Howard Moody Tribute

I lived in FL, still considered Howard as my Pastor. Although I disagreed with him sometimes. I so sppreciated his loving care.

~Eleanor Howe

Remembrance of The Right Reverend Howard Moody

The August weekend of Woodstock, in 1969, I was in the city looking for an apartment in preparation for graduate school at NYU that fall. I passed by Judson Memorial Church, and being raised a baptist and learning of Judson Church through the Roger Williams Foundation at Indiana University, Bloomington, I went into the vestibule to see about services and found a brochure for the Judson Weekend September 12-14, for $17.00. That sounded like a good deal, plus it would be an opportunity to meet people. I sent in the registration.

On Friday, September 12, I showed up early at Judson. Pretty soon Tom Craft arrived, and we chatted as folks began showing up. The church had rented cars, and we carpooled to the Metropolitan Baptist Camp in Poughquag, NY. That night, in the camp dining hall, we had introductions all around, with people responding to “The Question.” That year the question was to name the book you were currently reading as a way to break the ice in introducing yourself. It was a nice evening hanging out and getting to know people--many are friends to this day.

The next day after lunch, Dave Johnson asked if I’d like to join him on a liquor run for the Saturday night party. I said, “Sure!” feeling “chosen” to be invited to a clandestine gathering that evening. Around 4:00 p.m. Dave said, “OK, let’s go get the booze.” We walked to a car and the Reverend Howard Moody joined us. I got in the back seat; and off we went.

I was thinking, “How are we gonna get the booze with the minister along? Maybe we are just dropping him off somewhere.” But no, we pulled off to a roadside liquor store. We all got out of the car. Dave told me to come with him to pick out the booze, and Howard followed us in. I cringed! “How are we gonna buy alcohol with him around?” Dave and I put a couple of cases together and placed them on the counter. He called out to Howard, “We got it! Ready to check out.” Howard walked, with additional bottles, to the cashier, pulled out his billfold, and paid for it all!!! I went slack-jawed. “Holy Moly! The minister is buying the booze for this clandestine gathering.” He even helped us carry it out to the car.

Dave sensed my bewilderment. After we got back to the camp, he explained that the party was a Saturday night tradition for everyone at the retreat. Okay!!!!

Well..., it was the most incredible party of my life. Never had my church friends and my drinking buddies been the same people. The sacred and the profane came together for me that night through the hymn singing and the booze, and it has had a profound effect on the rest of my life. Thank you

Howard, and thank you David, for making me whole.
Jerry G. Dickason


Reminiscence about Howard

It was April 1964. I had just begun my job at the World Council of Churches in Geneva. Because I knew shorthand in English, German, and French I was immediately sent to an international conference at the Château de Bossey, about 15 miles north of Geneva, to take minutes and do other secretarial chores. The topic of the conference was “The Church in the World.” Howard Moody was one of the participants. One evening after dinner he and a fellow attendee, Andrew Young, invited me to have a drink with them in the nearby village. We did so again the following night. The wine helped to make instant friends of the three of us. At the end of the conference Howard invited me to look him up if I should ever find myself in New York. Little did I know then that three years later I would do just that.

One of the other participants was the Dutch theologian Hans Hoekendijk, who had just published The Church Inside Out. The book’s main point was that the secular world, not the church, is the real arena of God's action. Hoekendijk had an enormous influence on Howard’s thinking about the role of the church in the city where he worked.

Elly Dickason

HOWARD AS MARRIAGE COUNSELOR AND SUPPORTER OF THE ARTS

My husband and I met Howard Moody when we started attending, first, the cultural events at the church, and later the church services. When we decided to get married, we wanted Howard to marry us.

As some others may remember, Howard always met with the couple several times before the wedding. One session was with the two of us, then one session with each of us separately, and finally another session with both of us. Apparently Howard was concerned about the differences Jack and I had and our previous histories, So I remember that at the final session, Howard turned to me and asked, “Are you sure you know what you are doing?”

