In the Name of the Father, and of the Son...


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son...

What happens when FIFTEEN priests walk into a bar?!

I don't know. You tell me, 'cause I've never seen it happen. (Pictured above: Reverend Quinland Gordon) (Pictured below: Reverends Gilbert Avery, Myron Bloy, James Breeden, John Evans, Quinland Gordon, James Jones, Geoffrey Simpson, Robert Taylor, William Wendt) (Pictured further below: Reverends John Crocker, Jr., James Evans, John Evans, John Morris, Robert Pierson, Geoffrey Simpson, Vernon Woodward, Merrill Young).

But I do know of a time when 28 priests, traveling to a 1961 General Convention in Detroit, were layed over at a Trailways bus terminal in Jackson, Mississippi...

"The twenty-eight priests left New Orleans aboard a chartered bus on September 12, 1961. Upon arrival at their first stop in Jackson, Mississippi, fifteen of the clergy entered the bus terminal in an integrated group." 

The fifteen tried to enter the lunchroom. And, dear reader -- yes, I love Jane Eyre -- if you've been reading this newsletter, you already know how well that went. By that time it was September 13. It had been 113 days since the Freedom Ride campaign officially began. They were to be protected by federal law as they entered a terminal that was not, by law, to be racially segregated -- don't get me started on the whole idea of racial segragation when there's only one human race...that's an old pet peeve of mine -- and got arrested...because it was. So they won a paddy wagon ride...  (Pictured above: Reverend James Jones)

...and a sentence to four months in prison. I think they served six days, their case was dismissed, and then they filed a law suit. (Pictured above: Reverend Robert Pierson)

We know that "the group included 35-year-old Reverend Robert L Pierson. After the case against the priests was dismissed on May 21, 1962, they sought damages against the police under the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Their claims were ultimately rejected in the United States Supreme Court case Pierson v. Ray (1967), which held that the police were protected by qualified immunity.[51]" And here in 2021, police are protected under qualified immunity, even if they commit acts of murder.

What I know about the priests is rather limited. I can tell you that they came from Roxbury, MA, Cambridge, MA, Boston, MA, Providence, RI, St. Clair, MO, Toledo, OH, Washington, DC, Chicago, IL, Atlanta, GA, New York, NY, Pewakee, WI, and Cincinnati, OH. And I can tell you that every one of them believed in cross-cultural solidary. But I'd encourage you to read page 219 of Breach of Peace specifically to see Reverend Crocker. Read his recollections. Find out how these activist priests communicated with each other in the dead of night, since blacks and whites were separated even in jail. And see the compatible polarities of character and spirit embodied in his old and recent photos. You just can't feel anything but encouragement and hope knowing people like him populate the bow that is the long arc of justice.

Now, time to put your Nancy Drew hat on -- or Hardy Boys if you prefer. Figure out who is referred to in the quotes that follow. Discover which priest was the son-in-law of Nelson Rockefeller. Read the quotes below, and surf the links that follow to find out.

"...his greatest passion — the driving force of his life — was the “Social Gospel,” the belief that the faithful should do whatever they can to redress human suffering and worldly injustice. In September 1961, this belief led ... to become a Freedom Rider." 

"“When they tried to find out what race we were—which was very important to them—one of our riders said, ‘human race.’ They couldn’t get him to change,”...

"While in custody the police were furiously running background checks on every one of them trying to link the Riders to Fidel Castro’s Cuba."

"he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which would take his life three years later. Yet as I talked with him about the Freedom Rides, I could see that the essential character of the man who had risked so much a half-century earlier was intact. "

"Freedom Riders looked to test Boynton v. Virginia, the 1960 Supreme Court decision that outlawed racial segregation in interstate commerce. It was a powerful ruling with lame consequences, owing to..."

"The University of the South, founded in 1858 by the Episcopal dioceses of ten Southern states, was the scene of major confrontation over segregation. The School of Theology was integrated by resolution of the provincial synod in 1951. When the Board of Trustees rejected the resolution and refused to integrate the school..."



It is has been said that, "a white Episcopal priest, and 14 other priests, both Black and white, knew they were risking arrest or worse when they boarded a bus on Sept. 12, 1961, on what they called a “Prayer Pilgrimage.” Reportedly, "Their actions were NOT supported by the bishops in the dioceses they wished to visit, but the group persevered." 

If it were 1961, or if it was 2022 and Black Lives Matter...what would your clergy do? (Pictured above: Reverend John Crocker, Jr.)

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If you think you might have missed any of the newletters sent out since May of this year, 2021, make a pit stop at the bottom of the home page for ARTHAUS:Detroit ( where you'll find the ARTHAUS:Detroit blog. Archived there is every edition of this newsletter.


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