Thursday, January 12, 2012

AIDS QUILT MEMORIES: Recalling Tom Tell And Ron Washburn, With Sister Butch, Peat, And Queeni

By Patrick Hall

The return of the AIDS Quilt for Advent brought back many memories of those members of St. Aidan’s, and friends of St. Aidan’s, who died of AIDS.

Many of them were VERY involved in our parish, serving on the Vestry, including Kenneth Buckley, Ron Washburn, Peter Hayn who later became ordained, Fr. Jim Markunas, etc. But this remembrance is about Tom and Ron.

In the late 70’s, Rev. Lin Knight asked me to be the Bishop’s Representative to The Parsonage, which was the first official presence of the Episcopal Diocese in the gay and lesbian community. The Parsonage was established by Bishop Swing, at the urging of two gay priests, Bernard Mayes and John Williams. It was located in a small rental home behind Herth Realty, at 555A Castro Street. Soon after I started attending Board meetings there, I met Ron and Tom.

At about the same time, HIV was discovered and AIDS became a death sentence throughout the gay community (and among our St. Aidan’s community).

Ron and Tom were very active in publicizing the AIDS epidemic, as well as quelling rumors regarding its transmittal. When the Episcopal National Convention was held in Anaheim, Ron and Tom enlisted a group from the leadership of the Parsonage to travel there to raise awareness of AIDS within the Episcopal community. They would gather the latest articles and statistics about AIDS, and then each morning Marilyn and I, and Ron and Tom, and Bill Lorton and others, would hand out “The Daily AIDS Update” to the conventioneers as they entered the convention center each morning. Marilyn would especially target those with a purple shirt. Ron and Tom also began handing out small swatches of rainbow ribbons, with straight pins, so you could pin it on your shirt or blouse, to show your support of those with HIV/AIDS.

Finally, Ron and Tom became HIV positive themselves. During their illness, they continued to be active in AIDS awareness, helping to establish the first World AIDS Day, and attending, as I recall, the first three World AIDS Conferences. Ron succumbed first to the disease, and a few months later, Tom.

Before they died, Marilyn and I had planned a trip to Italy, and included Assisi on our itinerary, intending to go for the day. Tom and Ron said, “If you are going to Assisi, you really must stay overnight.” We did, and it was a magical, spiritual night to be in the quiet realm of St. Francis after all of the tour buses have taken the masses back to Rome.

If you look at the medium size panel in the middle of the bottom of our Quilt panel, you will see “The Bickersons” [Bill Lorton’s nickname for them] “Ron Washburn, Tom Tull, Sister Butch and Queenie (their two cats) and Peat” [their dog]. We miss them all.”


by Judith Lavender Dancer

The new year feels refreshing and a starting over again that we repeat often, not just every year, but there are events and times in our lives that point to a refreshment, a starting over that can be restorative and helpful in modern times of busyness and loosing connection to the Sacred.

I love a good soak and a scrub in the New Year, cleaning off the dead skin and allowing the natural glow to become restored. The scrubbing also awakens part of me that may have forgotten that it feels good to be touched and cared for. One year, Kabuki Hot Tubs was the answer, with hot Japanese noodle soup afterward. Yum.

One year, we gathered up all the rocks we had collected over the years, living just 3 blocks from Ocean Beach at the time, and went down to the beach to release them back into the environment they came from. When we got there, someone or ones had made a reclining 8-10 foot woman out of sand, so we delicately laid the rocks all over her body. The surf came up to her, lapping away at the rocks and carrying them back to sea.

When we are back into our lives, Chinese (or Lunar) New Year sneaks in with a roar of a dragon and special food and celebrations inhabit our fair city. I especially like the red envelopes the elders used to give me with a dollar or two inside, good luck for the new year. My colleague is Chinese and he has two young children, so now I get to give the envelopes to them, which I bought today in Chinatown. The cycle continues...

I was baptized 7 years ago this Easter, so the Lenten journey always feels as if it is a gathering of

energy and intention into such a special time in the church year, the death and resurrection of Christ. The poignancy and weight of Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Day are rejuvenating and so sacred. Yes, another form of new year, rebirth and a recommitment to being Christian in the 21st century.

Spring, Summer and then in the Fall we have the Jewish New Year. I am a September baby, so I feel very connected to the timing of this event for my sisters and brothers, my birth starting a new year, plus respecting and noticing the rituals of others. My birthday has always been important to me and I celebrate it with relish (not the pickled kind, Jack!).

Advent—the start of the liturgical year—has become a magical time for me as I explore the imagery, the story and the symbols of light and dark. I cherished this time and felt a refreshment I have never felt in this season before this year, moving away from the party and shopping frenzy and deepening into the understanding of its sacred meaning.

I know other cultures and religions have their New Years but these are the ones that have affected me. What I notice is I am able to start again in so many ways throughout the calendar year and it gives me an opportunity to rejuvenate (we say re- judith-ate at our house), take stock and begin again. My energy does not need to get stuck (although being stuck might be what I need sometimes, too) but I can be on the journey of newness and deepening into a new understanding of myself and how I can contribute to the world.

What are your New Year points and how do you celebrate and open into the journey of this sacred life? Let’s continue this celebration and opening together.