We were married in November 1958 and stayed married until Jack’s death in 1989. We continued to come to the church as long as Howard was minister but left when his replacement arrived since he wasn’t as interested in the arts as Howard had been.

Quite often when I would see Howard, I would remind him about his question to me, and we would laugh about it.

~ Doris Diether

UNDERSTANDING ON THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Howard was so dear to me, and so despite many tears for his loss I have joy for knowing such a sweet and gentle man with noble ideas that he was never afraid to eloquently express. I knew where he was coming from, and so the journey that he had traveled helped me understand my own road less traveled. I do know for his “last trip” he has arrived via that express highway to heaven that he so diligently paved for the rest of us.
With much love and appreciation,

~ Sharon Woolums

 

REMEMBERING HOWARD MOODY

It was 58 years ago when as a know-it-all freshman at Ohio State, I went to the Baptist–Disciple Student open house. This orientation event was not high on my agenda, but it had been recommended by my pastor who had known Howard Moody at Colgate-Rochester Divinity School before Howard went to Yale. That event changed my life. The Student House became my home and the people I met my friends and family.

Howard referred to me and the rest of us from OSU as his students. That we were in the truest sense. This is the man I will always remember. This was the pre-Judson Moody. I don’t know how much I learned at “college,” but at the B-D Student House, a different world emerged. I was introduced to Camus, the poets T.S. Elliot and W.H. Auden, painters and sculptors. I learned about a place in the South called Koinonia Farm, where blacks and whites lived a communal life, their lives and livelihood threatened. There was a pastor named Martin Luther King who was leading a bus strike in Birmingham, Alabama. I actually met somebody who didn’t pay income taxes. Howard Moody introduced us to new worlds, accepted our doubts and pushed us to think about the world in a different way. We traveled to ecumenical conferences and were known as the “ecumainiacs.”

At the end of my freshman year, Howard took me aside and told me he would like me to head the Christian Ethics Committee. But first, I had to do some reading and study. For the summer, I was given the Moody Curriculum, books by Tillich, both Niebuhrs, Barth and a few others. These I read while driving a truck around a wheat field.

I was bereft when Howard was called to Judson. We weren’t surprised; we knew even then how much he loved New York. Some of my friends were graduating and followed Howard to NYC. I finished school, kept in touch but didn’t follow to New York.

Then in 1968, during the school strike over community control, Howard and Lorry asked if I would be interested in being the live-in baby sitter. At, I think, ages 8 and 12, I’m not sure how much Dan and Deb needed a babysitter, but I was ready for the move. Grace House was a very different place then. The top floor was a residence for male, mostly African students. I lived on the second floor in a big front room. Howard’s niece, Caroline, joined us about a year later. The kitchen was where Caroline and I joined the family. Mostly it was a wild short order establishment, with everyone doing their own thing. I’m not sure how the Moody family made it through all this chaos, but for me and I think for Carolineit was a very special time.

Judson was important, but it is a personal Moody that I will remember.

~ Jean Ovitt

AHEAD OF THE TIMES

I lived at or near Judson during the decade of the 1960's. With Howard's leadership, we experienced freedom for all fifty years ago. I'm so glad Howard was able to see our first black president get elected and hope he knows that he was re-elected. Thank you, Howard, for your help and guidance to me and to so many. Just heard that you have left us, so don't have time to write about specifics. All I can say is Hallelujah in your honor for being so far ahead of the times.

~ Juell Krauter Brown

REMEMBERING HOWARD MOODY


What made Howard so damned remarkable?  It’s hard to boil it down without lapsing into vague superlatives that would outrage him.  But here’s a try.

More than any minister I’ve known, Howard’s work was driven by the conviction: that the real work of the church is outside its walls, serving folks excluded from the mainstream of society.  During the ten years I was able to attend Judson (1980-90), the church housed a family seeking sanctuary from atrocities in El Salvador, and congregants took turns accompanying Howard and Administrator Arlene Carmen in a church van that offered coffee, cookies, safe medical referrals, and friendship to sex workers near Times Square. 

