Nola Daniel’s Distinguished Ancestry

By Joan Doggrell

St. Paul’s very own Nola Daniel, member of the Parish Choir, a Daughter of the King, holistic healer, folk singer, and mother of seven children, comes from a family that played a central role in the preservation of the folk songs and stories of Appalachia. In 1916, when Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles were collecting ballads and tales in Hot Springs, North Carolina, Sharp went to Nola’s great-grandmother, Jane Gentry.

“Cecil Sharp collected more songs from my great-grandmother than from anyone else, more than 70 songs. Everybody said you should go see Jane Gentry and one other person – people said they were the ones who really knew how to sing these songs,” said Nola.

On August 24, 2019, more than 100 people came to Hot Springs for the Centennial of Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles. And you’ll never guess who was there.

This is her picture taken from the website Cecil Sharp in Appalachia. https://cecilsharpinappalachia.org/janegentry.html

When she was a child, Nola and her family made frequent trips to Hot Springs for the Dorland-Bell Girls’ School reunion. (More about this school later.)

“We would go up there in the summer on vacation, though not every year. Mom would pile us all in the station wagon. My dad would usually stay home and work. He held two or three jobs. There are seven of us. The first time I remember much about it, I was in the fifth grade, I think.

“We stayed with Aunt Maud in the big house called Sunnybank. It was built as a boarding house. Aunt Maud taught all people in that area how to play the piano and organ. She knew all the words to all the songs in the Presbyterian hymnal.”

Hot Springs is on the French River, and Main Street is part of the Appalachian trail. Sunnybank is still a boarding house today. The present owner gives trail hikers special price breaks.

Nola’s Heritage

Why were so ancient many folk songs found in Appalachia and nowhere else in the USA? According to the above website, “Settlers established themselves in the Appalachian region of several states, including North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. In these isolated areas, the old songs of love, loss, murder, ghosts, and earlier times were passed down by oral tradition, expressing timeless themes and ties to the past.”

“Back then, people couldn’t just run up to Appalachia,” said Nola. “It was hard to travel there – it was up in the high mountains.” Because of their isolation, the people sang the same songs and told the same stories generation after generation.

Nola explains how the songs were discovered and made known to the world.

“Cecil Sharp was an Englishman and a music historian. He was visiting one of the rich landowners when he heard this beautiful singing, songs he had never heard before. He asked his host what it was. The host said, ‘Oh, it’s just the gardener. He sings while he’s working.’ Cecil was mesmerized by the music, so he listened and studied the matter and found out that the people of the region were singing these old songs the way they had been sung 200 years earlier. And so he came to hear and then capture the songs because it was the way they had been sung so long ago in the British Isles.”

Nola knows these songs, and she sings them beautifully. She can tell stories, too.

“My great grandmother was a singer of old English ballads. She was also a teller of the Jack, Will and Tom tales and also the Grandfather tales, which have been passed down via the oral tradition. My great aunt, one of my grandmother’s sisters, Aunt Maud, recorded the songs and stories for the Library of Congress. My sister Zola and her husband got a copy of the record and made us all cassette tapes of the songs and stories. My children and I learned them by listening to the tape in the car.”

Maud Gentry Long lived in Sunnybank in downtown Hot Springs. However, she and her siblings were all born out at Meadow Fork, about 10 miles north of Hot Springs downtown. The family kept sheep and used their wool to make their own clothing.

“On the Library of Congress record, Maud talks about how, in the evening, the family would all be busy. Father would be working on harness or other things he needed for the horses, and Mother would be cleaning, picking and carding the wool to get it ready to be spun the next day. The kids all had chores to do as well.”

And that’s when they would sing together and tell stories.

“I can almost quote Aunt Maud line and verse,” said Nola. “She said the songs and stories were ‘to keep our hearts merry and our eyes bright.’ Mother would tell the wonderful Jack, Will and Tom tales and sing the songs. I learned her way of singing through the tape I have. Joan Baez learned The Cherry Tree Carol from my Aunt Maud.”

Maud’s mother is Nola’s great grandmother, Jane Gentry.

“When I first came to St. Paul’s, William Fred Scott was there. He played The Cherry Tree Carol and Wondrous Love, two of my favorite songs of all time, and I told him how much I enjoyed his playing them.”

Nola sings The Cherry Tree Carol from her book, Jane Hicks Gentry: A Singer Among Singers, written by Betty Smith. “She is a cousin of my Mom’s,” said Nola.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jb50

“My grandmother was born in 1898,” said Nola. “She was the second or third child of thirteen children. There is a story in this book about her when she was a baby. The family, including her mother, were working on a hill side clearing trees. She nursed her baby and then put her to sleep in a piece of bark. When it dried, the bark curled up and rolled down the mountain, baby and all. Suddenly the family noticed she wasn’t there anymore. After a frantic search, they found her down the hill, still sound asleep, rolled up in the bark.”

As well as singing together, the family would listen to stories, many of them known as the Jack Tales. One of those tales, Jack in the Beanstalk, comes to us from the British tradition.  But there are a lot of other tales about Jack, as well as his two brothers, Will and Tom, that hadn’t made it into popular culture, either British or American. However, they survived in Appalachia, passed down orally, and today are published in books and told at storytelling festivals.

“There is a whole collection of these stories,” said Nola. “They are about a family of three brothers who get into all kinds of trouble. There are a number of stories on my cassette tape. ‘Jack and the Bull’ is a really funny story. The stories they told children then were about real life. They were pretty macabre. The phrase ‘Haggy old witch of a woman’ appears frequently. There was always one in the story.”

Below is one of several publications of the stories collected by Richard Chase.

The following information comes from Folkstreams http://www.folkstreams.net/film-context.php?id=258

“In the last fifty years, Jack Tales have come to occupy a privileged position for scholarly analysts of folklore, for popular purveyors of folklore, and even for folk themselves. … As far back as English-language folktales can be traced, there are stories about Jack. From the fifteenth century, when ‘Jack and His Step-Dame’ was set down in rhyme in England, to the present, when Ray Hick’s rendition of ‘Jack and the Three Steers’ dominates the National Storytelling Festival, one name above all others has been associated with magic tales in the British-American tradition. Yet the relation between the earlier Jacks and the most recent is difficult to trace, since no oral Jack Tales have survived from distant centuries.”

