Story fragment from a dream I had December two years ago. . .
I’ll never forget the day I met the now famous Episcopal rector and surgeon, John Robert Stanforth. I was traveling, and had stopped into this marvelous old waterfront church to rest for a few minutes in the cool dark interior. Who knows? Perhaps even to pray.
Dr. Stanforth was distraught that day, a mop of unruly bright yellow hair betrayed his English roots, and a sharply tailored suit closely followed every move of his trim, kinetic body.
“So it’s begun, has it?” A challenge was in his sarcasm-tinged voice as he walked toward me. “Aren’t you the early bird.”
In my dream, John Robert Stanforth is a gifted surgeon and a wealthy man, about 58 years old. Some 15 years earlier, he helped fund a waterfront rescue mission to help homeless men, women and families. Because of his guidance and help, training and education programs were developed, including an apprenticeship concept that became a national model. Stanforth left medicine, attended seminary and became an Episcopalian priest.
An unlikely coalition of wealthy old families and formerly homeless working poor prevailed upon him to become rector of a church they would build on the site of the original mission. A new mission, dormitory, family housing, and training facility had been completed in town, close to sources of work, and the owners of the original land were willing to donate the site for a new church.
But now, due to schism in the whole church, it was to be closed and the contents auctioned. The day I wandered in off the streets was the day Dr. Stanforth and the vestry was to meet with the auction company representative.
When I walked through the narthex of the church into the vestibule, I felt as though I had entered another, more ethereal world. The ceiling was a cerulean blue dome, painted with stars so lifelike it seemed like a planetarium. A lovely mural depicting people of all ages and all walks of life holding their arms up as if to embrace the source of light was painted on the back wall. Each of the 14 stained glass windows, seven on each side, was beautifully crafted. Each told a story.
Stanforth must have seen me studying the stained glass windows and the remarkably intricate carved wood writing desk in an alcove, and assumed I was the auction company representative.
There was another church in my dream, or maybe it was a second dream in the same night. It was really strange. It seemed to represent the “new face” of the Episcopal Church (at least one branch of the tree anyway). It was charismatic, voluble — parishioners were talking out loud, discussion, arguing and adding commentary during the service.
A huge grand piano was in the front, center area at ground level; almost like a theater in the round. The choir was located in a brightly lighted alcove space, over on the left side. They were on nearly vertical risers and were dressed in bright white robes with shiny gold accents woven into the neckline and cuffs. They sang abstract sounding non-theist hymns to the universe, to my ears like geometric shards of sound, a chaotic, atonal assault.
Buck and I had come to the service on a last minute impulse to see what was going on with the lot there. We weren’t dressed for church. I had on my usual “at home on a cold day” sweat pants and black t-shirt.