And, a bit later, as AIDS fatalities began to roar through Greenwich Village like a wildfire, the church leadership struggled to find services that would truly make a difference. Since so many men with AIDS were frantic to find an effective drug before their time ran out, Howard and the church embarked on one of our most courageous—and most controversial—projects.  It was a clandestine, medically-designed and supervised, drug trial of a promising substance called Compound Q.  The trial participants had been taking Compound Q privately, but because they were doing so in isolation, nothing could be learned from their experiences to benefit others with AIDS. In the Judson project, the basement of the church was furnished with sterile hospital beds and a sympathetic physician injected Compound Q into volunteers with AIDS while following the strict protocol used in formal drug trials.

Unfortunately, the underground trial ended badly with an exposé in the New York Times and was forced to end before useful data could be gathered.  I don’t know how Howard looked back on that effort, but I remember it with a mixture of sadness (that the trial had failed) and admiration—admiration that Howard would take such a huge risk, even for the chance of saving thousands of lives.

But I will remember Howard most vividly for the rich and substantial soup of ideas that was continually bubbling away under that crew cut. On any given day, he seemed to have at least four or five fertile themes brewing—each of them on the way to becoming a sermon, an article, or a letter to some hapless editor. To the thick broth formed from a lifetime of reading, discussion, and his own creative synthesis, Howard added hearty chunks of wisdom from a huge range of sources: it could be Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Bill of Rights, Malcolm X, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ACLU…his colleagues and other congregants could easily expand the list to fill pages. Sometimes the juxtaposition of disparate ingredients was truly startling—like finding wedges of orange in your potato bisque. It was a bit jarring, but wasn’t that the idea? Howard liked to pepper his brews with a kick of irony (citing more authentic evidence of love in two lines of graffiti, perhaps, than the oft-quoted passage of St. Paul), and he disdained sugary pabulum designed to mask injustice he knew to be real. 

I was one of thousands who was, over many years, nourished by that stew. I learned from Howard: I grew from knowing him. And I absolutely hate writing about him in past tense verbs.

~ Carol Cellman Roach

IN MEMORY OF HOWARD MOODY

I first encountered Howard Moody at the 1985 American Baptist Biennial in Portland, Oregon. I had been ordained for all of two years and was representing the First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, where I served as Associate Pastor. Being a dedicated first time convention goer, I signed up for meals, workshops, studies, consultations, plenaries and receptions. By the last day of the convention I was very tired and almost talked myself out of attending a breakfast meeting where some guy named Moody was going to talk about urban ministry. I didn’t yet know Moody but I was most certainly getting to know urban ministry so I went, mainly because there had been so little at the convention that spoke directly to ministry as I was experiencing it.

Howard spoke directly to ministry as I was experiencing it. The work of the urban church was not glamorous; it touched people easily forgotten by the larger church and popular culture. It was about showing up in the name of God even when showing up seemed to count for so little. It was about believing that the “least of these” deserved the very best we had to offer. Howard made it clear that urban ministry offered more than its fair share of disappointment, frustration and disillusionment. He made it clear that the denomination as a whole would pay only cursory and sporadic attention to our demanding work. Still, he insisted there would be glimpses of grace that made it all worthwhile. He said that there would be a symbiotic relationship between the difficulty of the issues we faced and the knowledge that we were in the right place, at the right time, for the right purpose. My understanding of my call was greatly enhanced. My commitment to urban ministry found deep roots.

In the years that followed, particularly as the American Baptist Churches engaged in pitched battle over the place of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers in our family, I would come to learn of the magnificent ministry that Howard led in New York City. I would come to learn of his courage and strength. I would come to learn of his wit and wisdom. I would come to learn of the power of his arguments and force of his character. I would come to learn that while he did not suffer fools lightly, when his friends stood on the side of justice, he encouraged them mightily.

