Friday, August 17, 2012


I suppose I should mention some folks from the annals of Anglicanism, but it seems like so many of them are covered by the feast days and, really, it's too much fun to share obscure heroes of music and water, especially as I've discovered in recent weeks that many of the people who read The Coracle had never heard of Kahanamoku, Mishima, Manry, or Howlin' Wolf.  There is a whole rich parade of uncommon people who don't make it on our cultural radar sometimes just because...well, I don't exactly know why.  Maybe it's because they're Polynesian, Japanese, black, or from Cleveland, and those aren't the folks who come to the attention of most of the people with whom I associate these days.

My wife, who is of this writing still incarcerated in a post-surgical rehab clinic, and I were joking the other day about my springing her out of the place.  I told her, when she decided it was time to leave, to simply work the name "Steve McQueen" into a sentence, then I would liberate her from their tender mercies.  Perhaps by using a motorized wheelchair instead of McQueen's iconic motorcycle from The Great Escape.

While I wasn't surprised to discover that the 20-something physical therapist didn't get the reference, neither did a 40-something nurse or an 80-something relative.  So much for Hollywood's "King of Cool", eh?

At any rate, the Episcopal Church's King of Cool, as far as I'm concerned, is a 19th century priest named William Augustus Muelenberg [1796-1877].  Among other achievements, he founded what's now St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital, the Fresh Air Fund, one of the first pension funds, a couple of religious orders, pioneered new ways to use flowers and colors to enhance liturgical presentation, allowed people to sit in any pew they wished [as opposed to those that families had purchased for their own usage], and generally made more sense than any other cleric of his time. Naturally, he was never a bishop.

Oh, and he founded the Church of the Holy Communion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The congregation could no longer support the parish as of the 1980's, so it was sold by the Diocese of New York.  It then became the rather notorious Limelight nightclub and is now, I'm told, a mini-mall.  God help us.  So, in a way, Muhlenberg may also be credited with helping to create the now-infamous nightclub scene of thirty years ago.  Not a bad legacy, really.

Here's a photo of the Episcopal Church's King of Cool and, by extension, nightclub progenitor: