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Authors: Beth Gutcheon

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BOOK: Good-bye and Amen
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Jeannie Israel
I didn't know how depressed Nika was after the miscarriage until she told me on the phone she'd asked her mother to visit her. Sending Sydney to see Monica in a wounded state would have been like asking a tiger to nurse a rabbit with its foot in a trap. Fortunately, Sydney begged off. She must have known she'd be found alone in the house with blood and fur in her whiskers. She did sometimes know her own weaknesses. Not that Monica read it that way.


Monica Faithful
Jeannie came out to spend a week with me. God bless her. All you really need is one friend. I told her I hated Sand Hills and it would never come right. We took long hikes, and we laughed, and she helped me see that I'd lost friends and a baby and that was what was wrong, not the fact that Trinny Biggs played by ear instead of reading the music, so if you tried to read the alto line and sing harmony, you couldn't. Actually Trinny wasn't even an organist; it was good of her to fill in. She could play piano, but the only way she could play the organ was if her ex-husband arranged the stops for her.


Kendra Brayton
Nicky Faithful went to work in the elementary school in the fall, and I understand she did better there. She was a sub and a tutor and she made great friends with the fourth-grade teacher, Evan Angle, who I always thought was light in his loafers. They were both lonely and they say there's a lid for every pot. You'd see them down at the Coffee Bean laughing away many evenings. You might have thought she'd be home cooking her husband's dinner or starting a family but I suppose she was a women's
libber. I wonder what happened to Evan Angle. After the Faithfuls left he moved away too. Went to San Francisco, probably. Isn't that where those people go?


Trinny Biggs
Norman was a sweet, sweet man. People went to him for counseling. There was a psychologist in the next town, but people preferred to go to Norman, even some from different churches. He was always willing to get involved. I remember when the Barbers' baby died of crib death. People always blame the parents in those cases. They should have put the baby on her stomach to sleep, or on her back, or let her sleep in the same bed with them, or something. I remember people talked. But Norman got them through it. He just believed in the goodness of the Lord's plan for all of us. “He reminded me that God knows what it is to lose a child,” Dodie Barber said to me. I remember that, it gave her such comfort.


Kendra Brayton
I was shocked when they left. We wanted a rector who would put down roots here. We'd made that clear. I suppose it was because the wife wanted something grander. Still, it was a rude surprise that all the time we were getting comfortable with them and making them so welcome, they were entertaining better offers. I don't think the fellow from Paso Robles would have done that. I even made some inquiries to see if he was still free, but he was settled somewhere in New England. Off the Faithfuls went to Colorado, with the capital campaign for the new carillon just getting started. Instead of finishing that, we had to start a rector search all over again. We got the carillon finally but it left a taste in the mouth, if you know what I mean.


Trinny Biggs
Evan Angle told me that Nicky Faithful's father was a famous pianist at one time. Longhair music. I suppose that explains something.


Kendra Brayton
Of course, in Colorado their star started rising. We were just a stepping-stone to them. I remember one Sunday morning my little grandson came into the kitchen and told me, “Mopsy, come quick, God's on television.” I went and there was Norman Faithful in full regalia, preaching at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. He had written a book, I guess, and had gone to New York to be a celebrity. Booming away in the pulpit about the power of prayer, which was what his book was about, with this huge sea of dressed-up people sitting below him, gazing up.


Monica Faithful
When Norman told me he'd been called to Denver, but he wasn't going to uproot me again so soon if I didn't want him to, I didn't even answer. I just went up to the attic and brought down the suitcases. I was pregnant with Edith at the time.


Betty Kersey
Denver was a much better place for Norman than Boondocks, Oregon. He's a political animal. He likes the fray. We never did; that's why George left the ministry. George says he's going to write a TV series called
Desperate Rectors
. In Denver Norman became a media darling. He'd get himself on the Sunday morning programs talking about social issues and pretty soon they gave him a show of his own. Every week after church a camera crew would follow
him into the rectory and there would be Monica, in her Sunday best, sitting beside him with her ankles crossed, and when she was old enough, Edie too, blinking in the lights. Norman would do this sort of fireside chat about God in the world that week. Once in a while he'd throw a softball question to Monica to answer. He loved the whole thing. There he was, with his perfect little family, leading a perfect Christian Life for all to see.


Bud Shatterman
I was on the committee that called Norman to St. John's, and we became great friends. Great friends. He had his strengths, he had his weaknesses, like anybody. But you'll remember, those were the days when people were saying that God was Dead. Young people were falling away from the church, they were going off to India and chanting in Sanskrit. We had a beautiful old sanctuary built for a more prosperous neighborhood than we were any more. It needed a lot of work, and we needed some warm bodies in the pews, we couldn't just expect the old families to pay for it all. Norman understood the problem, and he said he could handle it, and by God he was right. That TV show, that was a hell of a thing. I don't think he prepared for it more than five minutes. He liked the pressure. They just turned the camera on him and he started to talk. It was always a performance. The women were crazy about him.


Clara Thiele
I was on the stewardship committee. Normally people hate Stewardship Sunday, but his first year with us, Norman gave a sermon about prosperity consciousness that I still remember. And when we started the cam
paign to replace the roof, he was an animal. He loved doing the Ask. Bud and I would prepare the soil, and together we'd decide how much to hit each person up for, then we'd send Norman in there and he'd raise the number and close the deal and leave with a check in his hand. And people thanked him for coming!


