Category Archives: Religion

World Fantasy

Early in November  I attended the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio. WFC is a professional writers’ event to a significant degree, but even I, with no fantasy books out as of yet, had several attendees ask me for autographs at the Signature Event (with every writer in one big room signing autographs.)

The convention venue was adjacent to San Antonio’s Riverwalk.  It’s one of my favorite places, an oasis in that city—though as cities go, San Antonio, with its ancient Hispanic roots, is its own kind of oasis in Texas.

The Riverwalk meanders for miles through downtown San Antonio, though on the river’s level you’d hardly know it.  There are some shops and restaurants reaching all the way down to the water’s edge.  There are also whimsical bridges and sculptures, birds, and even water taxis:  it’s Venice in Texas!

There’s also the aquatic version of street sweepers.

Below the Southwest School of Art & Craft, people who walk or jog by are watched by miniature folk sketched on a wall of rough timbers.  Here’s one of the watchers.

No visit to San Antonio, by someone who writes speculative fiction with spiritual angles, would be complete without paying respects to  San Fernando Cathedral, or, to use the full name, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria y Guadalupe.  Portions of this cathedral date to 1738.  It is a major anchor in the Mexican-American life of San Antonio.

And then there’s this:  the towering mosaic on the facade of Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital.  The artist is Jesse Trevino, a native son from the West Side of San Antonio, who when he was young saw a tombstone angel with a broken wing that he never forgot.

The image is fantastic – a kind of sacred fantasy that speaks to the hope of healing in the real world.

Back to the Nest

Last weekend I rode Amtrak’s California Zephyr across the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend the decommissioning ceremony of the lovely hilltop campus of the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, where I studied many years ago.  In the end, I earned an M.A. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, not an M. Div from PLTS. But the time I spent in and around PLTS was formative in my life and in my imagination.
I remember days when  silent fog enveloped the campus and ice water trickled down the trees in this holy hill.  There are three towering redwoods planted here almost six decades ago by eminent Lutherans.  These redwoods were taller than I remembered: now, they tower.
One of three redwoods
“Planted by Hanns Lilje 1959”
With a welter of buildings and a lot of grounds, the campus had high maintenance costs and a decreased number of students studying for the ministry.  A move downhill had been discussed for years. The decommissioning was bittersweet for everyone – current students, long-absent alums, staff, faculty, and Board members.  It was wonderful to walk one last time the shaded paths between the buildings, to worship in the chapel where so many seminarians learned how to do liturgy.  On the other hand, knowing it was the end of an era and that this spectacular location was going to to be forever lost to us cast a somber shade over the day.
Me looking out over the San Francisco Bay from the tower in Sawyer Hall.
Following the last worship service in the PLTS chapel, the altar was stripped and the school banner, processional cross, and other liturgical items carried by hand to the new PLTS downtown Berkeley campus – a downhill walk of 3.7 miles, less than that for some of us who set out later but caught up by the expedient of going straight down incredibly steep Marin Avenue.  The procession looped along a less steep way lest anybody trip and arrive too soon downhill!
The procession in the Berkeley Hills
Procession in downtown Berkeley
The Seminary is now housed on the second floor of an up-to-date office building in downtown Berkeley across the street from City Hall.  Here it is near the center of gravity of the Graduate Theological Union consortium of seminaries, and close to urban challenges and opportunities and the front lines of social justice.  The new space has been thoughtfully designed and appointed.
New multi-use space for worship, lectures or receptions
Encountering the new space after, we found each office and functional space, including the sacristy, the kitchen, the fire escape stairs, and a window facing City Hall, adorned with a heartfelt and quirky blessing.  Like this one:
Areas of Potential Protest
Oh God of all activity,
bless those citizens
     who exercise their rights of free speech
      by protesting around city hall.
May they be as peaceful as possible
and may law enforcement officials
     be as expeditious and as prudent as possible
     in the carrying out of their duties.
 Oh, and protect the glass windows of this building
     and other adjacent buildings.
Amen.