I was born and raised in Los Angeles, specifically East Los Angeles, further East than Boyle Heights during the 50’s. I point this out because this community in the 50’s was just as diverse as it is today, maybe more so, a large immigrant population with several Jewish Synagogues, Japanese Temples, and thriving Catholic Churches. These institutions held Saturday religious services or morning schools in their native languages from 8 am to 12 noon. We would hear them as we went to the park to play or on errands with my mother. Every Wednesday, my brother and I were pulled from First Street School to attend Bible Study. I received my second Bible with beautiful color pictures for attending Bible study. My first Bible was given to me at ten-years-old when I was baptized at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church on First St. and Evergreen Ave. I liked Sunday School and going to church every Sunday. I was a religious child, sincere and earnest with long pigtails and skinny legs. I read the Bible every night before going to bed until college. Everyone in my neighborhood went to church on Sunday except my Jewish friends who had special breakfasts of lox and bagels instead. I still shock my tennis companions when I tell them I can’t play Sundays until after 10 am because I go to the 8 am church service at St. James’.
I began attending St. James’ because my youngest son attended St James’ School in about 1986. I actually started attending the school chapel and then the 10:30 am service. One of the things I liked about St. James’ School was the religious instruction. My son kept his handmade altar until he went off to college, which is kind of a surprise if you knew Michael Hurley. Michael was always in the mix of things, as they say. But, what he loved about St. James’ was the pageantry. Up until this time, as his parent, I was not able to pinpoint just what moved me and kept me coming back. The ceremony and pageantry is what captivated me when I compared my earlier church experiences and I can pinpoint the day this realization came to me.
Bishop Tutu had recently received the Nobel Prize and he was to be at St. John’s Cathedral. Michael and I attended. The pageantry of his entry with the music, the incense, the beautiful robes and choir parading theaisles of St. John’s was so moving, Michael and I were so moved he asked me to hold him, we needed to hold on to each other. To this day, I am moved by the music and the ceremony of the services and why I’m still here.
As a member of IRTPJ, Geri is coordinating the organization’s visit next week. We hope to welcome a good number of its members to our 10:30 service and all-parish picnic immediately following.