This is the story of The Trees Community, a semi monastic Christian group that left NYC on a bus in 1971 on a journey of faith. When most of our money burned up the first night, we relied on God for all our needs and he provided! We traveled the United States growing in our new faith, finding a ministry in music and eventually becoming artists in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Seven years, seven "stories" are woven into this amazing journey.

The Move to General Seminary

General Theological Seminary - New York City

January 12, 1976 The day of our move to General Seminary

We spent the day shuttling everything from our 110th street apartment to our new home at General Seminary on 175 Ninth Avenue on the fifth floor of Hoffman Hall. This meant we had to pack up two years of belongings into boxes, bags and bundles, and load them into the bus or Mary’s car for the trip down. The bus looked like a junk shop with desks, chairs, mirrors, clothes and “stuff” filling every nook and cranny. It took four trips back and forth.

While we were doing all this packing, cleaning and deciding what to take and what to leave for the subletters, I noticed that David was acting a bit strange. He carried the icons down ten flights of stairs and then walked straight back up again with them still in his hands. He wouldn’t eat breakfast or lunch and refused to drink anything. He hadn’t slept all night (later we discovered he hadn’t slept for three nights). As we moved, David just didn't seem to be his usual carefree, upbeat self. He seemed a little disoriented and preoccupied. Eventually he headed over to Dorita's while the rest of us continued moving.

January 15, 1976. Thursday morning Mary, Melody and I attended the Dean’s mass. Right after communion, in walked David dressed in his green wool marine’s coat, his hair tangled and unkempt, looking disheveled and strange. He walked up to the Dean and whispered something in his ear. The Dean turned to the crowd and said David had an announcement to make. Oh, oh. David addressed the 30 or so parishioners, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Father West, Dean Morton and my sisters of the Trees, we are leaving to move to General Seminary and I have laid awake crying and praying for three days. I’ve been reading St. John of the Cross and I feel compelled to answer Father West’s question about St. Francis.” He rambled on something like “St. Francis taught us to be simple and loving and to live poorly and I ask you, my sister Trees, to support me and everyone to pray for me especially today.” Huh? It was an odd, disjointed speech and I noticed he appeared to be reading from a wrinkled page torn from a notebook. He might have kept on rambling but the Dean quickly cut him off saying, “Yes, we all DO support you David and all the Trees in their move to General” and then he quickly ended the service with a benediction.
Meanwhile, David stayed behind to ask Canon West something while the rest of us headed over for a bite to eat at the Dean’s breakfast. Something was definitely wrong! When David joined us a few minutes later, he still refused to eat anything. Concerned he might make another scene, I gently took his hand and guided him out the door and back to the apartment. The strange thing was he insisted on bringing a full glass of orange juice with him. I can still picture us walking along 110th street with David looking like a wigged out Statue of Liberty arm lifted high holding a full glass of orange juice and ranting manickly about not spilling a drop or something terrible would happen. I held his other arm nattering away in soothing tones just praying we’d get back to the apartment without a scene. What the hell was going on? First Shipen, then Melody, now David! Was it the water?

Once David was safely back in the apartment, he lay down and instantly fell asleep. Thank God! I locked the front door and rushed back to try to talk to Sister Mary Michael, who had been at the Dean’s breakfast. I asked if she would meet with David and what should we do? She explained she’d already spoken with him the night before and advised him to see a doctor who was more equipped to help. She did agree to meet with Mary, Melody and I at 9:30. We ran back to check on David (still sleeping) then rushed back over and met with Sister Mary Michael. In the end, she advised us to take him to St. Luke’s. So we zipped back to the apartment to look in on David (still sleeping). Phew! When he woke up Mary escorted him over to St. Luke’s. The examining doctor diagnosed a minor nervous breakdown. They must have wondered who was going to be next from that crazy Christian commune! He prescribed thorazine and two other types of medication to help him sleep. Since we were right in the middle of moving, the doctor suggested that David should go to St. Vincent’s Hospital (near General) as an outpatient. So Thursday afternoon Mary took David over to St. Vincents while we tried to finish packing and moving.

