As I noted in Part One, I have been inspired reading from a collection of Lucy Nazro’s chapel talks in a book called, “Faithfully, Lucy.” Lucy was the head of school for St. Andrew’s Episcopal School for 33 years. She led the school until 2012. She not only expanded the number of grades and our physical footprint, but she built a community. Her husband, Phillips, was Associate Rector of All Saint’s Episcopal Church. So thankful that seven of our years at St. Andrew’s overlapped with Lucy’s.
In Part One, I simply collected my daily Facebook posts into one document. This past week, I posted the scripture from the chapel talk I happened to be reading that day, choosing to reflect on multiple talks in one post. With a trip to visit Taylor and Kyla at the University of Virginia last weekend, my pace slowed a little bit, however, the three talks this week fit together with not only our visit to Charlottesville but weave together thematically, too: love and community.
John 13:31-35, John 15: 1-11, and John 15:12-15
Last weekend, Taylor, Kyla, Katelyn, and I were together in Charlottesville. Katelyn and I had gone up to visit big brother and sister at the University of Virginia. Taylor and Kyla introduced us to a wonderful activity on Friday night. Visiting one of the many vineyards in the area. It was a perfect night, with a great sunset, good wine. Good times. When I posted to Facebook, I noted that these three are the fruit of the vine of the love I shared with their mom, Maureen.
Needless to say, I couldn’t help but smile when a few days later, I was reading one of Lucy’s chapel talks based on John 15:1-11. In it, John quotes Jesus, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” What I didn’t know, though, was how this verse was woven into St. Andrew’s itself. For newer students, the 31st Street campus celebrates in the McGill chapel. It was dedicated in May 2012, towards the end of Lucy’s tenure as Head of School. However, for my three, and many others, they celebrated in a little chapel to the left of the front door as you walk in to the school and head for the office. From many a pageant to Christmas celebrations and beyond, it was always cramped but full of love. And, as I read this particular chapel talk, from right around the school’s 50th anniversary, I learned about the stained glass. As Lucy notes, the stained glass behind the altar and around the entire chapel include the vines and branches of John 15:1-11. She concluded her chapel talk with these words. Needless to say, these words hit home as part of our family’s branches now bloom in a new home, far from Austin.
Look at the windows every time you come into this chapel. Remember that you are never alone. We are all connected like the branches in the window. Stay connected to God and each other. In this connection we will bear much fruit, we will do good for each other, for the school, for Austin, and for the world.
Although I read the next chapel talk after the one about the vine and the branches, I think it fits more thematically as the next one in the sequence, because Lucy reflects on what it means in a community and on Jesus’ last commandment, “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Lucy called it a bottom line commandment. And, she pointed out that it was given to the disciples themselves in John 13:31-35. Their tight knit community. Folks that knew each other really well. Jesus told them to love one another. Not a commandment to go out into the world to love people we don’t know, to love enemies or strangers. Just to love each other. Lucy continues later, after talking about the washing of the feet and forgiving those that had just nailed him to the cross, “Serving others. Denying ourselves Forgiving others, even those who say false things about us. These are clues about how to love one another.” Indeed they are, Lucy.
However, the chapel talk I read yesterday from “Faithfully, Lucy” stuck a deep chord within me, perhaps, because not that long ago, a new piece of stained glass was installed behind the altar at All Saint’s Episcopal Church, where Maureen and I started to celebrate in 1994, after moving to Austin from Chicago. The altar above the columbarium below, where Maureen’s ashes are interred. Just like the stained glass at St. Andrew’s, ours at All Saint’s contained symbols. The previous stained glass featured Robert E. Lee. Interestingly, my middle name is Lee. He is a historical figure. History is just that. It is something that happened, and by looking back on it, rather than ignoring it, we can learn. And that is why, this chapel talk means so much to me, because Lucy goes further back in history to February 13, 1818, long before the Civil War in which Robert E. Lee fought. February 13, 1818 is the day that Absalom Jones, “The Black Bishop of the Episcopal Church,” died. 200 years later, in 2018, as a member of the then vestry at All Saint’s Episcopal Church, I voted to replace Robert E. Lee with Absalom Jones. We also replaced Bishop Tuttle with Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian and civil rights activist. He was shot and killed by a special county deputy, protecting Ruby Sales, an African-American activist herself. I love that the new stained glass was dedicated on Maureen and my wedding anniversary last year, July 14, 2019.
Tidbits of his history as a slave are instructive. From “Faithfully, Lucy,” “In 1770 he married a slave named Mary King. He began to seek donations in order to purchase her freedom which he was able to procure in 1778. He then worked overtime to begin saving for his own freedom and was released from slavery in 1784. He remained at the store, working as a wage-earner. That way, their children would be free.” Of course, through the lens of our 2020 sensibilities, this feels abhorrent. Obviously, it was, but it was the 18th century, and that really isn’t the point. What moves me about Absalom is what he did. He lived out John 15:12-13. He laid down his life for others, and not just his immediate family. Jones, along with his friend, Richard Allen, “raised funds to build their own church and were supported in their endeavor by William White, the Bishop of Pennsylvania.” “Jones’ church applied for membership in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, so as to be recognized by the state. In 1794, the church was admitted as St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. The next year, Bishop White ordained Jones as a deacon, and in 1804 as a priest.” Not just scripture, but history, are the gifts of me finding my copy of “Faithfully, Lucy,” and without a doubt, I’m even more honored that I took the vote I did not that I know more about Absalom Jones.