Remembering the Anti-Moon Luddites

Today, of course, is the fiftieth anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon–“one giant leap for mankind,” to be sure.  It was a great accomplishment and deserves to be remembered.

It’s easy to forget, however, that at the time there were many–especially on the left–who believed that the whole enterprise was a mistake, that the money we spent to put Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin (and of course, Michael Collins, commemorated the following year by Jethro Tull in their album Benefit) would have been better spent on feeding the poor and rectifying social injustices.

And in a sense the years that followed this achievement were the time when real science died in this country.  As I noted earlier this year:

But by the time Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the moon, the mood had changed. The 1960’s were a decidedly Luddite time; technology was blamed for despoiling the environment and creating the “few minutes to midnight” atmosphere of the Cold War. Those who plied their trade in technology were “nerds.” The space program collapsed and the aerospace industry went with it. A new generation turned away from technology to more “relevant” (and easier way up) professions such as law and finance. Instead of landing on Mars in 1986, we were in angst (something we’ve gotten good at) over the explosion of the Challenger.

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Our home in Palm Beach. It was located on the old “Dodge Estate,” one of the last of the large estates to be broken up (Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is an example of one that is still intact.) Built in the late 1950’s, it survived the hurricanes that were reasonably frequent during the years we lived in Palm Beach (we experienced two the first summer we lived there.) All of the windows were fitted with shutters (as shown here) or had a metal shield that could be fitted for a blow. This obviated the need to strip forests for plywood every time a hurricane arrived. Note also the ficus hedge running along the street. Using a hedge to both close in the yard and to obscure the view of the property (they’re generally higher now than they were then) is fairly common in Palm Beach. After living with this, being forced into the “open yard” mould so common in the U.S. (especially in the South) just doesn’t quite cut it.

The space program had many technological spinoffs that enhanced life here on earth.  But when we have the same old “zero-sum” mentality about this, we’ll end up getting nowhere, and in the long run shortchanging those we profess to help.

And where was I when the first step was taken?  In Palm Beach, of course.  Behind the balcony of our house (right) was my brother’s room, where we witnessed history on his black and white television.

A State of Being

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Helene Tuchbreiter Portrait by Antonio Sereix Photo Reproduction by John Haynesworth

Helene Tuchbreiter was one of Palm Beach’s most prominent socialites in her time.  She made an impact both on the social scene and on the people immediately around her.

My own recollection of her, however, was more prosaic: she was one of my mother’s best friends during the years we lived in Palm Beach.  This was made more real by an experience they both shared: the founding of the Church Mouse thrift shop.

Both of them were members at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and also members of the St. Mary’s Ladies’ Guild. (or circle, as it’s called in some churches.)  Each year the guild had a “Rummage Mart” at the church to raise money for its charitable activities.  Helene was the Guild’s president. In the Spring of 1968 the Vestry of the church informed the Guild that it wasn’t right to have the sale on church property.  In support of their position they cited such Bible verses as “Jesus went into the Temple Courts and began to drive out those who were selling, Saying as he did so: “Scripture says–‘My House shall be a House of Prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Luke 19:45-46)  This didn’t sit well with the ladies of the Guild, who thought all along they were doing something good.  The Vestry, flush with its new found knowledge of the Scriptures (they probably really wanted to keep the riff-raff off of the church grounds) stuck to its guns.  So the Guild had to find an alternative.

Helene, unwilling to be sidetracked in the mission to do good (and probably unwilling to be outdone by sellers of shirts), took the initiative and led the Guild to start a thrift shop off of the church grounds.  The Rector, Dr. Hunsdon Cary, was sceptical about the concept; he told Helene that they would probably end up poor as church mice. Beyond the absurdity of anything in Palm Beach experiencing such poverty, this doubtless spurred Helene and the others to make it work.

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Left to right: Roy Tuchbreiter, my mother, father, and Helene, at a Christmas fête in Palm Beach in the late 1960’s. (Photo courtesy Bert and Richard Morgan, Palm Beach) Note: Some of the information for this article was taken from Helene Tuchbreither’s own copy of The Bulletin of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, 9 April 1991, complete with her own tart comments.

Dr. Cary’s quip also gave the enterprise its name; in March 1970 the Church Mouse thrift shop opened. It was soon forced to move because the building was being torn down for the Publix market in Palm Beach (that was another great controversy as well.) It moved to its second location at 101 North County Road. My mother kept the books for the Church Mouse during its early days.

In 1987 it moved to two locations, one at 374 South County Road and the other in West Palm Beach. The store was and is to this day a success, as good example of any of taking lemons and making lemonade.

Years later, while we were preparing for my mother’s estate sale, the portrait reproduction above was found in my mother’s things.  The individual who was organising the sale asked me the question, “What did she do?”  My response to him was, “In Palm Beach, it isn’t a matter of what you do, it’s what you are,” and went through the story you have here.