In 2004 some of us gathered at Judson Memorial Church to draft a document titled the Judson Declaration. It was a heartfelt effort to lift up the centrality of the freedom of the soul and autonomy of the congregation to the well being of our American Baptist tradition. Howard was a leading voice and a central force in our work. Laboring with him to say something of enduring significance through that document was the last time we would work together. As such, while I continue to find meaning in the words we wrote, I treasure the experience of being in the room and at the table with him. The energy he exuded remains an inspiration to stand as a Baptist in my city for those things that enlarge human life, even when the majority finds them to be irritating and inconvenient.

Jim Hopkins,
Pastor, Lakeshore Baptist Church
Oakland, California

Meeting Howard

I first met Howard over 50 years ago when I was an undergraduate. Later, I was fortunate to spend more personal time with him when I was the church secretary at Judson. It was a unique experience! Our spontaneous conversations and discussions were special moments. I always remembered his kindness to me. I admired his creative and challenging ideas, his skill with language, his boundless energy, his ongoing commitments to significant issues, and the way he seemed to embrace every moment - and he was fun. There were jokes to tell, humorous observations to make and some new experience to share. The Judson community will always have a special place in my heart, and Howard's vision and perspective on the church have impacted and guided my own journey of faith all these years. Although our paths rarely crossed after I left Judson, he continued to be a strong influence in my life. I always thought of him with admiration, respect and affection. What an indomitable and exhilarative spirit! Surely it will live on in the many lives that he touched and enriched over so many years.
 

~ Shirley Cantrell Birt

Time with Howard

The first thing that we must say is that we simply cannot imagine a world without Howard Moody. When we think of Howard we don’t think of the many important social causes that Howard championed, although these did influence our lives -- but rather the dearest of family friends, best friend to our father and mother, and a solid rock of support for our entire lives. So many images run through our heads:

 

  • Thanksgivings together with Howard always masterfully cutting the turkey
  • The prank with his thumbs that he played on us and then on all of our children
  • All of us on vacation every year together at Long Beach Island -- sparklers, steamed clams, lobsters, cocktails
  • Howard, Dad, and Bob Newman playing a KILLER game of water Frisbee in the breaking waves
  • He married us. He dedicated our children.
  • His contagious laughter.
  • His warm and comforting hugs
  • His incandescent spirit.

This is who Howard was to us. We miss him dearly.

~ Kate, Rob, and Cynthia Wright 


GRIP OF TRUTH

When I arrived at Judson and began collaborating with Al, I was in my mid-twenties and knew nothing about Howard. But the first time I shook hands with the man I sensed I was in the very grip of Truth. I felt welcomed into special company and compelled to keep earning that welcome. Over the years the feeling never faded. Howard's handshake, the fierce directness of his greeting, had a powerful, even elevating effect. And his enthusiasm was wonderfully heartening. When he quoted from Wanted and The Bonus Army in sermons, I knew I was doing something right. The remarkable force of Howard's personality encouraged us to try to better the world. 

David Epstein, playwright

"WHAT'S HAPPENING?"

I lived in the Judson Student House in 1965-66. I came straight out of the Midwest, buzz-cut and all, after graduating from the University of Illinois in Industrial Design in the Art School. I had decided to go to seminary, so I was very glad to be steered to Judson, and I lived at the ramshackle old Student House for a year. (My uncle lived there when he was a student at NYU in the 1930's!).  


I loved Judson's agape meals, Howard's fiery sermons, and Al Carmine's jump-up and sing original music, like Pooh the Bear. I recall the great parties at Al's Student House apartment, except once the coatroom was burgled during the party. I helped Howard with Sunday morning chair setups, and Al in the Poet's Theatre and also helped with the Dance Theatre and gym exhibits, such as Yoko Ono's "Bag" show.


In those years, the Village was hot, with Happenings and the wonderfully outrageous arts and politics at Judson. By the time I went up to Union Seminary, I was a Judson convert. I would come down to Judson when I could and went to historical events such as Andy Warhol's "Electric Balloon Farm," the first disco with dazzling lights.


How could Judson not be a major turning point in my life? This amazing church radicalized me in a way that has continued for a lifetime. I created several “happenings” and as editor of the Union student magazine did a "happening" bagazine called "The Plastic Bag." I recall the budding ecology movement and the women's movement meeting where one woman announced that they were no longer going to type the men's announcements. Instead, they were going bra-less! In 1968, Union students joined Columbia University’s political revolution with Mark Rudd and occupied the gothic Union entryway, closing the library and demanding more scholarships for black students.


In my seminary Psychology and Religion classthanks to Judson's liberating influence I recognized how important Carl Jung was, how religion is rooted in our collective unconscious and its mythic symbols, not just literal history or de-mythologized traditions. The result of this learning process, which began with Howard at Judson, was a long career teaching world religions and religion and culture at Ithaca College.


Everything I thought and wrote since those early days was lit by Howard Moody's and Al Carmines' fires!  I recall sitting around summer evenings in the Judson "back yard.” I remember admiring Howard's book, The Fourth Man. Howard Moody’s ministry was a major inspiration to others.
These days, as I hear about Judson’s involvement in important issues like occupy Wall Street, it makes me proud again.

Lee Bailey,
Associate Professor Ithaca College, retired
 

The Spiritual Howard R. Moody

For my first 25 years I attended a Lutheran Church that was all about ritual and dogma. Then I worked in a Lutheran Church in East New York for two years where I learned about being relevant to your community. After that I came to Judson where, thanks to Howard, I learned to love the doubt, embrace the questions, revel in the freedom of being without baggage, and all without having to check my brains at the door. And yes, it had relevance, and some liberating rituals.

After I got over my initial infatuation with Judson, I took it seriously. I wanted Judson to be for itself what it wanted the world to be: more open, transparent, accessible. So started my lover’s quarrel with Judson. I was a pain in Howard’s ass—among others—and I was grateful that Howard discerned my motives and graciously forgave my manner and method.

In a lunchtime conversation with Howard, he said something like, “Some people think Al Carmines is more ‘spiritual’ and I’m more ‘intellectual.’” You have no idea how much that pissed him off. Spirituality—and wholeness—requires that we use intellect in service not just of the soul, but in the service of justice (and the body) as well.

Howard taught me to give up triumphalism, let go of Christianity, and embrace Jesus. He once told me that we should give the Bible a rest. He profoundly understood the Bible’s influence on Western civilization, and knew it was also weaponized, taken out of context, and used at the expense of other Wisdom traditions.

One of Howard’s greatest gifts to me was his asking me to edit his 36-page treatise, “Living in the Overlap: What Personal Belief and the Church Might Look like in the Postmodern World.” Those were months and months of wrestling with precision, concision, clarity, and grace—in email exchanges and in dialogue over lunch. Wow!

Howard would often say to me, “You don’t think members of the congregation really believe in [pick at least one: the virgin birth, afterlife, atonement, prayer, ...] do you?” Well, yes, Howard, I think some of them do. Even so, his sermons spoke to them as well.

The times when he was physically down and out, I held him in my heart, but I made him laugh when I said I wasn’t going to pray for him. Howard was my greatest mentor and challenger. Thanks to his tutelage, I’m now a UU. Same mantra: no baggage; head and heart in the service of justice and community. Thanks for it all, Howard. What a ride!

Blessed be.
Steve Marston

A Memory of Howard Moody

Ours would fill several volumes. Here is a little-known one for the special Judson book in his memory.

Back in the days in the 1950s-1960s, when there was a viable student Christian movement on college campuses, the National Student YMCA and YWCAs held a major national conference at least once in every student generation.

The very last on-campus gathering – before most such organizations disappeared in the chaos of the late 1960s – was held at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana from December 27, 1962 to January 2, 1963 and organized around the theme “Revolution and Response.”

The program featured more than a dozen prominent national Christian leaders who met with several hundred students – a built-in scenario for glitches and winging-it. Harvey Cox provided the pre-conference study materials, but was caught with a conflict in Europe. Bill Coffin did the worship. And Howard had the most difficult job by far. After each address, his task was to engage each speaker in a dialog with the student audience. My task, as editor of the Intercollegian, the national Student YMCA-YWCA magazine, was to capture this in print. (I have many personal Howard and Bill stories to share in private.)

