Since February 2016, I have been posting slightly edited short reflections (among other items) by and about the Rev. Eric Snyder. Eric was nearly 91 when I began collecting gems of his incredible life in the love of Jesus Christ and advocacy for social justice. He and his late wife, Jean, lived on East 5th Street, NYC, from 1962 until 1979. They came to NYC in 1943, and lived in East Harlem until 1949 when he was ordained. They acquired the farm in Hop Bottom in 1975, in the Diocese of Bethlehem, and subsequently moved there in 1979. Scroll to the bottom to read Eric's most recent post. -Bill Lewellis
BLACK POWER … [posted 02-26-2016 by Bill Lewellis] Eric Snyder and his late wife Jean lived on the Lower East Side in Manhattan from 1962 to 1979. "Our children grew up there and still have a deep attachment to the area," Eric says. "Jean and I became very active in the community. We were members of St. Mark's in the Bowery. We were actually in the area to some extent because of St. Mark's and because I was working at the Mission Society which then was located at Bleeker and Lafayette streets.
"We were fortunate enough to have a house with a large living room so that we became the gathering place for the neighborhood. We were the distribution point for a community food coop which we helped organize. We were as well the gathering place for a community parents group. As a result we came into contact with and got to know a diverse community.
"The Black Panthers had taken over a building deserted by a former settlement house. It was a large building which could be used for housing as well as a variety of community services. Among the services was a feeding program for children.Their members as well became active participants in other community programs. When it was rumored that some of the number were involved in a plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty it was so outlandish as to be almost amusing.
"When the Black Panthers were incarcerated by the FBI we had had sufficient contact with them to believe there was enough reason to doubt their guilt. Three of us joined together to post bail for one of the group who was at the Women's House of Detention in Manhattan. Surety for the bond required the combined assets of a house in the Berkshires, one on Martha's Vineyard and one in Lower Manhattan.
"All of this has caused me to reflect on the reaction to the half time show at this year's Super Bowl. After all these years we still fail to understand what the Black Power movement was all about."
ERIC'S 50TH … A Sermon Preached by The Ven. Richard I. Cluett at the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Ordination to the Priesthood of The Rev. Eric Snyder, June 21, 2008 at Church of the Holy Apostles, St. Clair, PA. Here.
An excerpt: I first met Eric in the food bank in the undercroft of St. Paul’s, Montrose where he was working for Treehab, a Susquehanna County community action agency. He was in between a national church staff gig in New York City and finding a priestly post in the diocese of Bethlehem. This urbane, urbanite was living with his beloved Jean on their goat farm in Hop Bottom, Pennsylvania, so I knew he was going to be an interesting person …
Someone who marched and protested and demonstrated against war and injustice in the roaring 1960’s & 70’s, in the person of a devout, and spiritual Benedictine associate, for whom “ the smells and bells” of the Eucharist are the right and preferred modes of worship.
An ordered priest, whose ministry was to, at times, break order to lead the church in ministering to the needs of God’s people, especially the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the hungry, the imprisoned, the lost and the disempowered when the church would rather have been complacently comfortable.
A gentle man who would vigorously, but humanely, contend in the corridors and offices of power.
Such contention, such belief in action, inevitably call for an institutional response, and a new presiding bishop felt that the church needed to be more, not less, comfortable. Eric was let go [from his ministry at our National Church].
A man of constant contradictions or a man of divinely inspired integrity called to a unique and wonderful life of ministering? It is only when you watch him closely, listen to him carefully, work with him daily that you come to learn the riches of God’s graces incarnate in this man and how they work together to accomplish God’s good purposes.
THE PRESENCE AND MINISTRY OF ERIC SNYDER … [T. Scott Allen, Diocesan Life, September 2008, pages A8-9] Here.