This state of affairs, however, is not unique to socialites.  When God called Moses to lead his people out of bondage, Moses asked the obvious question:

“Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” And God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.” (Exod 3:13-15 NAS)

This abstract sounding answer had then and has now an important point.  We as human beings have a habit of defining everyone and everything by what they do.  The gods of ancient peoples were a reflection of that; every one of them had a speciality task.  But the God who commissioned Moses and later sent his own Son is beyond that: he is not defined by what he does, but by what he is and moreover that he exists: “For in him was created all that is in Heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible–Angels and Archangels and all the Powers of Heaven. ”  (Col 1:16)  Jesus himself underscored his own nature and that of his Father when “Jesus said to them, ““In truth I tell you,” replied Jesus, “before Abraham existed I was.”” (John 8:58 NAS)

Our habit of defining ourselves and others by what we do is worse than ever in this performance based world we live in.  Helene Tuchbreiter — the preacher’s kid from Montgomery, Alabama, who went on to Palm Beach — has gone on for the last time to meet the great “I Am.”  Of the results of this encounter, we do not know, but we do know that before we do anything else we must follow God through his Son Jesus Christ, and then what we are will far surpass anything we can do — in this life and the life to come.

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Youth Choir Contract, Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church

 

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Bethesda, looking towards the bell tower.

When it comes to Palm Beach, as Kendall Harmon would say, you just cannot make this stuff up…


BETHEDSA-BY-THE-SEA
Palm Beach, Florida
1967-1968

YOUTH CHOIR CONTRACT

THIS AGREEMENT, made and entered into between the CHURCH OF BETHESDA-BY-THE-SEA, Palm Beach, Florida, and __________________________.

WITNESSETH: That the Second Party named above, agrees to sing in the YOUTH CHOIR of Bethesda-by-the-Sea Church and take an ACTIVE part in the services when held at the following times during the season Of 1967-1968:

35 Sundays at nine o'clock service from October 1, 1967 to May 26, 1968 with the exception of Easter when the Family Service will be at 4:00 P. M., and January 7th at Evening Prayer. Also, Thanksgiving Day at 10:00 A. M., Christmas morning at 10:00 A. M., and Good; Friday, March 22nd at 10:00 A. M. - Also for "The Glory of God," Sunday afternoon, December 17th at 4:00 P.M. - with the Adult choir in Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

IT IS UNDERSTOOD AND AGREED that the Second Party shall attend rehearsals on Thursday and Friday from 4:15 to 5:00 P. M., with the exception of Thanksgiving week and Holy Week, when the rehearsals will be on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Also, if one of these rehearsals is missed, the time will be made up on Saturday at 8:30 A. M. Members of the 8th grade and above will be required one rehearsal each week. It is also agreed that the Second Party shall attend all warm-up rehearsals, from 8:25 A.M. until 8:40 A.M. each Sunday. It is further agreed that the first party will withhold a fine of 10% of the Sunday fee for each tardiness at rehearsals. REHEARSALS BEGIN PROMPTLY AS SCHEDULED. The Second Party must participate in at least one weekly rehearsal and the warm-up on Sunday in order to sing at the 9:00 A.M. service. A fine of 30% is withheld for each rehearsal absence. Members are required to attend more than a total of half of the rehearsals and services each month in order to receive compensation. A bonus of $2.00 is awarded each month for perfect attendance at rehearsals and services.

IT IS FURTHER AGREED that each boy shall be responsible for his choir jacket, wear it to and from Church each Sunday (and only for Choir functions), also to wear a white dress shirt, black four-hand tie, dark trousers, black socks and black shoes (shined). It is further agreed that the jacket will be returned at the termination of his service or at the last Sunday service in May (whichever occurs first.) Members will also be subject to a 10%-30% fine for untidiness or deportment on Church property. It is also understood and agreed that any suggestions made by your Rector, Choirmaster, Assistant of Choirmothers for the musical betterment or deportment of the Choir, shall be accept in good faith and spirit.

Bethesda-by-the-Sea, the First Party above named, agreed to pay the sum of $1.50 per week for each service.

Dated this 6th day of October, 1967.

Telephone_____________________

Choir Boy's Signature____________________________________

Address______________________________________

Parent's or Guardian's Signature___________________________________

BETHESDA-BY-THE-SEA

By:________________________________
ADAM L. DECKER, M.A.
Choirmaster

Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church: The Unauthorised Tour

When it came to church, my family was made up of interesting people, especially when it came to going to church.  We didn’t go to church very often (at least until my mother came along,) but when we did, and when we were in Palm Beach, this is where we went: Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, FL.

Although these shots (with one exception) were taken many years after my departure, the church is on the National Register of Historical places, so there have been few changes (although they have messed around with a few things since this millennium began…)

Other Bethesda Related Links

Reflections on Bethesda

Do not love the world or what the world can offer. When any one loves the world, there is no love for the Father in him; for all that the world can offer–the gratification of the earthly nature, the gratification of the eye, the pretentious life–belongs, not to the Father, but to the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

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Bethesda, looking towards the bell tower.