These are the stories Nola’s ancestors told as they did their evening chores.

Another piece of history that includes Nola’s family was the Dorland-Bell School in Hot Springs.

According to Wikipedia, “The Dorland-Bell School was a mission school in Hot SpringsNorth Carolina, USA. It was founded in 1886, when Luke and Juliette Dorland, Presbyterian missionaries and educators, retired to Hot Springs. At the request of area residents, they established a school in Hot Springs and soon were teaching 25 students in their home.

By 1894, the school, now known as the Dorland Institute, had grown to include a girls’ dormitory, an expanded schoolhouse, and additional teachers. In 1918, the Dorland Institute merged with the Bell Institute, a large day school for girls, to form the Dorland-Bell School . . . When Dorland-Bell School closed in 1942, it merged with the Asheville Farm School to form what is now Warren Wilson College.”

According to Nola, “Before the school was started, there was no schooling available for girls. The boys were given some education, but it was not considered necessary to educate girls except in the skills needed to run a household. My grandmother, born in 1898, attended that school.”

Nola’s family is also connected to the John C Campbell Folk School. Her mother’s cousin Betty Smith taught there.

According to Wikipedia, “The John C. Campbell Folk School . . . was founded to nurture and preserve the folk arts of the Appalachian Mountains. It is a non-profit adult educational organization based on non-competitive learning. Founded in 1925, the Folk School’s motto is “I sing behind the plow.”

The school continues today, offering “week-long and weekend classes year-round in traditional and contemporary arts, including blacksmithing, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography, storytelling and writing.”

If you’ve ever thought there was something special about Nola Daniel, well, you were right. She is the embodiment of a unique chapter in American history and culture.

Lou Graner: Good Samaritan

By Joan Doggrell

He retired in March of 2019, but for almost eight years, Lou Graner was the Executive Director of Coweta County’s Samaritan Clinic. Moreover, he played an essential role in the planning and financing of this life-saving facility. The Coweta Samaritan Clinic offers free primary medical care to uninsured Coweta County residents with limited incomes.

“Just in the time I was there, we treated about 1,600 people and had crossed the 20,000-patient visit level,” said Lou. “A tremendous amount of good is being done.”

I wanted to know more about this modest man who had played a vital role in launching and operating the Samaritan Clinic.

Joan: Lou, what led you to be one of the movers and shakers who started the Samaritan Clinic?

Lou: My involvement comes right back here to St. Paul’s. One day ten or so years ago, I was meeting with Bill Harrison. We were just chatting about poverty and different things. Sharon Gruber was the volunteer at the desk. She was good friends with Kay Crosby and the others who were thinking about starting the clinic. She heard us talking and just ducked her head in and asked, “Do you have any interest in coming to a meeting and looking at what we are thinking about?” I said, “Sure.” So it really started right here in St. Paul’s, or I might not have known about it.

Joan: Something inside you must have felt drawn to this meeting. Can you express what that was?

Lou: When this opportunity presented itself, I was between jobs. I had been in the non-profit world for about fifteen years. The one thing I had never done was anything in this community, and this was something I really wanted to do. I’ve always been interested in dealing with poverty and the people who truly don’t have any breaks.

I had done fund-raising for the Scottish Rite Children’s Medical Center, which is part of Children’s Health Care now. I had also worked at the Atlanta Union Mission, which is an emergency shelter and addiction recovery center for men and women. That was the area of non-profit work that really spoke to me, which I found most fulfilling.

So obviously what was being contemplated here was very interesting. I just rode the coattails of an awful lot of people. People of this community are extraordinarily generous with their time and with their resources: Dr. Kay Crosby, for example, who volunteers her services, had been an internist for twenty years at PAPP Clinic, and so she was very well known and respected. I think to this day that she continues to drive that support. She is still there.

Joan: Tell me more about your role.

Lou: I had some small role in it, but it’s really the generosity of the community and the way things have come together. I’ve never been in a place where the hand of God was so evident. Just for the facility itself – some of the places we were looking at would have been much more expensive and would have proven to be too small almost immediately. When the Health Department moved from the building where the clinic is to Hospital Road, the County took over the building, did a little rehabilitation work on the HVAC system, and leased 9000 square feet to us for a dollar a year.

Joan: Are there other examples of the hand of God at work?

Lou: There were many. For instance, one day Peggie (our nurse/administrator) commented, “You know, we could really use another blood pressure machine.” It wasn’t two days later when somebody from Welch-Allyn knocked on the front door. This guy is holding a stand with a blood pressure machine. He says, “We have an extra one. It’s from one of our clients. Could you use it here?” That’s not an exception. It was more the rule.

We like to say the Samaritan Clinic is Coweta County citizens caring for their neighbors. All the doctors volunteer their time. None of them are getting paid; only some of the medical staff, such as nurses and physician’s assistants.

I feel really good about what’s been accomplished. It was such a rewarding experience to be part of it.

Joan: What made it so rewarding?

Lou: Instead of fund-raising and writing checks as a donor, it’s kind of like – well, how do I get my hands dirty on the front line? So that was my evolution – to move into the direct provision of service and to use my accounting and financial background to benefit that organization. Anybody who has done service comes to realize you get so much more out of it than you put in. That was true for me.

Every employee, at least during the time I was there, started as a volunteer. We always thought that was really cool. We would say, what are the most important qualities, and who has passion for the mission? Everybody at the clinic had chosen to be there as a volunteer, so ultimately when the position was needed, these were the people best qualified for it.

Joan: What exactly was your position?

Lou: Executive Director. I was in charge of all the fund raising, community relations, accounting, and budgeting. There were nine employees when I left: three full time and six part time.

Joan: Your pride and satisfaction in your contribution come through loud and clear. Not everybody with a CPA, folks involved in the world of money-making, would feel this way. What is in your background that leads you to this passion for helping the  less fortunate?