Her picnics for the Jubilee Committee in Zion Grove in the 90's when they had goats and ol "Toge" their faithful big dog were great – especially when the local fire company came to fill their above-ground pool. She was always offering hospitality on the physical as well as the psychological level. And she was not shy about sharing her opinions too. A mother in the best sense of the word, she raised her own children and gathered others in need of one. The sadness I feel is only assuaged by the knowledge that she is with the Lord she loved and served and will be waiting for the rest of us with a wonderful smile, twinkling (and somewhat mischievous) blue eyes and arms outstretched for one of her big hugs.”
JAPANESE INTERNMENT [posted 2-29-2016 by Bill Lewellis] Context: The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States was the forced relocation and incarceration during World War II of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who lived on the Pacific coast in camps in the interior of the country. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens. [Comment by Eric] I was very upset about it. We had friends and neighbors who were relocated. There was no evidence that it was needed. My mother joined others who took lunch to the detainees as they were loaded on buses to be taken to the relocation centers. One of the relocation centers was the race track where the detainees were housed in the horse stalls. Later, reparations were made but hardly compensating for the losses.
EVERETT FRANCIS AND ERIC AT THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH CENTER [posted 4-16-2016 by Bill Lewellis] With the passing of Everett Francis, I have been moved to reflect on our days at the Episcopal Church Center. Everett and I were members of the staff of the Department of Christian Social Relations. Almon Pepper was the director of the Department. Upon his retirement he was succeeded by Muriel Webb. Other members of the Department included Charles Wilson who was well known in the Diocese of Bethlehem. Charles worked as a consultant to the Diocese in the development of the clusters such as North Parish.
Everett was public policy staff person. I was one of a group of social workers who made up the Division of Health and Welfare Services. Everett was in Washington part of each week when congress was in session. I spent much of my time traveling from Diocese to Diocese. We generally lunched together when we both were in New York.
Everett and I were both providing staff service to the General Convention meeting which was held in Seattle. There were two dominating issues to be dealt with in Seattle. One was preparing for the admission of women as delegates to convention. The other was the approval of and providing of significant financial support to the General Convention Special Program.
I was assigned to work with The Episcopal Church Women. With the admission of women to General Convention, what would be the continuing role of the ECW one time known as the Women's Auxiliary? The additional question to be addressed was the allocation from the UTO of support to the GCSP.
Factors prompting the agenda of Convention were the awareness that it was long since past time that women were accepted full members of the Church and should be a part of the governing body. In addition were the War on Poverty and the emergence of the Black Power Movement. Prior to convention one member of our staff, Leon Modeste, had taken the Presiding Bishop, John HInes, here and here, on a tour of Bedford-Stuyvesent in Brooklyn. Leon had come to our staff from Youth Consultation Services, an agency in the Diocese of Long Island.
In Seattle enthusiasm was high in support of the action being taken by Convention. A rally was held in a local park attended by a contingent of young people carrying signs: we love you big John. A special convention was called to address the Black Power movement. Everett was at that convention but I was not. At the next regularly scheduled Convention women were seated as delegates.
When John Hines tenure as Presiding Bishop was ended the General Convention Special Program was terminated as was the Department of Experimental and Specialized Ministries as we had been renamed. All of the staff except one person were dismissed. Everett came to the Diocese of Bethlehem. I remained in New York for a while.
ST. MARK'S IN THE BOWERY [written by Eric Snyder, posted 8-31-2016 by Bill Lewellis] Seeing the picture of Julian Bond at a peace rally at St. Mark's in the Bowery called to mind the part St. Mark's was in our life as a family. I was never actually on staff at St. Mark's though Michael Allen sometimes referred to me as his unpaid assistant. Each member of the family was to some degree involved in the parish.
When we first came to St. Mark's they were still trying to maintain some of its Dutch heritage. There was the annual Tulip Festival. I am sure that our daughters, Kristin and Mary, were the last little Dutch girls Deaconess Ramsey could find to take part in the Klompen Tanzen.