Sandy Thiele
My mom is kind of the pope of the congregation. She loved Mrs. Faithful because she's Danish on her father's side. Thiele's a Danish name. There are a number of Danish families in the congregation who came here after the war, and Mrs. Faithful's aunt was in the Resistance. I used to babysit for Edie, and Mrs. Faithful would tell me about Denmark. I've never been there.


Bud Shatterman
Norman hit it off with the bishop too. The bishop wasn't happy about all the ashrams and zendos and whatnot springing up everywhere. His daughter had shaved her head and started calling herself Sachidananda. The bishop made the mistake of preaching against “rotting Eastern religions” one time, and his daughter wrote an angry letter to the
Rocky Mountain News
that they printed. It took a while to calm that down. Norman never had time for meditation or any of that stuff, he was an action guy, an “open your mouth and let God speak through you” guy. Of course sometimes after he'd had a couple of belts he'd open his mouth and say things that were just as silly as the rest of us. But he had such self-confidence, and was always so sure he was forgiven in advance. He charmed you. And all of a sudden, when other churches were floundering, we had a dog in the fight. The Presbyterians and the United Presbys
hadn't spoken to each other in decades; they had to combine congregations and sell off one of the sanctuaries. There are expensive condos in it now; I have to shake my head every time I drive by. Meanwhile, we had a thriving church school, and a new roof, and had started raising money to fix the pipe organ.


Ted Wineapple
When he'd been in Denver for four or five years, I began to understand how ambitious Norman was. It wasn't just the TV show. He wrote articles for the church papers; he got himself on committees for the national church, he presented at church conferences. I remember a night in Atlanta, after an NNECA convention. He'd gotten a standing ovation. We stayed up into the wee hours with our friend Jack Daniel's. I hadn't known him to drink like that when we were at seminary, but some people respond to applause that way; he was wired. At about two in the morning, he said to me, “Ted, do you think I should go back to New York? That's where the media is. That's where you can really make your mark.”

I wondered what kind of mark he meant to make—did he want to be a sportscaster or something? A talk-show host?


Monica Faithful
Edith was in third grade, so we'd been in Colorado almost ten years when Norman began to think about New York. The dean at St. John the Divine was a friend, and he told Norman of a church in the Village whose rector was retiring. It wasn't a rich parish but old and fairly famous, and it was very beautiful, the church itself very spare and pure, almost like a Congregational. We flew back there to attend a service incognito before
he decided to try for it. Well, as incognito as you can be when you're six five and you never met a camera you didn't like.

The church was fine, except the service was lower than we're used to. Norman must have thought he could change that when he ran the zoo. What I remember was staying with Jeannie, and sitting up half the night talking, manna from heaven. The idea of living close to her again! And of being only a day's drive from Dundee, and being able to visit my parents or my sister without putting the dog in the kennel and flying for a whole day…


Norman Faithful
The thing that drove that decision was Edie and Nicky. Edie was having trouble at her school in Colorado. There was some sort of click she'd been left out of, one of those things girls go through, but it wasn't good for her. The New York church had a school attached, a sweet little place, where Edie could go for half tuition. Plus, I was worried about Sam and Sylvie. We'd had them in the summers, but I couldn't get east for more than two weeks, and they were beginning to feel like strangers to me. So I put my hat in the ring, and went to New York and preached my heart out. It was no cakewalk. New York doesn't usually take to Westerners. I did have something of a national presence and a strong track record at raising money, which they badly needed. They flew the whole family in
to look us over.

In the end, they not only hired me, they hired Nicky to teach second grade. So Edie got to go to the school for free. The rectory was a tiny little shambles of a house but it was delightful. We missed the big backyard and having a sepa
rate study for Nicky. But I was ready for a new challenge and I rolled up my sleeves and waded in.


Sylvia Faithful
I tried to tell him that once, but he just looked at me, and then went on talking as if I hadn't said anything.


Ted Wineapple
I was pleased to have my old friend in the East again. I was in Richmond at the time. And I was very happy for Monica. She was so grateful to be back where she knew the names of the trees and the birds.


Monica Faithful
In the West it takes you a long time to realize that it's not only that you're new in town…you will
be walking down the street and run into someone you grew up with or knew from school. You will always feel as if you're on a tightrope without a net. You'll make new friends, but you'll never be as important to them as they are to you. And you'll never speak that shorthand together that comes from sharing common points of biography.


Ted Wineapple
It was a lesser parish, with many more problems than the one he was leaving. A church with a school attached? You have no idea. Especially a church that's failing while the school succeeds.

It was better for Monica. She looked happier than she had in years, still fairly slim, with some gray in her hair, but something lighter and clearer in her eyes. It was better for Edith, much better for Sam and Sylvie. Worse for Bridey, who'd had a big backyard in Colorado, but that wouldn't
have weighed with Norman. I think they still had Bridey then, the border terrier. (The only time I ever personally saw Monica push back against Norman in public was right after Bridey's mother was hit by a car and killed, and Norman declared that dogs don't have souls.)

Anyway, there's no doubt in my mind that the reason Norman took Holy Innocents was, he thought if he could pull off another coup like his Denver miracle, and in the Big Apple, the next step was the cathedral chair.


Monica Faithful
The rectory was this small little nineteenth-century row house behind the church. Probably worth a fortune now but New York City was pretty rough in those years. Graffiti was everywhere. Our front door got bombed so many times we gave up repainting it. Bombing is what the graffiti kids called it. Bombing. Tagging. And the house was drafty and all out of plumb. If you put a marble down on the parlor floor, it rolled to the other side of the room.

BOOK: Good-bye and Amen
10.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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