Lou: My family was not heavy church. But my parents modeled service. My Dad did a lot of stuff free for people. He was a sports announcer in Cleveland, so when he made speeches for Boy Scouts, for instance, he never charged. My parents sponsored a child through the Christian Children’s Fund. Because of their example, I started sponsoring kids when I got out of college. I was writing checks, and that was a good step for someone that age to be giving back.

I was working for profit at that point for a company that did real estate and construction. Wonderful folks.  But one day I looked in the mirror and asked myself, do I want to keep helping rich people get richer? That’s not enough. I decided I wanted to move into non-profit and try to help. I ended up in Children’s Health Care of Atlanta, not your typical non-profit in the sense that it’s been incredibly successful. They’re saving lives right and left, and they do it with unbelievable quality.

The Christian Children’s Fund serves kids in poverty around the world. At one point, Anne and I were sponsoring eight. We’d pray for each one. Every night at dinner the kids would rattle off their names. But finally I realized that if everybody’s writing checks and nobody is doing the work, nothing’s going to get done. So what can I do?

The Samaritan Clinic provided the opportunity to do something in Newnan and give back to this community, which I really am thrilled that I did.

Joan: You must have met a lot of wonderful people in your quest for donations.

Lou: One of the donors at the clinic told me about a man she met in an airport in Florida. Somehow they got onto the subject of philanthropy. He shared with her that he has decided he wants to give his money where he casts his shadow. She took that to heart. She said to herself, “I’m here in Newnan. I’m not casting my shadow in India or other places.”  So she changed her philanthropy dramatically to the benefit of the clinic, the Humane Society, and a number of other local charities. She is now giving where she casts her shadow.

Joan: Do you have other passions? What do you want to do next?

Lou: For some reason, seasons came to mind. Having just finished up my time at the clinic, to some extent, passion-wise, I’m in winter. I had the summer and the bloom when the clinic opened, and all the great things it did, then kind of found myself a little worn out and questioning myself as to whether I was the best person to take the clinic to the next step. Now the leaves have fallen off, and I’ve chosen to step back.

I’ll always be passionate about poverty and the less fortunate, but I don’t know what the next step will be. Bur the beauty of the seasons is, I may be in winter, but spring is coming. The blooms are going to come out. I’m totally confident my next step will be shown to me.

Anne and I, on our own paths and somewhat in a shared way, have always been interested in spiritual growth, so that’s always going to be a passion.

The whole concept of simplicity just speaks to me, and I don’t mean in the narrow, clean-out-your-closets, keep-it-simple kind of way. I mean it much more broadly, where simplicity is the hub of your relationships. I’m also reflecting on spirituality. There are three or four things that define how I want to give my time. But within each of those, undergirding it, are simplicity and spirituality,

Joan: What do you mean by simplicity?

Lou: Well, everything from not being complicated to whittling down to what’s really essential. In fact, Anne had a book on her Kindle called Essentialism. The premise is, there are so few things that are truly essential. There are thousands of things that just aren’t important yet we manage to clutter up our lives with nonessentials if we are not intentional about our choices.

That leads me to my relationship with Jesus. All that we have to learn to understand and to grow is a quest toward greater unity and oneness with Christ. Just realizing that He is not just out there, He’s in here, in everybody and everything you’re encountering. And that leads to gratitude and appreciation. I can’t tell you how excited I am that I planted seven little gardenia bushes, and they’re all blooming. It’s their first year and they’re not even that fragrant yet, but the excitement! God is in those little white blossoms, and in the yellow leaf that fell off, too.

Matilda and the Brewsters

By Joan Doggrell

Behind St. Paul’s Memorial Garden wall is a small family cemetery. You won’t see it unless you walk around in back of the wall. This little burying ground once belonged to the Brewster family. It was located in the southwest corner of their dairy farm, which extended all the way from Roscoe Road to Highway 29. The family patriarch, James Brewster, was born in 1799 and died in 1893 at the age of ninety-four. Janett Brewster was born in 1806 and died 1862. Janett bore James thirteen children.*1

After James Brewster’s death, the surviving Brewster children – there were ten of them — sold their shares of the farm to one of their brothers, P.H. Brewster. He in turn sold it to his brother Angus who conveyed it to his son Jim Brewster. Upon Jim’s death, his son and widow transferred a large section of the property to what is now Forest Lawn Park, the perpetual care cemetery across Roscoe Road from St. Paul’s. Throughout these changes in ownership, the family plot was maintained.

Two acres of the Forest Lawn Park property were transferred to St. Paul’s in the 1960s. Because of the family cemetery, the law insisted that an attempt be made to contact the Brewster descendants. In the church files is a spreadsheet that records the attempts of Attorney Charles Latolla to do just that. In a letter to Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation in Atlanta, Latolla describes the research he has done and asks that it serve legally. The judge in the case eventually decided he had made enough of an effort to find the family and allowed the transfer to take place.

A stipulation in the transfer agreement is that the church restore the Brewster family plot, enclose it in a wrought iron fence, and maintain it for as long as the church continues to exist. In the event the land should cease to be used for church purposes, it will revert to and become a part of Forest Lawn Park.

St. Paul’s, as represented by the vestry, agreed to restore the cemetery and maintain it.

Bill Tudor’s research on the Brewster family revealed some interesting facts about the Brewsters.

“I have a book on the First Georgia Infantry,” said Bill. “In it there is a list of soldiers who served in that unit which was formed after secession, certainly after the war had started. In the Newnan Guards were four Brewsters: Blake Dempsey, Daniel Ferguson, James Pendleton, and William Brewster. Two of those four are buried at St. Paul’s, William and Daniel.*2

Another son is buried in the Oakland Cemetery. There is no indication of where the fourth of the Civil War soldiers is buried.

There are eight graves in the cemetery: those of James, Janett, and their sons William and Daniel; Lucy Ellen Brewster, daughter of James and Janett who died at age three; Sophia Emma Brewster, another daughter who lived to be nineteen; and Mary Caledonia Camp, daughter of Margaret and A. Camp. Mary Caledonia was two years old and a granddaughter of James and Janett. Seven of the graves lie under engraved marble slabs.