St. Mark's had a rich history. It was the first parish in Manhattan to be organized independently of Trinity Church. Other churches had been organized as chapels of Trinity. The two Indians, Inspiration and Aspiration flanking the front gate, give testimony to the parish's history of supporting the arts as well as its involvement in the social issues of the day.
Under the leadership of Michael Allen and with support of a creative and committed staff including Steve Facey and Nell Gibson the parish was deeply involved in the civil rights movement and the anti war movement. A delegation from the congregation was at every one the marches on Washington.
Other areas of activity for the parish included the arts programs which lead to the opening up of the building to a greater variety of uses. The upstairs in the parish hall became the home of Theater Genesis. The Church space was opened up to make it more easily used for a variety of purposes.
The new worship space provided the opportunity to be creative as well. The altar was moved to the center of the space with congregation assembled around it. We experimented with the liturgy producing the 'St. Mark's Liturgy'. That was the cause of the Auden letter; especially curious since he had part in producing the Liturgy. Perhaps he finally became aware that we were being serious. That, however, is another story.
Generally I supplied for Sunday services when Michael Allen was away. On one such Sunday the first Black Power demonstration took place. I arrived to find the Black Liberation Flag displayed along the wall behind the altar being guarded by a brother standing at attention. No one seemed surprised. I decided to then continue as normal. In the experimental liturgy we were using, the peace was passed at the beginning, No one approached the guard. At communion he did not receive. I never found out why the action took place when the rector was on vacation.
The flag remained where it was for a time. A Black and Brown Caucus was formed. Brother Calvin, as we found was the name of the guard, became a member of the caucus and an active member of the St. Mark's community. Little changed except perhaps the ordering of priorities. We had always been active in areas of concern to the caucus. The major difference was, however, in the character of the leadership.
When Michael Allen left to become dean of Berkeley Divinity School, the assisting priest who was Hispanic was retained as priest in charge. Our family also left about the same time. St. Mark's has continued to struggle with its identity. Much of the old leadership has continued. The Lower East Side has changed considerably placing new challenges on the parish which has tried to minister to its community.
When considering the coming presidential election, I am reminded of the campaign of 1968 … [posted 09-22-2016 by Bill Lewellis] In 1968 (Wikipedia) we had been at war far too long in a conflict that many of us thought we should not have engaged in at the outset. The peace movement had gained strength to a large extent among young new voters. The established political structure effectively shut it down as a political movement. We are again engaged in a conflict that many of us feel we should never have initiated. There are other issues as well. It is, however, again a movement made up of many new voters that has been suppressed by the established political structure. The danger is that many of these new voters will show their displeasure by sitting out the general election.
My first vote was for Harry Truman. (1948, Henry Wallace was the progressive party candidate.) Many of my friends including some of the faculty at Union Seminary where I was a student voted for Wallace. Indeed if the rest of the electorate were like those at Union, Wallace might well have been President. I became convinced that to vote for Wallace was as good as voting for the opposition. Never did an election make it more clear that every vote counted.
In 1950 I was in California then working at Douglas Aircraft and was a union shop steward. Helen Douglas was running for the Senate. I had become acquainted with her when as a member of Congress she would visit our college campus. I volunteered to work with a group that was working on her campaign. The leader of the group was Frank Mankiewicz. I was surprised to discover him to be only a year older than I. At his leadership I was introduced to the Workmen's Circle. The center I believe must have been in Santa Monica since that was our area of concern. Our purpose was to enlist their support.
Helen Douglas was described as a socialist and her voting record in congress was compared to that of Vito Marcantonio, a congressman from East Harlem and identified as a Democratic Socialist. Parenthetically, Marcantonio started out as a Laguardia Republican. Helen Douglas was a person of too much integrity to enter into the kind of campaign that was waged against her. Frank Mankiewicz described her as too much of a lady to engage in that kind of a campaign.
Returning to the present it is clear to anyone who has had contact with the old Workmen's Circle it should come as no surprise that a Socialist Jew from Brooklyn having spent time in his Youth on a Kibbutz should have the most reasonable view of the conflict in the Near East and of that between Israel and the Palestinians. However one may have been involved in the primary there are now two major candidates. A vote for either of the lesser candidates will be a vote not cast for one of the two.