As Howard noted in his closing remarks (printed version enclosed): “Let us never despair at conferences if our speakers ‘bomb’ or people don’t show or even if the schedule is too tight; the grace and spirit of God moves incognito and mysteriously to affect people and change lives. . . .

“The only revolution that ultimately counts is not the urban mass one, nor the nuclear one, nor the political upheaval. The true metanoia that matters is the one that turns our lives upside down and makes us a new being which sees every injustice as abhorrent, feels the suffering of our ‘painfellows’ with poignancy, and commits us to new directions down Via Dolorosas we never wanted.”

Bud Mims
November 2012

On Memories: From Frisbies to Blood Songs and Beyond 

I knew Howard Moody two ways: As a prophet and, along with Dean Wright and my dad, as one of the guys who played Frisbee at the beach every summer. I have happy memories of hanging out with Howard over many decades, from when I was a little kid in the early 1960s until he officiated at our wedding a few years ago.

About that other role: Howard Moody knew things, and he knew them early. He knew Yoko before John; he knew what junkies needed way before most public health officials did; and he knew the importance of women’s and LGBT rights decades before the rest of the country. Oh, and he knew more hymns about blood than anyone else on the planet. Most importantly, this unlikely figure – a crew-cut Marine sergeant in the middle of Greenwich Village – always knew that the more we defied labels and just trusted in one another, the more fully human we would become.

I've never known anyone else with so many dear friends, and I was glad to be one of them. I will miss him terribly.

- David Newman

 

Bursting with Pride/Flooded with Tears

I swear I’d heard Howard deliver this speech before I read it. But, of course I couldn’t have; I wasn’t there; I wasn’t at the Biennial Luncheon of the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board of American Baptist Churches on June 18, 1991 in Charleston, West Virginia. Maybe I heard a tape of the speech; just as likely I can “hear” him speaking as I read his words.

This luncheon and speech, near the end of his professional ministry, was to honor his friend, Dean Wright at his retirement as the head of the M&M board. Howard took this occasion to speak on Unfinished Reformations: Looking Back to See the Future.

He introduced his reflections by looking back, as he said, “at fights we’d begun and never finished, reformations we’d inaugurated but never consummated, ‘leaps of faith’ we’d confessed but never completed.” He went on to declare himself a Baptist by choice, describing them as his spiritual tribe whose distinguishing mark has always been “an outsider, the mark of exile in Christendom, a kind of sect of embarrassing ragtag pilgrims, many times unmentioned and uncounted in the contemporary press and polls of modern journalism.”

The “unfinished reformations” he identified started with that of “the Church and the World” discussion. He suggested that the Church “copies the world at its worst, and adopts as its own the values of the world of commerce and business and its priorities of completion, growth and profit. Instead, the world out there that should be setting the agenda for the Church is:

  • where human suffering and needs are expressed in the cries of hurt and helplessness;
  • where the fight for justice and equality was going on;
  • in the precincts of the underdog where the ostracized and the outcast, the hated and the despised are looking for signs of mercy;
  • where the economically marginal are struggling with the urban elite and need the church to witness to justice.

Such an agenda could save the Church from living only for and in itself.” Howard was arguing for “a Church that is self-emptying in service to this world. Here is our opportunity to make our mission real and turn our proclamations into incarnation. The Church needs to be out there in the world—in the marketplace, in the courtroom, in the political arena, doing battle with ‘the principalities and Powers’ that shape and misshape the lives of human beings.”

In this speech Howard goes on to identify three more concerns of unfinished business. The first of these is race:

The major mistake in white folks’ reading of the “racial situation” was to believe it was simply a civil rights issue and that it was regional in nature. But time taught us that the issue was much more than rights—more than sitting at lunch counters together, or watching sporting events or worshipping together—and racism was geographically all inclusive: North, South, East and West.

Howard goes on to name a second area needing further attention and that is of sex, or gender, of the “liberations of women.” He ends his thoughts on this concern by saying,

The Church cannot be fully the Church it is called to be, based on its own profession, until women are seen as equal partners in the ordained ministry of the churches and we open the doors to that reality.