While all this was going on one of the subletters arrived. Perfect! We convinced him to stand guard over our things in the apartment while the painter hired by the landlord, Mr. Sydney, finished painting the two bathrooms and ceilings so we could finish loading up the bus.
Unfortunately, when Melody returned to the apartment, the painter had mysteriously vanished along with her typewriter and her purse with all her medications in it. The subletter felt terrible and we all jumped to the conclusion that the painter was a thief! Melody immediately called the landlord and yelled at him for hiring such an untrustworthy painter. Later on, when Mary returned from the hospital she told us she had hidden the purse and typewriter so they wouldn’t get stolen! Oops. What a comedy of errors! Through all this craziness and confusion, our friend Joyce Klannit and two of her friends helped us pack and load boxes.

Joyce Klannit

I was relieved when Dorita took David home with her to rest and Jack McClung appeared and offered to help - just in time! With four sets of extra hands, we finished loading the bus with the very last of our belongings. Finally at 10:30 p.m. we all sat down on the barren wood floor of our empty apartment eating cold beans and peaches from cans and drinking sherry and Bloody Mary’s. Instead of feeling nostalgic, I just needed a drink! We filled Jack in on the day’s harrowing events and he got us laughing and lifted our spirits. After our experience with the purse and typewriter, Melody decided it might be wise to sleep in the bus (since there was no way to lock it) and the rest of us spent our last night at 112 W. 110th Street. Friday, we drove to our new home and spent the next few days unpacking and sorting through mountains of stuff. Jack graciously helped us unpack, drove us to buy groceries, and then joined us for lunch. What a saint!

Our new apartment at General Seminary was in the shape of a large rectangle with four rooms on one side and five on the other. At one end was a large room we made into a living room and at the other was the front door that led to other apartments. On the north side was Mary’s and my room, next to the kitchen, bathroom and chapel. This was separated by a hallway. On the south side was Melody’s room, a library, a small TV/guest room, David and then Stephen’s small room. The bathroom had two showers, two sinks and two toilets. The rooms were spacious and painted in hues of cream, gold, rust, and rose. I especially loved my room which ,was a bright, sunny canary yellow. We were also given access to the attic to rehearse in. The arrangement was for us to live there rent-free until May in exchange for our remodeling costs of about $1,500 or so.

Over the next two months we scrounged up straw rugs, pieces of glass we turned into tables and other discarded furniture and plants we found on the street that we used to slowly transform the sterile space into a comfortable, beautiful new home. The rooms hadn’t been used in years so reclaiming the dilapidated space was a real benefit for the seminary too. Our only mistake was not securing a long term contract when we first moved in. We were far too na├»ve and trusting, assuming that God had called us to make this move, so therefore He would provide…

January 19, 1976. On Tuesday, the five of us drove to NBC Studios to tape a television segment to be aired later in the week. To me, it seemed like a huge production for just a ten-minute segment of music. There was a makeup person, brief run thrus and rehearsal after rehearsal. The entire production took three hours but once the actual taping began they taped straight through without stopping. We performed part of Psalm 45, Comfortless and Taka. They even paid us $50, wow! Afterwards, we returned the instruments to the attic at General and unloaded lumber and bed frames we had removed from storage in the electrical room of the Cathedral. We spent the week carving out our new living space, arranging and finishing off the bedrooms so that eventually we would each have our own quiet “cell” to retreat to in the evenings. Stephen did an excellent job decorating the living room until he had a lovely arrangement of “coaches” made of mattresses covered with bedspreads, plants, and glass tables he set over crates for a Japanese effect.

Shishonee and puppy Lena in the new living room

Stephen built shelves in the kitchen too. We turned on the refrigerator that was in the kitchen and discovered it worked, so Mary tackled cleaning the frig, stove and shower stalls. Out of the kitchen window we had an amazing view of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Awesome!

Meanwhile, I handled scrubbing down the filthy bathroom, and put the kitchen in order. David popped in and out helping to scrub floors and tinkering with the locks. Both he and Stephen periodically went scavenging on the streets for things.

On Thursday we took the subway up to the Cathedral to sing “Glory be to Jesus” for the Dean’s mass, and then met with Sister Mary Michael afterwards. We returned to the question of decision-making and finally decided to make it a two-thirds majority vote process. Then we discussed (and voted on) whether Melody should get a job (she wanted to), and go on tour with us and yet not be a part of the music (her preference). We voted unanimously that all that was fine.