There is also a nameless infant whose grave is covered with bricks. And therein lies a tale.

“When Linda and I first started going to St. Paul’s,” said Bill, “the family cemetery had been neglected for a long time. There were probably seven to nine inches of leaves covering the whole area. As I was mulching out those leaves, I hit something metal. I thought the world was coming to an end. As I brushed away the leaves to find out what I had hit, I saw a small metal grave marker. It said, ‘Unknown Child.’ My mower had damaged it.

“I took the marker to McKoon’s Funeral Home and Crematory, explained the situation to John Davidson there and asked him if there was any way he could make another one. I said I would pay him for it. He came back a few minutes later with one just like it and would not take a cent for it. So I immediately replaced the marker.”

The original had been put there when “Matilda” was reinterred in the Brewster family plot. That was the metal sign that I hit. She was found around 200-250 feet from this cemetery, which raises a lot of questions. Why wasn’t she buried with the rest of the Brewsters? Nobody that I know of has an answer or a good explanation.”

Were you ever at St. Paul’s when the lights blinked for no reason or the elevator moved though no one had pushed the button? Maybe you heard someone say with a nervous goggle, “That must be Matilda.”

Well, who is “Matilda?” Truthfully, no one knows. The name was made up. Her remains were unearthed on church property back in the early 1980s.

Some people, alone in the library or the loft above the parish hall, have sensed her presence. For example, Bill Tudor gives the following account:

“Seven or eight years ago, I was up in the old choir loft, which is in a straight line, probably 20 feet from where Matilda was found. I was working alone – nobody else was in the church that day. The lights would flicker off, and a few seconds later they would come back on. Then they would go back off. I am not a great believer in spirits, but willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I just said, ‘Honey, I’ll just be here about three or four more minutes, and then I’m about to wrap up. Be patient with me – I’d appreciate it.’ The lights came on and stayed on. I turned them off on my way out.”

There are other folks who have seen strange things. One of our former priests, Father Matthew Greathouse, firmly believed in some type of supernatural being. He claimed to have seen her.

Is an unquiet spirit haunting St. Paul’s? Or is Matilda a figment of overactive imaginations? We don’t know. But there must be a story behind the pathetic little casket that contained her tiny bones.

Lee Daniel was on the Vestry back in the early ‘eighties when what is now the parish hall was being built. The building was going to be the new St. Paul’s church. (At the time, the church was housed in what today is the children’s wing.)

“There was a problem with the design,” said Lee. “The appliances for heating and cooling were to be installed above the nave, in the apex of it.”  But parishioners realized they would make too much noise during the service, so it was decided that the units should reside on the outside of the building. While digging a pit for the HVAC, workers came upon the casket of a small child. According to Lee, the backhoe operator hasn’t been seen in Coweta County since. “Apparently the experience shook him up so that he chose to move to other parts of the country!” said Lee.

The cast iron casket was small, about two by three feet. It had been damaged by the back hoe. When Lee and the others opened it, they found bones and bits of clothing.

Why was the casket made of cast iron? Frankie Hardin has a possible explanation. She met the coroner from Fulton County while attending a seminar for aspiring mystery writers. She took the occasion to tell him about Matilda and asked about the cast iron casket. He said that people in the Victorian period (1837-1901) began using iron caskets to prevent the spread of infectious disease, such as smallpox.

Incidentally, smallpox has a long shelf life. If the theory holds true in Matilda’s case, then the persons who opened the casket may have been at risk. Fortunately, there is no record of any of the participants becoming ill.

As a member of the Vestry, Lee was called upon to take charge of this discovery. “The first thing I thought to do,” said Lee, “was to call the coroner.” The coroners arrived, looked the situation over, and said, “I don’t know what to do.”

His suggestion was to call Probate Judge McCoy, who didn’t know what to do either. McCoy said to call Terry Davidson of McKoon’s Funeral Home and Crematory. The McKoon’s personnel knew whom to notify and submitted the necessary paperwork. Davidson’s advice? “Dig another hole, put it all in there, and mark the spot.”

“So Davidson picked a place,” continued Lee. “If you stand in today’s parish hall facing the kitchen and look to your right beneath the second stained glass window, you will pinpoint the spot where we dug a hole and put the remains. We marked the new grave with four cinder blocks: at the head, foot, and both sides.”

When the growing parish got ready to build a third building (the present-day St. Paul’s), someone told the current priest Russell Kendrick (now Bishop of Central Gulf Coast) there was a grave by the sidewalk that ran down to the basement door.

“I know right where the grave is,” said Lee. “Cinder blocks are around it.”

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men/ Gang aft agley. Robert Burns.

Someone had moved the blocks.

“However, we dug in the general vicinity and found her again,” said Lee. “Russell said she should be buried in the Brewster cemetery, which is just outside the wall of our Memory Garden, so that is where she is today. We didn’t have a name, so we hung ‘Matilda’ on her. And we still don’t know who she is.”

The only reason to think that Matilda may have had a relation to the Brewster family is the fact that she is buried on Brewster land, close to the family plot. Was she a Brewster? Or the child of a slave?

Could that iron casket have preceded the establishment of the Brewster cemetery? Could “Matilda” have been buried before they set up the family plot? Was a contagious illness the cause of her death and hasty burial outside of the family plot?

An occupant of the Brewster cemetery may know her real name and the story of her brief life. But unless someone finds a letter or diary with a communication from beyond the grave, we will never know.

 

Notes:

*1 “Interestingly, her tombstone reads, ‘Janett Brewster, Consort of James Brewster,” said Bill. “Where did the word consort come in? I did a little research on the word – there are different variations and definitions – a very close friend, companion. It also seems that in that period of history, if a young couple split up early in life and later one of them found someone else to marry, he or she had no way of contacting the first spouse. So it appears that the ‘consort’ was a wife for all intents and purposes: not legally, but accepted by society because there was no way to find that earlier spouse. That might be the case here.”

*2 Daniel is younger than William, yet Daniel became the sergeant-major of Company A while his older brother was still a private.

Anne Graner’s Story

By Joan Doggrell

I’d heard that the Launch Pad Library at Ruth Hill Elementary School is an awesome place, and when I visited it, I wanted to be a kid again. The large, colorfully decorated room is organized so that books, STEAM activities, and community connections are grouped together by common themes. They are organized in six learning portals: Travel the World & Beyond; Learn from the Past; Stay Fit & Healthy; Investigate Nature; Express Yourself; and Discover a Solution. And it all looks attractive and inviting.

Kids can experiment with a sewing machine, a 3-D printer, and musical instruments. They can also make movies and audio recordings in the recording studio.  They are involved with career exploration, are taught soft skills focused on professionalism, and are encouraged to create projects that impact others.

The learning portals are sponsored by community partners who supply materials and expertise. If students have a project calling for outside help, the partners are ready to supply it. For example, the Newnan Times Herald carried a story on June 9 about students making weighted lap pads that are used to help autistic children focus on learning.  The Coweta Community Foundation stepped in to help them purchase useful, quality products.

Obviously, the Launch Pad Library is a far cry from traditional school libraries. Its conception and creation are the work of St. Paul’s own Anne Graner. Anne is on a mission to empower the Ruth Hill students, 85% of which are on free and reduced lunch.  She believes that every child has the potential to succeed. With the collaboration of other teachers and community partners, the Launch Pad Library constantly strives to improve its offerings to close the opportunity gap so many of the students have.

“We don’t stop when the school year ends,” said Anne.  “For three summers, we’ve had a weekly bookmobile that reaches some of our neediest students so they can have free books over the summer.”

I met Anne at a St. Paul’s women’s retreat at Banning Mills a few years back. She took us on a “prayer hike” where we stopped and prayed at inspiring natural sights, and then she led a free-form dance that encouraged us to worship with our bodies. I knew then that this woman had a creative gift, one that could inspire others.

My own involvement with the Launch Pad Library occurred every Tuesday afternoon while students Christian and De’ Angelo filmed and interviewed me about my prosthesis. This video project ended up winning first place at the Coweta County Technology Competition.

I usually arrived just before dismissal. I watched Mrs. Graner bring her busy fifth graders, who were working on various projects throughout the library, to a halt with very few words – spoken softly. They all stopped in their tracks. They sat down together to debrief about their activities, and then were quietly dismissed. I was speechless in admiration.

How does a person become an Anne Graner? Where does that creative leadership come from?

I had a chance to ask her on June 13, when she and husband Lou Graner (more about Lou in another post) agreed to be interviewed. We began with a question:

Joan: What is in your background, or what inspired you, to develop that wonderful Launch Pad Library at Ruth Hill?

Anne: I have to go back to my parents. They were creative educators and missionaries. My mom started out teaching kindergarten and later became an elementary school principal. My dad was an Episcopal priest. Soon after they married, they went to Liberia, West Africa, as missionaries for the Episcopal Church. Mom co-founded a school there. Along with leading worship services, Dad taught courses at Cuttington College –the oldest private and coeducation university in Africa — and also served as its interim president.  I was born into this way of being: following a call, serving God and others with the gifts you’ve been given, finding creative ways to solve problems, and making the most out of being alive.

Later in life, I became a classroom teacher and noticed how much my parents’ philosophy of education and living fully influenced the type of teacher I became. That early childhood influence was a key foundation to leading me to create the Launch Pad Library.  I have found that when you observe kids and listen to them, you can get a better sense of what excites them, what they are curious about. Then you build a space and bring in resources to help them explore and become.

Mom and Dad passed away before the creation of the Launch Pad Library, but their essence permeates so much of what occurs there. I am also blessed to have the support of my husband Lou who has scrubbed floors, worked the book fair, moved bookcases and has been a sounding board for ideas and an extra hand when needed.  Our two daughters, Jessica and Lindsay, have witnessed the birth and development of the Launch Pad Library, and are excited to see how the legacy of their grandparents lives on.

Joan: Anne, any other passions that drive you?

Anne:  Yes!  I have a passion for story- for discovering other people’s stories, for documenting others’ stories with video, and for expressing my story through free-form dancing.  And I’ve always had this desire for deeper spirituality. I’ve been to the Kripalu Holistic Health Center in Massachusetts where I’ve taken workshops and trained as a yoga dance teacher. All of it was about how to access and bring alive deeper, sacred parts of me, and to learn how to invite and lead others in spiritual experiences.  It’s been a blessing to lead workshops, sacred dance experiences, and now currently, to be a healing intercessor at our church.

My passion for story led me to explore documentary filmmaking.  The training I received was very hands-on and entrenched me in the life of another. What an experience!  For someone to allow you to film them in their ordinariness and in their self-discovery was so sacred.

After the training, I was able to film other videos and created a website for these videos: http://snowpicnicfilms.com/  One of the videos features church member Billy Newman and his creative photography.  The website’s name, Snow Picnic Films, is in honor of my dad because he used to take us on picnics in the snow when we were living in New York state.

What it all boils down to is I just want to be true to my callings, to use the gifts I’ve been given, to embrace different kinds of people, and to live life fully.  Life has not always been easy.  I’ve experienced a lot of heartache.  But I continue to try to navigate all of this alongside taking time to listen, to pray, to be in nature, to create, and to just be.

A Reflection on Ministering to Children

Written by Katie Teal

A young Katie Teal, front center.

Some of my favorite memories of church are not the ones you may expect a child to hold onto.  While I plotted during boys vs. girls pine cone wars on the playground, relished the stained fingers from tie dyeing at VBS and was honored to be a Tree in The Tale of Three Tress during children’s choir, the moments I grasp when I am feeling disconnected from church and faith are the ones that happened while I was sitting in a pew.

One of those memories is the Sunday I got to know Ms. Linda. My family still lived in Columbus, Ga and we attended St. Thomas.  I was 5 or 6 and had aged out of the children’s chapel program there. Momma and I sat in the pew as the other children began to process out at the sequence hymn, as was the practice at St. Thomas, when Momma realized there was no adult with them. Confident in my ability to sit quietly and that there were plenty of other church Momma’s around, my Momma hopped up to lead children’s chapel.  She, of course, let me know where she was going; I was fine…at first. But after she walked away, I realized I was alone, in big church. As the minutes passed, I was sure it had been hours, that Momma should have been back already and that something horrible had to have happened. I began to cry, which also meant I stared at my lap (a habit I still have) because that meant no one could see me.  I was wrong.  Not long after I teared up, I heard a slightly above whisper calling me from the altar.  Ms. Linda was the verger that day and saw me cry. She invited me to sit with her in the verger’s chair until Momma came back.  Ms. Linda provided comfort in the form of company, paper, pencils and peach flavored hard candies that make me think of her to this day.  This began a friendship that was blind to the decades between us. I look back on her as a grandmother figure but then, I only knew her as a friend.  After that Sunday, it wasn’t uncommon for me to sit with her the days she served and carry the verge when the acolytes processed. I think this helped inspire me to be an acolyte but more importantly it taught me that church is a safe space.

Another memory is also an early one from St. Thomas.  Momma was always diligent about taking us to Holy Week services to help us understand Easter was more than egg hunts and baskets full of candy. We were at the Maundy Thursday service and it came time to wash the feet.  I sat in a chair and Fr. Doug rinsed my feet and carefully dried them.  I hopped up ready to return to my pew, but Fr. Doug sat in the chair and I realized he wanted me to wash his feet.  I felt certain this was a job for an adult, but I cautiously poured the water, being sure not to spill any, and dried his feet.  Through this I learned that, no matter my age, I have a role in the church.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was but somewhere in the middle school range.  Sherry Cook led a prayer meditation service (I’m not certain but I think it was part of a Lenten series offering.) What I do remember is the I carried with me into the service.  I had one friend who, out of the blue quit talking to me, another wrapped up in a boyfriend I wasn’t a fan of and other who completely changed after getting involved in a fundamentalist church.  Life felt harder than it ever had before. I was grinding my teeth, tensing my eyebrows together so much I nearly had a unibrow and I wasn’t my shoulders had taken up permanent residence in their new home, up next to my ears. It’s the first time I remember physically carrying my stress. But as Sherry spoke and led us through meditation that stress began to melt away.  At one point, it felt like someone had literally lifted a weight off my shoulder. I began to cry the full body type of cry that cleanses the heart and transforms a worried soul.  I’d felt burdened for weeks and suddenly it was gone. I fully believe it was God taking my burden and worries and replacing it with love. I learned the power of prayer and that church is a refuge.

I remember the excitement around St. Paul’s as we built “the new church.”  Seeing the plans go from sketches on paper to reality and watching it go from the bones of a foundation to a church.  I was there, probably helping Momma set up a reception or Wednesday night supper, not long after the ambo was installed.  I walked into the church and had an urge step up and see the space from a perspective I’d never experienced.  I stood there and felt more at home than I ever had at church.  I was comforted and encouraged by those quiet moments to myself in the church.  In my 11-year-old mind it I thought it meant I was supposed to be a priest one day but now I understand it to have been a call to ministry. I learned what it was to have a calling and a voice in church.

I can remember the feeling I had when I was aware the music for the Gloria change with liturgical seasons. I remember the first time I prayed the Nicene Creed from memory. I remember deciding to stand or kneel at the Eucharist and it being my decision. And when I was in high school and St. Paul’s no longer felt like home, I felt empowered to in my faith to find a place that did.

These moments only happened because I wasn’t confined to a “children’s space.”  While there was place for me to be messy and loud, I was never restricted from exploring “big church” or “adult spaces.”  Children’s chapel only lasted the length of the readings and sermon, so I was in church for the Nicene Creed and the Prayers of the People.  Big Church was my church.  I learned what my voice sounded like lifted in prayer with others and I learned to follow the service order and flip to right page in my prayer book and hymnal.  I was excited to get my first prayer book and used it proudly every Sunday. How many 8-year-olds can say that? I was allowed space in church-to learn and grow and make mistakes from loudly saying the wrong word or accidentally ripping a page because I turned it a little to enthusiastically.

I have been thinking on this idea of Children’s Space a lot recently.  We have a beautiful children’s wing that is routinely locked (along with all the doors but that’s another conversation.) I fear our children at St. Paul’s are receiving the message that they only belong in certain places. That their faith, voice and prayers only belong where adults say they do. I don’t think this is happening through any one adult’s intention, but limiting children is an easy thing to do.  It takes thought and intention to be okay with their noise and chaos and to tell other adults “this is their space too; this is their beautiful way of worshiping.” That their noise is them letting us know “I feel safe here. I can be myself.”  Children belong in the front pews, around the altar and in every space at church.  If we give them this, it won’t be long before we hear their voices mixed with ours, lifting our prayers higher than before.

I know I have a home in the Episcopal Church, no matter where I am and that foundation was built as I was a young child, barefoot, wandering the halls of the church, finding the ways and spaces I experience God the most.  I want this for every child; to know the power of God’s love, to define their faith on their own terms and experience the power of a supportive parish. But to do this we have to extend children’s ministry beyond the walls of the children’s wing.  We must open our hearts to their noise, their mischief, their rule breaking and exploration.  In Matthew 19:14, Jesus says “let the children come to me.” In Isaiah 11 we are told ““The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them.”  So, let the child lead us; to open doors, to open hearts, and open hands ready to do the work of Christ, to love like Jesus.

How the Doggrells got to St. Paul’s

Joan’s birthday dinner, November 2017

For all of our lives, Don and I have belonged to an Anglican or Episcopal church. However, until we came to St. Paul’s, neither of us could claim a profound commitment to the Christianity that the church represents. The people of St. Paul’s have changed all that.

We were born, baptized, confirmed, and married in the Anglican Church of Canada. We immigrated to the USA in 1962, and brought our first child back to Canada to be baptized in the same church we were married in. But thereafter we became Episcopalians.

Over the years and in different cities, we have stayed connected to the Episcopal Church. We made sure each of our four boys was baptized and confirmed. However, getting them to church clean, dressed and on time was a challenge we did not always meet. I sang in choirs whenever I could. Don served on the vestry at All Saints in Las Vegas, Nevada where I taught Sunday School. We tried, but I can’t say our commitment went very deep. I was getting the college education I had missed. Don was busy with hockey and Cub Scouts and eventually went back to school himself. So for those and other reasons, church took a back seat in our lives.