Tenth Anniversary of the death of Jean Snyder … [Written by Eric Snyder, posted by Bill Lewellis, Jan. 29, 2017] On February 2, Candlemas, Jean will have been gone for 10 years. I have been taking time off from the current events (more of that another time) to reminisce.
I first met Jean when she was a student at UCLA majoring in Theater Arts. She had recently transferred there from Redlands where she had been a music major. We were married before she had completed requirements for Her BA. She completed her studies while we were in Hop Bottom and earned her MS in Speech Therapy at Bloomsburg.
When we met Jean and a friend were renting a beach cottage in Ocean Park and attended church at Good Shepherd in Venice and that is where we were married. After that we attended St. Matthew's church in Pacific Palisades where I had been a member and where we rented a small house in Temescal Canyon.
Jean was baptized and Grew up in the Episcopal church. Her Father had been a Church organist. When I met her he was the organist at the church in Studio City. She had taken an active role in the young people's activities in Diocese of Los Angeles. I have a transcript of her radio message to the young people of the Diocese Melbourne Australia on their 100th anniversary.
Jean would tell of her days in the children's choir when after practice she and a friend would sneak back in the church taking turns playing priest. She was an active supporter of women's ordination . We went together to the ordination of the women in Philadelphia. She was delighted see our daughter in law ordained here in the Diocese of Long Island.
I have no doubt that Jean would have been at the Women's March. I don't think we ever missed one of the marches on Washington in the past. Our younger son jokes that he is one of the few infants to have been carried to a march on Washington.
Jean was a cradle Episcopalian, a Meglan Kiddie (my daughter still has her costume) active and committed to her Church. Jean loved music. I can still hear her strong alto voice singing her favorite hymns. When a few years back we were in Bethlehem in the Shepherd's Chapel we began to sing 'Angels We Have Heard on High'. All I could hear was Jean's voice singing the Glorias.
Some times it is hard to realize that 10 years have passed and at times it seems forever.
My work with the Diocese of San Joaquin … [Written by Eric Snyder, posted by Bill Lewellis, March 8, 2017]
Good morning, Bill. There is so much to be anxious about these days so perhaps it it is time to look at some good things. Hence the following.
There much good news of late coming from the Diocese of San Joaquin. We can thank Rick Cluett for his good work in helping to bring healing to that diocese.
I am sure he did not know of my association with that area. I spent many days during my childhood on a farm in Tulare. I spent early mornings hunting frogs in Tulare Lake with my brother and cousin. Yes, in those days there was a lake.
This was the time before Rural Electrification. There was water in the house and barn because of a wind pump. A wood fire kept us warm in winter. In the summer the only place that was cool was the movie house in town.
Many a happy time was spent picnicking at Mooney's Grove in Visalia. It was also the regular stopping of place for trips to Sequoia National Park. We camped there often. As an older Teenager I Hiked the Sierra Trail from Giant Forest.
Perhaps because of this association I was assigned to work with the Diocese of San Joaquin when I was on the staff at 815. I worked particularly with several parishes In developing programs for the aging.
Remember that this was the time of the grape boycott in support of the farm worker's union. None of us at 815 were popular because of our support for the farm workers. I was able, I believe, to establish a positive relationship with Bishop Rivera. I am convinced that he never would have led his Diocese out of the Church.
When our work at 815 was terminated by the Executive Council the only one to take note of my departure was Bishop Rivera. He wrote a gracious letter in which he said that though we never agreed on anything when I visited I was always willing to listen. He added that he was always grateful for that.
I am grateful for the healing that is evident in the diocese in the valley. Their recent election of the bishop by a unanimous vote is particularly gratifying. The Church can be a place of strength in the the midst of the problems that continue challenge those living in the central valley in California. We pray that the Church can be a source of strength for all of us.