Afterwards, we returned to the Close for a meeting with Canon West. We were excited and bubbling with news of our move, while in contrast he seemed withdrawn and aloof. He opened the meeting by inquiring about our settling in and how that was going. Eagerly, we filled him in on our progress there. He listened silently but said nothing. Finally, after a long, awkward silence, Mary asked if Dean Morton had spoke to him about his still being our abbot? Would he available to meet with us on a weekly basis? This seemed to take him by surprise. After another long pause, he sputtered a bit and finally replied that since we were now based at General we were in Father Alan Jones’ jurisdiction and he couldn’t possibly be our spiritual advisor any longer. What?! “It’s a matter of professional ethics,” he said. (Later, when we reported this to Alan Jones his immediate response was, “Bullshit!”) What about hearing our confessions? Mary doggedly asked. He replied that he would still hear our vows and confessions but that we were now under Alan Jones' wing for all other matters, including spiritual direction.

I was completely floored. This was our Abbott! The spiritual father of our religious community! Our spiritual guide ever since Redeemer. What had we done wrong? Hadn’t he been all for the move to General? Why all of a sudden was he abandoning us? All of us were totally shocked at his pronouncement. For six years Canon West had been guiding and mentoring us. We had moved back to New York City so that he could more closely lead, help, and direct us. He had been helping shape our monastic community for ages. Just weeks before he was designing our habits and helping us determine every tiny detail of our daily life. Now suddenly he was turning his back on us?!

To say I was deeply hurt and disappointed would be an understatement. Clearly the Dean hadn’t even spoken to him and once again I felt depressed and abandoned. Meanwhile, Mary filled him in on arrangements for the upcoming tour and talked about the costumes and he at least agreed to hear our vows with the Bishop in May. We left the meeting totally stunned and walked out in silence.

At 11:30 Stephen, Mary and I went directly to another meeting (with Chauncey Parker and Barbara Reinichke), this time about paying off our debt to the Cathedral. Chauncey started by reviewing the history of his dealings with Shipen. He told us our debt was $4,885.00. (How odd, how had it gone UP from $4,000 when all my paychecks had gone toward paying it off?) Then he said we needed to grow up and deal more maturely with the debt and that our music wasn’t a decent form of employment. Oh really? At that point Mary calmly responded by saying our plan was to pay $50 a month on the debt. Would that be acceptable? As soon as she said that, Chauncey replied, “Now we’re getting somewhere!” From then on his whole demeanor changed. He asked us to draft up a contract and send it to him. We agreed. When we left, Chauncey looked visibly relieved.

On the way home, I was bristling and upset as I reflected on our meeting with Canon West. I was astounded at what had happened and had a hard time accepting it. His flippant dismissal of us hurt me deeply.

January 24, 1976. We schlepped the instruments down five flights of stairs and onto the bus and drove to the “other” Cathedral of St. John, Herb Tinney’s Church in Wilmington, Delaware. We set up and put everything in order so it would be ready for the next day, then slept in the parish hall. After a quick breakfast in the church kitchen, we tuned, rehearsed, then played during the morning Eucharist service. Afterwards, we ate a light lunch, tuned, and rehearsed again for the 4pm service. For me tuning all my stringed instruments was a lengthy affair… first the harp, Koto, Cheng, tamboura, then the harp again due to it’s tendency to go out of tune with the slightest change in temperature or humidity.

During the performance, Melody filled in some of Shipen’s missing clarinet parts. Unfortunately, she tried to walk the pews during the banjo song as Shipen used to do and that was a big mistake. She didn’t just fall once, she got up and tried again and ended up falling three times from the top of the pews! Finally she finished the concert hunched over up front, her face pale and pinched in pain. When the concert was over, people rushed up and helped her to her feet. Propped between David and some other kind soul she was rushed to a nearby hospital for x-rays on her ankle and leg. Luckily it turned out to be just bruised and sore. While they were at the hospital, there was a candlelight supper in the parish hall. A bit preoccupied and worried about Melody, we ate and answered questions. After dinner, we packed up and rushed over to the hospital to pick up Melody and David. I was relieved to find out she wasn’t seriously injured. No more pew walks for her! Unfortunately, the injury didn’t help her emotional state and sent her spinning toward another “blue funk”.

January 26th. Having arrived home in the wee hours of the morning, we all slept in. We continued the slow task of settling in to our new apartment. Just when someone seemed to have finished a room and all the empty boxes were thrown out, in would come Stephen, interior decorator extraordinaire, dragging shipping crates, lumber or stained and faded bolster pillows scavenged off the street.

After dinner, Melody had another long, complicated meltdown ending in her leaving once again. We were back down to four – and NO Canon West.

The rest of the week we cleaned the bathrooms and built cabinets, and swept out and fixed up the Chapel. Stephen hung the Christ icon and we put in a rug and arranged plants around a small table to use as an altar for communion.

On Thursday we took the subway up to the Cathedral for the Dean’s mass where we sang “Humbly we adore thee.” After the service, we met with the Dean to discuss our concerns with having to always perform for his mass each week. We pointed out how difficult it was to always try to do a big, instrumental production. He was very emphatic that we continue performing insisting we were an important and necessary part of the mass. (At least he wasn’t giving up on us!) He suggested we could do more complex instrumental pieces from time to time and then sing simpler hymns or songs at other times, but that our participation was of the utmost importance to him. Reluctantly, we agreed.

On Friday, Father Alan Jones and his wife Josephine came to our little chapel in our new apartment where he celebrated the first of many Eucharists we would have there. It was a quiet, reflective service and afterwards we sat together for tea and a light breakfast in the living room. As we ate, we talked about our future together and told him about our meeting with Canon West. He agreed initially to be our chaplain and asked us to pray about what his role with our community should be. He expressed his concern for us and said he was committed to helping us in whatever way he could. He asked us to pray for him during his St. Ignatius Exercises program so we said of course we would.

January 31, 1976. The four of us packed up the harp, organ, harmonium, dulcimer, flute, drum and our robes into Mary’s car and drove to New Haven, Connecticut for Phil Weihi’s ordination to the priesthood. Besides us, there was a rock band, two bishops, seven priests and a church packed with people. Phil and Sara had composed most of the music and words for the service themselves. Many of our old friends from New Haven were there, all except Jack McClung who unfortunately had come down with the flu. Afterwards, there was a beautiful reception and festive dinner at Phil’s beach house with lots of fancy food and drink. We headed for home at 10 since it was a four-hour trip home.

Feb. 1st-7th. Once again it was just Mary and I representing The Trees at the 11:00 a.m. mass at the Cathedral. At 5pm we attended the Sunday mass with the Ignatius Study prayer group at General Seminary for the first time since our arrival there. Alan was celebrating and had asked us to play Psalm 45 in place of his sermon, which we did.

With the spring tour only six weeks away, Mary and I knuckled down writing to various churches to arrange concerts and trying to map out the route there and back. David usually handled all that but he was still out of commission and spending a lot of time at Dorita’s. We made a list of previous contacts, composed a letter and sent out copies to everyone on our mailing list. I worked on details for a second pressing of our record.

Gradually we settled into our new life at General. After Canon West set us adrift, Sister Mary Michael bravely stepped in to fill the void. She suggested that we return to a set structure of daily services (I said amen to that!). As a result, first thing in the morning, we held morning prayer, followed by breaking Greater Silence with a chapter meeting, work duties and then lunch. After lunch we held a service at 12:45. Most afternoons we had rehearsal or work, then dinner and we ended every night with Compline at 9 p.m. and then Greater Silence. Students heard about our religious “semi-monastic” community and started joining us in our chapel for the 12:45 service or Compline.

Melody came to visit and picked up some of her clothes and belongings. She wrote us a formal letter addressed to Alan Jones, Chaplain of the Trees. In it she asked for a release from her commitment to us and for a leave of absence. We met with Alan over tea on Wednesday to talk about the whole situation. He asked what our feelings were? We shared our feelings of ineptitude in being able to help her, and how hard it was to deal with her meltdowns. Alan suggested we needed to answer her letter and helped us formulate a reply. In it we agreed to release her from her commitment to the Trees and wished her well in the future. As we left the meeting, I just felt sad.

On Thursday, we brought our instruments to the Cathedral and performed Psalm 45, which the Dean raved about, saying it was our best song. Afterwards we met with Sister Mary Michael. The topic was discipline and respect for one another. Sister suggested we keep a healthy distance from each other and try not to get involved in fighting. Sound advice.

Later in the day we met with Father Faring at the Sheraton Hotel. He offered us a job in Washington, D.C. in August giving concerts to the catholic youth and living there in a mansion. He offered to pay us $1,000 a week and said he would draw up a contract, take it to his board and then let us know. To us it sounded impossibly wonderful! (Unfortunately, it was).

Feb. 8-14th. We were running lower and lower on funds and we had two sudden cancellations of concerts that we had been counting on for income. Soon we would not have enough money for food. On Sunday we performed Psalm 45 at the 5:30 mass at the seminary. Afterwards, we were invited to dinner with Alan Jones and his family, along with Dorita and Jack McClung.

At music rehearsals we managed to finish Winter Sting (a song Stephen had written which was performed with organ and flute and vocals). We presented it for the first time at the Dean’s Mass and were told it was lovely. Madeline L’Engle especially enjoyed it. Soon we might have enough material for an entirely new concert, maybe even in time for the Spring tour.

That week we also received a long awaited letter from Brother Lavrans. He had called to say he had an important decision to make and had asked for our prayers. He wrote that he had decided to leave Gethsemani Abbey, that he was a gay and was “coming out” (good for him!). He had decided to join the Gay Task Force and a group called Dignity. He'd spoken to Shipen about it and also his Abbot and then decided it was time to be honest with himself and with us, his friends. He’d decided to move to Louisville to live since he was an established, accepted artist there and could be more active in various gay rights groups.

Then he shared a vision he’d had in a dream. We were leaving Gethsemani, walking down the road along with some of the other brethren there, smiling with joy and happiness. One by one the monks left us until Lavrans, who was walking a short distance behind, was the only one left. He hailed us and then ran up and we all embraced him lovingly. He woke up from the dream in tears.

Immediately I sat down to write him a letter, assuring him of our love and friendship and of our prayers for his new life and future. I wrote telling him that I was proud he was being honest and open with everyone and encouraging him and assuring him of our total acceptance of him and his sexuality. I said it was sad that he would have to leave all the monks behind who were so important to him but I was praying for him and wished him the very best in his new life. Privately, I worried about his going out into the world with his gentle ways, having been so cloistered and protected in the monastery for so long. He’d have to face homophobia, materialism and a very hedonistic world – a life very different from everything at Gethsemani. That week we prayed intensely for Lavrans, asking God to protect and guide him.

February 15-21, 1976. The provost of an Anglican Order of men in England (can't recall who) came to stay with us for three days (after we quickly fixed up our guest room.) He was a kind, gentle, open and observant man who participated in our offices, helped us clean and work, and totally shared in every aspect of our daily life.

On the 16th we performed at Kew Garden’s for a Eucharist sponsored by four local churches. We sang and played throughout the liturgy and afterwards, David Karasek and Kateri came up and reported that it was lovely but could have been louder. We had soup and bread at the “potluck” afterwards and then tried to squeeze all the instruments and ourselves into Mary’s small car. It must have looked like one of those clown acts in the circus when we finally reached David and Kateri’s apartment for drinks as one by one we piled out. On the way home I found a straw rug rolled up on the street and managed to squeeze that into the car too. The next day Stephen found its twin so along with the new fabric covers Mary sewed for the couches and the newly painted floorboards in the living room (painted by one of our seminarian friends David Long), our new home was really starting to look grand. It was almost time for our house-warming party, so we set about with renewed energy putting the finishing touches on our new abode.

During chapter later in the week we talked about the possibility of having Melody move back in just as a tenant, not as a Tree. We went round and round on it and finally decided that we just didn't think it was the right thing for her or us. Reluctantly, we voted no. Stephen told her as gently as he could, but I still felt quite bad about it.

On February 18th we traipsed over to where Melody was staying carrying cheesecake, punch and presents to celebrate Melody’s birthday with her. After the “party” David left for a ten day retreat to Ariel’s place in Florida. He said he needed time to rest, think and get away from everything. I was a little worried that Ariel might influence him to leave the Trees but I bit my tongue and kept my big mouth shut. Maybe it was just what he needed.

Feb. 22-29th We agreed that Stephen would skip music rehearsals so he could concentrate on finishing up everything he needed to do in the apartment. Mary and I worked on my new songs “Love One Another” and “Your Name”. On the day of our big housewarming we rushed around putting the finishing touches on everything, picking up groceries, baking bread, and fixing hour d'erves like fresh vegetables dip, cheese, crackers, nuts and other goodies. Stephen fixed the punch. Around 8:15 the first group arrived that included all the older, quieter more reserved group of friends. Later on, a steady flow of seminarians and younger friends started crowding in until we had about 150 come and go in a steady flow all night. Finally around 2 a.m. the last partygoers left and we felt it had been a great success! Everyone loved our new home and we made many new friends too. My only regret was that Canon West missed the festivities as he called to say he was down with the flu.

Over the next week Jack McClung came for drinks and dinner and really was his usual faithful, helpful, fun loving self. He always helped out when he could and we found him so loveable and friendly that it seemed like he was a member of our family. I came to rely in his company so much that when he wasn’t there it felt like someone was missing. On the 28th, David returned after his ten day “retreat” looking tanned and relaxed.

Feb. 29-March 3rd. Now that our big drive to finish the apartment was over, we were able to concentrate on other tasks. The four of us worked for the Center for Christian Spirituality folding, stuffing and sealing envelopes for a mass mailing. We also rehearsed in preparation for our concert at the Seminary and pulled together a concert of new and old songs. We set up in the Seminary chapel and just prior to the Bicentennial Lecture, we had been asked to play for a half hour. We performed: Psalm 137, Winter Sting, Psalm 45 and Psalm 46. As the notes of our final song rang out, a distinguished looking theologian, Father Cole, rose, strode to the podium and gave an excellent lecture.

On Tuesday during Chapter we had a long discussion about our identity, what was our role at General Seminary, the image we projected when we dressed in our monastic robes, and the impression we wanted to make. After arguing back and forth about it, we finally took a vote and it was decided by majority vote that we would stop wearing the robes to chapel or services, except for our performances. (If Canon West had known, he would have pitched a fit since he always felt that the robes defined us as a religious order and gave us the respect that we needed. “My dears, no one will take you seriously without them”). But his voice was only a fading echo in my heart.

Then David announced he had decided to take a “leave of absence” from the community and that he would leave after we returned from our California tour. He said he was unsure of any specifics or for how long he planned to leave but he was convinced that he needed to leave. Dismayed and concerned, we agreed to pray about it and asked him to give it some more thought. If David left, it was almost certain that we could not function or perform music as the Trees since it was already a strain to perform with just the four of us. With just three it would be impossible. I said that if the music ended and we all got jobs, I felt I would have to leave and search for another outlet for my songs and so I could continue performing. I begged him to reconsider since I still felt strongly that the music was our ministry and a special gift from the Lord. Eventually, someone suggested that there might be another solution. David could just come for music rehearsals and perform concerts and just be involved in the music end of things. He agreed to give that some thought.

After this disturbing news, we met with Alan Jones one on one. He probed our feelings and personal thoughts and tried to find out what each of us was interested in and hoped to accomplish. I had the sense that he was pushing us more toward the possibility of being associates who were members of the family with varying degrees of commitment and involvement. All I knew was it was depressing to keep losing people and I was not at all convinced we needed to create any more “vocations.” Alan also agreed with our decision to stop wearing the green robes because of the image or impression they gave. (Having always felt a little embarrassed wearing mine, I shed the dreaded robe with relief. It looked great on the men but looked like hell on the women – it just made me look short and fat! I guess my vanity was getting in the way.)

Meanwhile some of the seminarians were starting to hang around more often, especially David Long, “white Rick” and “black Rick” (Rick B). Almost immediately, I was infatuated with Rick B. who I thought was smashing with his tall, lanky body, striking good looks and big afro. I did my best to smile demurely and attract his attention whenever were were in the same room like the dining hall or chapel. I felt like a schoolgirl and it was the first time since the end of my engagement to David Lynch that I felt so smitten. I was in love (or so I thought)!

March 3rd Ash Wednesday. This was a day of total silence and fasting. We attended lectures and services and Father Alan came and held Eucharist in our chapel. Our “fast” consisted of bread, fruit and liquids. We spent the day trying to refocus on God, pray and reflect in preparation for the rest of Lent.

March 5th. We held a special open house party for our close friends Ted, Arthur, Claudette, Jack McClung, Emmet, Alan Jones, Dorita and her sister and family, Norcy, Carlos, Carla DeSoto, Sister Mary, Shipen, Dorian and many others. It started out quietly enough. We asked everyone to bring wine and a dish to pass so there was plenty to eat and drink. Meanwhile I felt totally self-conscious as I kept looking over at Rick B., trying to catch his eye and feeling foolish but I couldn’t help myself. He was so cute! He only stayed for a little while with some other seminarians but I soaked in every minute of it.