In Huntsville, Alabama, where Don took a new job in 1985, we attended the Nativity Episcopal Church for awhile. They had a great choir, but no one in the congregation bothered to speak to Don. Thus we joined St. Matthew’s, a small storefront church in Madison, a Huntsville suburb. Shortly thereafter, Don went off to Saudi Arabia for four years, not an ideal place to practice Christianity – at least not openly. I stayed in Madison and donated “sweat equity” toward the construction of St. Matthew’s church building.

After Don’s return from Saudi Arabia, we landed in Dallas, Texas, where we ran smack into the gay controversy. The congregation of St. Nicholas had made it their mission to oppose the national church for ordaining a gay bishop. For the first and only time, we formally resigned from a parish. Sadly, in the Dallas diocese, there was no Episcopal church that did not espouse the same views, so for awhile we were unchurched. But not for long, as we were transferred to Atlanta within months.

In Atlanta, I joined the choir of St, Martin’s-in-the-Field, and Don attended there too. After two years, I was laid off, Don retired, and we decided to make our home in Newnan. This, at last, brings us to St. Paul’s, where we hope to stay for the rest of our lives.

We were met at the door by Dawn and Bill Harrison. I jokingly say “accosted” because Dawn tried to drag me downstairs to sing with the choir that very day. It felt good to be wanted.

Choir didn’t start off so well. The director took an hour and a half to tell the sad saga of why he was resigning. But I was not deterred. Every Wednesday and Sunday, I stood beside Dawn and followed her perfectly pitched alto notes and knew I was there to stay.

We found everyone at St. Paul’s friendly and welcoming, made several friends, and at last felt a true sense of belonging. But we didn’t know just what a treasure we had stumbled upon until Don got sick. Really sick. His illness became obvious on Christmas Eve of 2015. He was Vestry member of the day. Trying to lock up, he realized he could hardly stand. Son Jim and I helped him to the car. Fast forward to the ER. I called Lee Daniel, who called Bill Tudor, who called Father Allen. He prayed, and we all laid hands on Don. Lee and Bill stayed until Allen told them to leave.

On arrival, Don had been given an EKG. It seemed that when they found out he was not having a heart attack, medical personnel became very scarce. Allen sat with us for hours. Finally he had to leave to be able to conduct the service Christmas morning.

The wee hours got larger and larger. At last Don was admitted, and Jim drove the two of us home in a violent rain storm.

Don was diagnosed with a huge abscess in his abdominal wall. He was septic and spent the next fifteen days in the hospital on heavy antibiotics. This was a scary time for us both. But we weren’t alone. Don had loads of visitors, including the entire Vestry who left their retreat to drop in unannounced.

When Don was finally released, he was ordered to go every day to an infusion center for more antibiotics. I was teaching full time at West Georgia Technical College. I couldn’t get him there without quitting my job. So Linda Tudor organized a group to take turns driving him. Lee Daniel, Bill Tudor, John Abbey, Bill Harrison, Ron Wilson … these are names I remember. And frequent visitors appeared at our home bearing hot meals and flowers.

Don recovered, but the abscess formed again a year later. I found him helpless on the bathroom floor. He’d been there for five hours. When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, Lee Daniel and Bill Tudor were waiting. This time the abscess was removed surgically, and it hasn’t returned. The eight-inch incision took many months to heal. But heal it did.

I can’t possibly express the gratitude I feel for all that these wonderful people did for us. All I can say is that Jesus is no longer an abstraction for me. He lives at St. Paul’s.

The Rev. Becca Stevens’ Address to St. Paul’s

By Joan Doggrell

On May 19, a lovely Sunday afternoon, approximately 80 people gathered in the nave at St Paul’s Episcopal Church to hear from The Reverend Becca Stevens, author and founder of Thistle Farms, a social enterprise aimed to empower women who have been abused. She talked about a subject many of us would rather avoid; women who live on the streets. Her talk was anything but a downer, though; she focused on the help that her ministry offers to women willing to accept it.

The organization she founded in 1997, Magdalene, offers much more than food and shelter; it provides medical and dental care, therapy, and an opportunity to contribute to their own support and learn marketable skills while encouraging residents to leave the streets and the habits that keep them there. Resident women manufacture, package and market natural home and personal care products, everything from bug-spray to bath salts. The income from the sale of these products provides 70 percent of the support of Magdalene.

The women – they call themselves survivors — are especially proud of their candles, not only for their quality but also for their symbolism.

Ty, one of the graduates of the program, told us the women light a candle every morning for women on the street who have not found their way home yet. The candlelight, like a beacon, welcomes them home. Ty had been homeless for eight years living rough on the streets. Now, she has a driver’s license, a car (which she is proud of the deal she got on it by the way,) and has earned her GED. She is ready to live on her own with dignity, safety, and self-respect.

After hearing from Ty, Becca herself, who is also a survivor, spoke. She was sexually abused from age five. She remarked on how hard it is to talk about an abusive sexual history. Even though abuse is not the fault of the victim, there is such sense of shame and self-loathing associated with being a victim that many bury it deep in their psyche leaving their personalities less than whole.

Becca’s talk was organized around a song and dance we all associate with childhood fun: “The Hokey Pokey.” According to Becca, it was written to make fun of the “hocus-pocus” that priests appear to be engaged in at the altar. As a priest herself, she thinks the song and its history are hilarious. She also sees it as a metaphor for the healing process. She mentioned bazaars, dear to the hearts of youth and women’s groups as money makers. She pointed out that in terms of economics, they are extremely inefficient. People make things at their own expense, then sell them to each other. They might have more profitably thrown their money in a pot and saved all the effort. But that’s not the point. People put themselves into the things they make.  As the song says, they “put their whole selves in,” and that is much better than a simple cash donation.

Then comes the line, “Shake it all about.”

