In the telephone contact thing I’ve been doing, I re-established my friendship with Lori, who I haven’t seen since 2004. And it had been at least a decade, and an interstate move on her part since we last connected.
She asked me if I had ever written about how I departed from my first church in Albany, Trinity United Methodist. I had not. In the blog, and in conversation, I usually deflected the topic, referring to it as The Troubles. But it’s been two decades and perhaps I should explain.
Before that, however, I reckon I ought to talk about the better times at Trinity UMC. It is a cathedral, really, an imposing structure on the corner of Lark and Lancaster Streets. Before I stepped into the building, I used to live at 223 Lancaster Street, so I would pass by it every day when I worked at FantaCo.
Then in 1982, my maternal grandmother died in Charlotte, NC. The family held a service at Trinity AME Zion Church in Binghamton. I decided to go church shopping in Albany with my then-girlfriend. The very first day we attended was June 13. I remember this well because the minister, Stan Moore, spoke positively about the anti-nuke rally we had attended the day before in New York City.
What sealed the deal, though, was when Gray Taylor, one of the tenors, came down from the choir loft and invited people to come to rehearsals and perhaps join the choir. A basic “Ask and ye shall be given” moment. Early in 1983, I joined the singers. In December 1984, under the leadership of an interim pastor, I joined the church.
Choirs are fascinating organisms. As I’ve written, Arlene Mahigian had “adopted” me, treating me like a son. Art Pitts was a bass who helped acclimate me to choral singing again. Steber and Jean Kerr had me over for Thanksgiving dinner a couple of years. Helen and Bob Pratt drove me to and from church for a time. Jeannette and I share a birthday. A bunch of us would go out to a local tavern before choir for dinner.
While some folks came and went, there was a core of people who were present for most of my tenure there,. As a result of that, and some good directors, we made “a joyful noise to the Lord,” as they say. One particular member was the tenor soloist in the 1980s, Sandy Cohen, a colorful character. One day he had one of his heart attacks during the service. But he refused to leave until he “finished the gig.” He died on December 24, 1990, right before that service. We never sounded worse as a choir, singing through tears.
I was very involved in the governance at Trinity UMC. At different times, I was chair of the Council on Ministries and the Administrative Board. COM was comprised of committee chairs for the various missions and ministries of the church. The Admin Board was the entity, comprised of a large percentage of the active congregants, which passed measures to implement policy decisions.
On May 15, 1999, my wife and I were married there. The following year, we were gone. What happened? That’s a story for another day.