination of the Electoral College and the reality of politics in Georgia means that I might as well not vote for a slate of electors, although I do.  My vote, I know, is futile.  My vote is usually meaningless when there is a political contest.  Much of the time, however, candidates run unopposed.  Nobody’s vote matters then.

Writing and calling my elected representatives in Washington, D.C., is likewise futile.  I know this from experience; a brick wall would be more responsive than the staffers who write the non-responses I receive.  I recall receiving only one genuine response from Congressional staffers as long as I have been writing and calling Senators and Congressman.  I remember that, some years ago, I contacted an office of Senator Zell Miller and wrote that his position on a major national issue was contrary to the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth.  I also recall that a staffer called me at home and asked if I wanted to add to my statement; I did not, I remember.  I do, however, give credit where it is due; such a call is not a canned non-response.

I continue to vote.  For now, at least, it gives me the right to complain legitimately, if nothing else.

I favor a vigorous republic (which is what we have, not a democracy; read the Constitution of the United States) with an engaged, well-informed populace, the end of nakedly partisan efforts to suppress voting, the dedication to recognizing objective reality, and the reality of real political contests as the rule.  That sentence, alas, does not describe political reality in the United States of America in 2017.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

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