“The disciples went out from the Last Supper and shook up the world,” Becca said. Another part of shaking things up is letting it go, “it” being fear, anger, shame, bitterness. She told us another part of Ty’s story. Ty had been safe at Thistle Farms, working, paying taxes. Then she was arrested on an old warrant. Despite Becca’s testifying to the fact that she had turned her life around, the District Attorney made her serve a jail sentence of three years. When she returned to Thistle Farms, she just wanted to keep pouring candles and forgive. When asked how she kept up her spirit through her ordeal, she said “I knew loving friends were waiting for me.” The candle in the window was still burning.

“We must have the courage to speak of the unspeakable,” said Becca. We must shake it up and let it go.

Becca founded Thistle Farms in 1997 with five women who had experienced trafficking, violence, and addiction. Now, according to Thistle Farm’s website, “the Global Market of Thistle Farms helps employ more than 1,800 women worldwide, and the national network has more than 40 sister communities.”

A place such as Thistle Farms is “a mission with a church, not a church with a mission,” a place to “turn yourself about.”

Becca told us of an especially difficult set of circumstances in 2017, at the height of the refugee crisis, where her group was able to turn things about. Desperate women were frequently stuck in refugee camps such as a notorious one in Greece. The men would leave to find new lives in Europe, but the women and children were often left behind. Without fathers, brothers or husbands as protectors, they were vulnerable to human trafficking. Philanthropic organizations find it extremely difficult to get into such camps to help, but with financial support from Wendy Schmidt (whose husband is the former Executive Chairman of Google) Becca’s group was able to organize five women who used their weaving skills to earn much-needed money for necessities not provided in the camp, such as dental work and fresh food. They wove welcome mats from the blankets and life jackets they had used on the crossing over the Mediterranean, where so many others had lost their lives. They sold the mats, trained other women, and were eventually reunited with their husbands.

Becca quoted Jolie Varela, founder of Indigenous Women Hike, who said in an interview, “The healing of a community begins with its women.”

“Love is the most powerful force in the world because love has the power to heal,” says the Thistle Farms mission statement.

Isn’t it time we “turned ourselves about?”

Visit Thistle Farm’s website to learn more about Becca’s accomplishments, vision, and the wonderful products you can order. Oh, and you can also donate here.

Hazel Glover: Peregrina

Her Second Journey on the Camino de Santiago

Interviewer: Joan Doggrell

In April of 2019, shortly after a strenuous Holy Week and Easter Day, our Priest-in-Charge made her second journey to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago.

In a sense, she was continuing the pilgrimage she and her daughter began 5 years earlier. At that time they hiked 300 of the 500 miles on the Camino Francis route to Santiago. After arriving at the famous cathedral containing the bones of St. James the Apostle, attending the Pilgrims’ mass (complete with the giant thurible swinging incense), they were awarded pilgrims’ certificates. That year marked the 800th anniversary of St. Francis’ pilgrimage to Santiago so the 2014 certificates were unique to that year. However, the most profound moment for Hazel was not the pilgrims’ mass but hiking up to the Iron Cross on Rabanal. “We arrived at the cross just as day broke. Each stone at the base of the cross represented either a person who had died or prayers for the living. The power of those prayers represented by the stones was palpable. I felt like I was standing in the midst of the communion of saints.”

“The slate trail down Rabanal was very steep and it was raining. I didn’t slip but I was so tense that my back seized up.” By the time they hiked to Ponferrada they decided that they should not attempt to conquer the next mountain. They skipped O’Cebrerio riding the train to Sarria.

Hazel was determined to go back one day and hike the leg of the Camino from Ponferrada to Sarria. She got that chance in 2019 as she and her son, Patrick, spent two weeks on the trail, picking up the trail at Ponferrada. “I was so glad I’d been there before, because I knew the lay of the land. Just showing the beautiful landscape to Patrick was fun.”

There were other advantages to making the trip for the second time. “My focus on this portion of the Camino shifted to focusing on the journey rather than the destination, walking slowly without worrying about how many miles we were clocking, sleeping 100% of the time in private pensions or hotels as opposed to the bunk-filled albergues. Martha and I were walking two to thirteen miles a day. Patrick and I didn’t walk more than four hours in any given day. I just wanted to soak it all in – which we did.”

“We spent the first night in Ponferrada, and then we began our walk to O’Cebrerio.” ‘’

From there Hazel and Patrick made their way over a lot of mountainous terrain to Sarria. On the way they visited the ancient Castle of the Templars. They spent two nights in Sarria, then took the train into Santiago, a first visit for Patrick.

“The spiritual experiences weren’t just in churches but in nature. Just hearing your footfalls on the road was holy. We walked in silence often. There is nothing to think about, nothing to worry about except where you will eat and sleep. The most difficult moments were seeing dogs and their owners in villages or along the route because my dog was at home.”

“We met pilgrims along the way, in these little cities. When we met some folks from Canada. I asked them if they were from Newfoundland where Lesley (our parish administrator) was born and raised. They replied ‘Oh no. That’s not really Canada.’”

They were from Ontario. (If you are Canadian, that explains everything.)

“Atop O’Cebreiro we met one Canadian marathon runner and hiker. He said he didn’t sleep for the first two weeks because he had stayed in albergues. The snoring and body noises combined with jet lag contributed to his exhaustion.”

Just as the Iron Cross was a sacred experience for Hazel in 2014, this year being in the hamlet of O’Cebrerio was profound. “I am still processing the spiritual impact of O’Cebreiro and the ancient church of Santa María la Real (dating from 836) on my soul.”

“We spent several nights in Santiago exploring the city. We attended the pilgrims’ mass that had been moved to San Francisco parish because the cathedral was undergoing internal renovations. To be in the midst of pilgrims who had traveled together and some who had met on the road was energizing. Additionally, we spend time hanging out in the courtyard of the Cathedral de Santiago watching as pilgrims arrived at the end of their pilgrimage.”

Patrick and Hazel arrived in Madrid on Saturday night, May 5th. On Sunday, Cinco de Mayo, they googled Mexican restaurants. “Finding one, we took an Uber into the city for a couple of margaritas and nachos.”

“I return to St. Paul’s with my heart full and my soul refreshed.” Buen Camino