Chris, Jane Anne, and I were visiting the Mission Church San Miguel here is Santa Fe this afternoon, which was built by Indian labor in 1610 (ten years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Mass.), and it is said to be the oldest church building in America.
It is quite beautiful and also ancient. It also serves as a reminder that this part of the country has not only very early European colonial history, but also is part of the ongoing stream on Indian history as well.
But, here is the really weird part…
Yesterday, we ran into Frank Perko (who worked with Jane Anne at First Plymouth UCC in Denver and had been organist at Plymouth in Fort Collins while an undergraduate at CSU). Today, just upon entering the San Miguel mission, I saw a familiar-looking face, and put it together that this was an ELCA pastor I knew. I went up and asked if I he was from Atlanta, and he answered affirmatively. And then I asked if he was a Lutheran pastor, and then he recognized me, too. His name is Brad Schmeling, and he and I were roommates at Iona Abbey in Scotland during my last sabbatical! That was five years ago! What are the chances of bumping into a fellow clergy colleague on two sabbaticals half a world apart?
A coincidence? Chris commented that if you meet enough people and go to the right places (i.e., clergy keep visiting old churches), you’re bound to meet those you know.
Brad is also notable, because he was the subject of a trial in the ELCA, which eventually barred him from being an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament, because he is gay. I remember following his ecclesiastical trial as it was covered by the Christian Century, and I’m happy to report that Brad and his partner (also ordained ELCA) have been re-instated and now are living in St. Paul, Minn.