At first it seemed strange to have Shipen there as a guest since he had always been the one to host and officiate at our parties. However, as the evening wore on Arthur and the Sufi folks began getting rowdier and dancing more wildly. Finally Claudette, Alan Jones and Sister Mary grew so uncomfortable with the weed being passed around that they excused themselves and left. Eventually it got so out of hand that Stephen had to ask the Sufi’s and rowdier folks to leave. Jack, Dorita, Eric, Emmet and Pat stayed behind and talked until 4 a.m. The next day we decided we better discuss the marijuana issue with Alan Jones since it had really upset Mary. (I don’t know how that turned out but it’s likely we decided to ask folks to leave their weed at home).

March 8th was the beginning of a week-long romantic fling for me. I was up late one night for evensong in the chapel at the Seminary and on the way there I bumped into Rick B. After a bit of dancing around with small talk, Rick admitted he was interested in me but that he hadn’t wanted to "wait in line". I laughed and acted coy. Eventually, we played pool and then ended up spending the rest of the night together in his room (oh my!) It was a whirlwind romance and I was swept up and enjoying every second of it. Now that it was happening to me I could totally understand how Shipen must have felt about Dorian. I was completely entranced and bent on spending every second I could with Rick and hoping he felt the same way I did. I invited him to dinner with us on Wednesday evening and the rest of the week we either played pool, went dancing or just sat around and talked. I knew we were leaving on tour on March 14th and I tried to spend every second I could with him.

March 9, 1976. We had a concert in New Jersey. It was a snowy, crummy day and the bus refused to start so we had to pack what we could into Mary's car as the snow came down steadily, getting deeper and deeper. We made it to St. Bartholomew’s Church in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and were greeted by Father Winteroad and Father Summerville. They warmed us up with sherry and cheese, then we set up and performed. We made dozens of horrid mistakes and I felt embarrassed that it hadn’t gone very smoothly. Nevertheless the people who rushed up afterwards lavished praise on the concert, so it must not have been too bad. The snowstorm had dumped quite a few inches so we were invited to spend the night at Charlie and Betty Fairbanks' awesome mansion home complete with crystal chandeliers and a swimming pool – very impressive. In the morning, they served us a gigantic breakfast and we reveled in being wined and dined, before it was back to the grind in New York City.

March 10-12th. On Wednesday Melody came by to pick up the rest of her things. She told us she had a new apartment uptown and seemed excited to finally be living on her own for the first time in her life. She was at peace with leaving our community and was doing much better. We wished her well and hoped for the best for her.

The rest of the week was filled with last minute details such as buying picks, strings and getting the bus repaired (which turned out to be the cheapest fix yet as it only cost $20, a miracle). I had ordered harp strings from Daniel Mari and we had also dropped off our antique zither for him to restring. I was really surprised when he personally delivered them right to our doorstep and then insisted they were free! Of course we invited him in, showed him around and offered him some hot cocoa.

On Thursday we met with both Rev. Alan Jones and Sister Mary Michael for a special meeting. Almost immediately they started talking about who the Trees were, that we were not really a Religious Community with a capitol R or a semi monastic order but more like a Christian community for the arts. Pretty soon the two of them were going on and on about how we were more like family with that kind of structure, a unit of individuals with common goals. They got so excited as they chattered away that we Trees could not get a word in edgewise. A few times Mary or I tried to force our way into the conversation but after awhile I just sat back and let them carry on. Once they realized they were of the same mind on what kind of group we should be, they moved on to talking about vows and agreed that we should make a year’s commitment with contracts for each individual. Meanwhile, no one asked us what WE thought or what WE envisioned for our community or what WE thought we were!

Up until my budding affair with Rick I would have railed against such a characterization of our religious life together but all of a sudden what they were saying fit neatly into my longing for a relationship with Rick. I think the only one who strongly objected was Mary, but as I said, we could hardly get a word in so the general consensus was made for us and it sounded feasible so in the end we let them have their ideas. I think Canon West would have been agast at what was happening to us (if he had known or cared) since he had worked so hard to shape us into a true monastic religious order over the years. But he had walked away. On my part I just wanted our family to survive. If the structure of our community changed by definition, I was willing to let that happen so that our music and life could go on.

As I went to bed that night I cast my mind back to so many other tour departures and how this was the first time that Canon West wouldn’t be sending us off with his traditional prayers and special blessings. That just seemed rather sad. Lord, help this tour bring healing. Help us minister to your church and to others with our music. Help us do your will and seek your purpose in our lives. As I drifted off to sleep I thought, well at least Sister Anna’s angels will still be watching over each wheel of the bus.