Friday, October 24, 2014

Back Bay Ministry

He was a handsome man.

Boston Back Bay. A December evening in the late 1970s.

Barely four months transplanted to New England, I had not yet been inside any of the brownstones that make up that first neighborhood across the Charles River from Cambridge. There was a somber, old-fashioned elegance about the entrance hall into which I was buzzed.

Truth be told, I do not retain the clearest memories of the evening. I know some of what happened. I know there was an apartment-sized Christmas tree in the process of being decorated. I know there was a dinner that he had prepared for the two of us. There was wine.

He was a handsome man. Walking around his rooms in stocking feet, he seemed at ease with a guest visiting for the first time. I will admit to having been taken aback by his invitation at first. We had been part of a conversation at a divinity school residence in Cambridge. Recently ordained, he was living alone now and pursuing the life of a Harvard graduate student.

It makes sense that I would have ended up talking to him over dinner about my being gay. How being gay affected the landscape of my spiritual life was a topic I longed to open up before people. New England had felt an ideal place to do that in the late 1970s, and this man had seemed potentially an ideal listener to secure.

Earlier this week I saw a name like his online. Having hardly thought about him since that winter meal we shared in his Back Bay apartment, I got to wondering what his life had become. I wondered whether I could find out. I had heard long ago that he was no longer in orders.

And it happened. His name came back to me. The search engines worked. I scrolled the images of a man in his sixties busy about his professional life in another part of the country. His life in ministry at one time had helped me feel his presence as a brotherly and welcoming one.

Here is that brief episode of memory by which I greet a younger me on the receiving end of the kind of care that bears remembering.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014