Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Carolina Grace, Gold for the Soul; Strength in Weakness 2016 has just been published. It is available online here . (Also find a link here .) Edited by the Ven. Calhoun Walpole, it is a collection of 25 short works such as poems, essays, histories, and experiences, all written by communicants and clergy of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. What impressed me the most about this collection was its sense of joy, optimism, faith, and love. There is not a shred of bitterness, recrimination, blaming, cynicism, or other hint of negativism. This is the church at its finest. Sometimes it takes travail to bring out the best in us. Franklin Roosevelt suffered a terrible blow of adversity that left him paralyzed in his legs. Yet, he rose way above that to make two monumental achievements, the New Deal that lifted the nation out of the Great Depression and the victory in the Second World War. A man in a wheelchair was by far the greatest president of the twentieth century.

And so the 7,000 intrepid communicants of the Episcopal Church diocese of South Carolina have risen above adversity too. Half the articles are written by people at Grace Church Cathedral which is fine. We all love Grace Church, the great beacon that led the way to reorganization and rebuilding. An article I especially recommend is Layton McCurdy's account of "Charleston Hospital Workers' Strike, 1968-69, pages 11-15. South Carolina had two outstanding incidents in the civil rights movement of the 1960's, the Orangeburg Massacre (1968, patrolmen fired on an unarmed crowd killing 3 and wounding 27), and the Charleston hospital workers' strike. 400 African American workers at two Charleston hospitals went on strike. After several months, the strike was settled by a compromise between the workers and William Huff (father of the Rev. Christopher Huff, now of St. George's of Summerville), the vice president of the Medical College Hospital. The workers received most of their demands and the white authorities grudgingly accepted the settlement.

We should all hold nothing but admiration for the resolute Episcopalians in the small cities, towns and rural areas between the Georgia and North Carolina state lines. Forced out of their churches by people who denounced "indiscriminate inclusivity," the Episcopalians who refused to give up on indiscriminate inclusivity left their home churches and banded together to keep the faith. In this collection we have the experiences of eight of these resolute people: Rick Stall of Messiah in Myrtle Beach, Virginia Wilder of Good Shepherd of Summerville, Nancy Gault of Okatie, Daniel Ennis of St. Anne's Conway, Jane Hart Lewis and Janet Clark of St. Catherine's of Florence, Anne Nietert of East Cooper, and Jonathan Coffey of St. Mark's Port Royal. Their stories were my favorite parts of the collection.

One has only to read Carolina Grace to see just how alive and well the Episcopal Church is in eastern South Carolina. Like the phoenix, it has risen to a glorious new life that shines through every page of this new collection.