The final unfinished reformation he turns our attention to is that of what he identifies as “our ‘open secret’ that has haunted our ABC leadership…. You must know, he said, we are talking about are our gay and lesbian sons and daughters (mostly silent and invisible) struggling against fear and hostility and indifference, hoping to claim their rightful place among us.”

By now you might well be asking, so where is the tribute in all this?
For me the tribute began when I first heard it and cried, when I first read the speech and cried, and when I told a friend and cried in the telling. Howard generated tears that soften the heart.

The tribute is in remembering how it was that Howard would always begin with the history that brought us to this present moment, the history of what it means to be a church, where we’ve come from in our race relations, recognition of what has rendered our women as second class citizens, and our denial of our gay and lesbians in our midst. He would remind us of the history and direct our attention to the challenges this history presents.

The tribute is found in his ever so respectful acknowledgment of the fear that these topics expose.

These tears of tribute flow and flow when, in all humility, he tells his audience that he would be untrue and dishonest to himself and the congregations he loves and serves if he’d not spoken up about these difficult issues. This expression of his love for us is felt so very deeply and so deeply cherished.

Thank you dear Howard, thank you.

David Johnson
October 15, 2012

Remembering the Baptist Preacher Who Opened His Church to Artists

I attended Judson in the early 1960s and then mostly for the theatre, up in the loft – where my friend Reathel Bean sometimes acted – and dance downstairs, for example, Yvonne Rainer and Remy Charlip, greased up and dancing naked in the sanctuary, and, of course, for Al's musicals. For me Howard was a presence and little more. He was usually not there when I was, but I knew clearly that this former Marine with the flat-top and southern accent was the reason all these avant-garde artists had a place to perform. That alone was enough to make me want to come to Judson again and again, for art, for Howard's sermons, for dinners. I was young, in my early 20s, and Howard was an inspiration not only because he was a social activist, but because he "allowed" – nay, approved of – his church being used for naked dance performances, wacky musicals and plays. I really didn't know Howard and I'm sure he didn't know me, but his influence on me and on the 1960s in New York City and around the world was massive. While most people remember Howard Moody the social activist, I want to remember the Baptist preacher who opened his church to all kinds of artists, and what a wonder that was in the 1960s.

David Budbill is a poet and a playwright. His most recent play is A Song for My Father (2010). His most recent book of poems is PARK SONGS: A POEM/PLAY (2012). Garrison Keillor reads frequently from David's poems on NPR's The Writer's Almanac.

- David Budbill

 

When Howard heard that I had cancer he sent me the following e-mail on his views on death:

"Death doesn't frighten me. I faced my death many years ago many times in the Marine Corps in World War II. It is the full life, lived with love and caring [for] all about us that makes death not a horrible tragedy but a storied ending as natural and full of mystery as the birth that brought us into this world."

- Karen Ethelsdattar

COWBOY HATS AND A REAL HERO

The heroes of my childhood wore cowboy hats, galloped their horses across black and white celluloid landscapes, and always did the right thing. They were brave, facing down the bad guys without a thought for their own safety. They stood side-by-side with the ranchers who were about to lose everything to the land barons. They were kind to those who needed help but steely-nerved and unflinching when it was time to fight. And they spoke with the strong voice of leadership, insight and vision for the future.

When I was 21, I met the real thing. Okay, the cowboy hat was more like a buzz cut, the landscape encompassed skyscrapers and stained glass windows rather than sagebrush, but everything else was right on. Howard Moody was the hero of my adult years – which have stretched farther and farther from that mid-century childhood. From the summer afternoon when I first heard him speak at a conference until the summer afternoon of his death, Howard was my hero and my friend, my spiritual guide and the unique leader of my vibrant, diverse and left-leaning community of faith. For 49 years I have been both grateful and astonished that this remarkable man was in my life.