Today the Anglican Communion in the U.S. is in dire straits. But the forces that have brought things to their present state are nothing new; almost all of them were present in the Bethesda I grew up in. Bethesda is, in some ways, an outsized example of how we got where we are.

As we note elsewhere, people can come to church primarily because they agree with what the church teaches, or they can come for other reasons: social, aesthetic, etc. Episcopal churches in general and Bethesda in particular simply have too many of the latter in their pews. This makes it easy for liberals to come in and take command; if they can keep up appearances, they can keep things going even when the church’s core message has totally changed. This is not to say that everyone went along with this; the Episcopal church lost a million members in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the process of its radicalisation, and is in the process of repeating that feat again.

Coupled with the social membership are demographics. The Episcopal church’s membership income distribution is simply too skewed into the upper reaches of our society. This wasn’t the original intent; when Henry VIII took charge of the church in England, his idea was that the Church of England be the church of every Englishman, from himself to the ploughboy. The Nonconformists chipped away at that in the mother country, but in the American colonies they proceeded to blow Anglican churches out of the water for the bulk of the populace. They were so successful that they were able to oust the Episcopal church as the state church in the Southern colonies in the wake of the American Revolution.

This brings me to an important point–people talk about an “inclusive” vs. “exclusive” church but with churches like Bethesda we have to ask: inclusive or exclusive of what? Or whom? Bethesda, like most Episcopal churches, prides itself in being “inclusive” but the reality is that the church was built and is sustained on being “exclusive” in a socio-economic way, much like a country club. This situation is an opportunity to reach a difficult group with the Gospel, but as long as the liberals are in dominance the church will lack a message worth bringing.

But everything isn’t negative here. Bethesda is a beautiful church, and it’s hard to be impressed with anything else. Ultimately, though, the chief objective is, as it always really was, to carry out the main mission: “The Son of Man has come to ‘search for those who are lost’ and to save them.” (Luke 19:10)

Palm Beach: Around the Island

Palm Beach Day School

Above: the opening ceremony during Field Day at Palm Beach Day School, 20 April 1968. For intramural competition the school was divided into two teams, the “Pelicans” (blue uniforms) and “Flamingoes” (yellow uniforms.) Both my brother and I were in the latter.

Note also the closeness of the buildings behind the field. Palm Beach’s real estate is expensive and used very efficiently, more so now than when we lived there.

Thirty years later, a friend coached a lacrosse team up the coast. The one school they would not allow their kids to eat lunch at was Palm Beach Day School, on account of the harassment by the “home team.” PBDS kids would even shout obscenities at the visitors as they got on the bus to leave.

Other Items

In holding his lecture in West Palm Beach, Pike was invading what was for him “enemy territory.” In an article in the July 2006 issue of Chronicles magazine, author Tom Landess reminded us of the following:

In 1966, a group led by Henry I. Louttit, bishop of the Central Archdeanery of South Florida, demanded that Pike be tried for heresy.

John Hines, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, met with Louttit and a small delegation in New York and told them he had polled key figures in the mass media, who had declared unanimously that a heresy trial would severely, disastrously damage the Church’s image.

Most of the bishops agreed. The Bishop of New York expressed the feelings of the majority: “Of all the methods of dealing with Bishop Pike’s views, the very worst is surely a heresy trial! Whatever the result, the good name of the church will be greatly injured.”

Hines asked Louttit and his cohorts to allow an ad hoc committee to address the problem more informally, less visibly. Louttit reluctantly agreed. Members of the committee met, engaged in a great deal of hand-wringing, and came back with a report that said in part:

It is the opinion that this proposed trial would not solve the problem presented to the church by this minister, but in fact would be detrimental to the church’s mission and witness…This heresy trial would be widely viewed as a “throw back” to centuries when the law in church and state sought to repress and penalize unacceptable opinions…it would spread abroad a “repressive image” of the church and suggest to many that we were more concerned with traditional propositions about God than with the faith as the response of the whole man to God.

At Wheeling, West Virginia, the House of Bishops adopted this statement by an overwhelming vote, though they also agreed to “censure” Bishop Pike – a small, dry bone tossed to Christian orthodoxy. In the above passage, two phrases — “acceptable opinions” and “repressive image” – revealed what was really going on.

Henry Louttit was a frightful bore from the pulpit, but he was right: it was heresy, and frankly it still is. People such as Pike detonated the jerk to the left that caused the Episcopal Church to lose a third of its membership in the 1970’s. Once again the Pharaohs on the left are making their move and once again God’s children are forced into exodus.  But now there is a Promised Land.

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Ah, the good life: Palm Beacher Fred Tod Ketcham relaxes in style. It’s an affectation for many, but Tod was the real article. A scion of the du Ponts, he attended Palm Beach Day School and graduated from St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton with me. I saw him once after gradation in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a superb photographer. But alas, the good life was fleeting: Tod struggled with asthma, finally succumbing in death in 1981 at the age of 26.