David Karasek describes our introduction to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and a man who became key to our new found faith:
"In December, a priest named Father Rodney Kirk came to visit the Loft. Shipen had met him at a party and invited him back to the Loft. All kinds of people had come up to the Loft, but this was our first honest to God priest. Rodney was very easy going and impressed us with his great sense of humor. After a couple of visits he said, “You should come up to the church where I serve.” So we said, “Ok, let’s go. When?” “Why not now?” So off we all marched from the Loft, barefoot, up Broadway, all the way to 112th street, a distance of about 5 miles. We were expecting a moderately sized church. Instead, turning the corner on Amsterdam Avenue, we were facing what was then the largest Cathedral church on the planet, as yet unfinished, but consuming the entire view down the street. As we completed the journey, the west wall of the church completely engulfed us in sculpture and gothic tracery.
Cathedral of St. John the Divine
This was Canon Edward Nason West, one of the most influential ministers not only of the Cathedral of St John the Divine, but also in the entire Episcopal Church of America at that time. As Canon West and his practicing procession first noticed us, we just stood there with our mouths open. It was a moment of stark contrast. Here we were ten straggly kids with long tangled hair, torn bell bottoms, homemade dresses, Nehru shirts and beads standing barefoot on the marble floor with its bronze plaques and there they were completely decked in gold vestments and black velvet. After a few moments Canon West just continued the rehearsal as if nothing had happened as we stood there quietly observing. We were so taken by this majestic place and this show of pageantry that we decided to attend a service there. At the same time Canon West had heard about us from Father Kirk and was so intrigued that he sought some way to learn more about us. The opportunity came a short time later when Canon West fell and broke his arm. Father Kirk knew that Shipen was looking for work, and so he invited him to be Canon West’s butler. In this way he would find out “who were those seven, singing pilgrims, really.”
Canon West was to become a powerful force behind the birth and growth of our Christian community during our formative stage. He was more than just our spiritual advisor but truly he became a father to our community. I always felt intrigued and humbled in his commanding presence. What a strange blend of the wonderful and the absurd! Though often solemn and reserved, Canon West had a delightful sense of the theatrical. Sometimes he could be found walking his Irish setters out on the Cathedral close dressed in flowing monastic robes or even an authentic Scottish kilt!