Thursday, April 15, 2010

It Felt Like "Alabama Day" in Texas

While in Houston for the NAESP Convention, we attended a service at St. Martin's Episcopal Church. St. Martin's is the largest Episcopal church in the United States both in terms of baptized members and average weekly attendance. We had been looking forward to our visit here for months, particularly because of all of the Alabama ties.

Over 20 years ago when I sang in the choir at St. Luke's Episcopal Church (Mountain Brook, Alabama), one of the young priests on staff was a fellow by the name of Russell Levenson. His wife, Laura, also sang in the choir. Today, Dr. Russell Levenson is the Rector (the name given to the head cleric in an Episcopal church) of St. Martin's.

The Rev. Ken Fields served as Rector of Canterbury Episcopal Chapel on the campus of the University of Alabama. Two of my sisters attended church regularly there while Ken was Rector. Today, Ken Fields is the Vice-Rector of St. Martin's.

In addition to Ken having been close to our family, I had known his wife, Mary Alice Fields even longer. I started my teaching career in Montgomery, Alabama. During that time, Mary Alice and I sang in the same church choir, St. John's Episcopal Church.

We have to go back further still for ties to yet another member of the St. Martin's clergy. During my days as a student at Jacksonville State University, I was friends with Jerald Hyche. Who would have suspected that these many years later, The Rev. Jerald Hyche would be Associate Rector for Outreach and Spiritual Formation at St. Martin's.

We went to St. Martin's this past Sunday expecting to see several Alabama friends, yet there were more surprises. the sermon that morning was being delivered by Ken Fields. The content of that sermon made us feel like we were right back home. As a lead-in to his discussion of St. Thomas, Rev. Fields spoke of the parish he was called to establish from scratch. the church came to be named St. Thomas Episcopal Church, located in Birmingham.

To add to the wonderful set of coincidences surrounding this day, the regular organist was not at the console on this Sunday morning. Substituting was Mary Alice Fields, my friend from Montgomery, Alabama almost 30 years ago. And the offertory selection? It was written by Dr. Harald Rohlig, who was then and is today the organist and choirmaster at St. John's in Montgomery.

Despite being in Texas, it felt like it was Alabama Day! Enjoy some of the sights we experienced during our visit to St. Martin's Episcopal Church.





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