Dick and I lived in Washington and Colorado during the really turbulent years…Vietnam…Stonewall…the struggle to make abortion accessible, affordable and legal…artists in creative revolution...and so much more. By the time we came back East in 1980, things had calmed down somewhat. Howard Moody and Judson had found a remarkable way of being in the world, sacred and secular blended and celebrated in music, worship, march and protest, compassion and inclusiveness. And there was Howard’s incredible voice – deep, with the barest touch of Texas remaining – asking the really big questions and taking us with him on a journey to find our own true selves and voices.

I have great memories but no funny stories. What I do have is unending gratitude that his life was woven into mine and into the life of my family like an unbreakable thread. He was – is – hero, teacher, compass, and my friend.

- Kathleen Huber

JUDSON, SOME PALESTINIANS AND THE JDL

Since Judson has gotten pretty involved in the Occupy Movement, I’ve remembered a time when we were the occupied instead. In 1969 or 1970, there was a man named John Lawrence who gathered a group of Palestinians and made a very aggressive attempt to get their message across to the people of New York. I would like to think that today they would not have needed to be so aggressive. But back then they began to occupy churches in particular, I think, and demand to be heard. 


So, one Sunday they chose Judson as a convenient target and tried to take over the service. Howard Moody was able to convince them to wait and be given an audience later in the service. Things, I’m sure, were tense but relatively calm until the Jewish Defense League got word that they were there and gathered outside demanding that Judson release the Palestinians to them.


The resolution reached was that those who were willing would accompany the Palestinians outside and serve as a shield to get them past the JDL. This apparently worked, but there was plenty of TV coverage by this point.

I remember this incident vividly, but I just recently realized I was not there. I first heard about it when Al Carmines called me to say that John Lawrence and the Arabs were at Judson. My first thought was that if I had been a better fan of rock music, I would know this group and would be there to hear them.

Anyway, I watched the local news coverage that night and was reminded of how strange things can get when almost any news medium tries to cover anything related to a church. The first story I saw about the event was an interview with a clueless man from somewhere who had wondered into the church that day and couldn’t quite figure it out. He said, “They said this was an agape meal, and agape means love. And I didn’t see much love here today.” He was identified on the screen as Rev. Howard Moody.

On another channel, however, there was an interview with the real Howard Moody and John Lawrence. Lawrence said, “Everything was fine until Rev. Moody called in the JDL.”


And Howard said, “I only wish I did have some control over the JDL.”

- Reathel Bean


THE SANTA BARBARA CONNECTION

When visiting my parents in Santa Barbara, I would always include a swing by Anapamu St. for a visit with Howard and Lorry and maybe share a meal or a beer. One occasion involved a discussion of converting the outbuilding into a guest house for itinerant Judsonites – complete with sketches.


For a few years, Howard and Michael Kelly and I would conspire to rally the troops at our house in Portland or at Jim and Michael’s in Vancouver, WA and stage a Judson weekend NW. This would include loud and raucous singing of the Judson Songbook and Judson Weekend Songbook, all harmonies, with libation and meal to accompany the festivities. Judson NW included Carol Sellman, Jerry and Elly Dickason, their son Blaine, Cindy and kids, Michael and Jim, Howard, myself and Judith in attendance. Howard would also have a yearly trip to Portland working on his books, and we would spend a little time together.


My parents, Paul and Marialice Edwards, went to the same church Howard attended in Goleta, and we would also see him there. Mom was a big flirt, and Howard sort of enjoyed that. Around September 2001, Mom took a fall, broke a hip and ended up in the health care center at Valle Verde. The hip healed fine but those damn meds messed up her head (she had never taken so much as an aspirin), and I think she chose tax day 2005 (she loved doing those taxes, particularly that one from 1998 when she had to find that 11 cents) to slide off the raft. Howard was with me and my family – Dad, brother Bill, sister Wendy, and Dad’s pastor – as Mom took her last breath and became, at that moment, as lovely as she had ever been.


Thanks again, Howard and Lorry


- Dave Edwards

 

 
55 Washington Square South New York, NY 10012 | phone: 212-477-0351 | fax: 212-995-0844