Into the Deep: A Bishop's Life in the Cityby Paul Moore
In his highly readable memoirs, Episcopal bishop and human rights activist Paul Moore writes movingly of the presence of God in his life and stresses the importance of the Church's witness against poverty and injustice. Photos. 400 pp. Four-city author tour. National publicity. 25,000 print. See more details below
In his highly readable memoirs, Episcopal bishop and human rights activist Paul Moore writes movingly of the presence of God in his life and stresses the importance of the Church's witness against poverty and injustice. Photos. 400 pp. Four-city author tour. National publicity. 25,000 print.
Born in 1919, Moore was the youngest of four children in a wealthy Yankee family, with a remote father and a loving but frail mother. His childhood was spent shuttling between the family's New Jersey home, an apartment on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, and a summer residence in Palm Beach, Fla. Following family tradition, he boarded at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, where he was drawn to High Church spirituality and had a profound experience of God's presence when he first went to confession. In 1937, again following family custom, he went off to Yale, and when war came he joined the marines. Wounded while serving in the Solomon Islands, he was sent home, and married and studied for ordination at New York's General Theological Seminary, where he was influenced by such luminaries of the time as Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr. After ordination, he began expressing a commitment to civil rights, forming close personal and financial links with the NAACP, and worked to change the orientation of the Episcopal Church toward social action. In 1963, he became suffragan bishop of Washington, D.C., where he wielded influence on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Subsequently, as the bishop of New York, Moore was a leader in agitating against the Vietnam War. He also worked to admit practicing gays and lesbians to the ranks of the Episcopal clergy and advocated for recognizing the plight of the homeless. Moore writes well, sharing his private thoughts with the reader and offering brief but moving details of his family life. Very much a '60s figure, Moore comes to guilt naturally over his wealthy upbringing and his church's social elitismand he handles the guilt graciously.
A revealing portrait of this controversial and influential Anglican.
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Read an Excerpt
A SILVER SPOON
I write these memoirs gazing out of a window in Greenwich Village. We are on a quiet street of brick and brownstone houses. How fortunate I am to be here now. Looking back on my gilded childhood, I find it strange that my convictions--convictions that will not let me go--should have become part of me. And yet I can see some of the roots of these ideals of social justice in those early years, and I can trace from those roots the vocation that led to my becoming a bishop.
Memorial Day, 1929, Morristown, New Jersey. Early in the morning, bathed and scrubbed, I was fitted into the khaki severity of my Wolf Cub uniform. (A Wolf Cub is a junior Boy Scout.) I was nine years old, and I felt most important. My mother anti my nurse made sure the neckerchief was straight, the shirt buttoned. The butler, who had served in the British Army in World War 1, was summoned to cast his seasoned military eye over my appearance. Finally, I was presented as a young patriot for my father's approval.
The car was waiting. The chauffeur gave me an approving grin, and we drove up the driveway and downtown to the fairgrounds, where all the Scouts of Morris County were rendezvousing before the parade. My few little friends and I distanced ourselves from our mothers and tried to look nonchalant.
Soon, we heard the band warming up, the tubas pumping. Other troops fell in, and our scoutmaster, Mr. Pfeiffer, blew his whistle; we came to attention and were given last-minute instructions about saluting the reviewing stand and any flag we passed try. The band boomed out a great Sousa march, and we followed up the hill proudly. The parade passed our school on Elm Street. Mt. Peck, the headmaster, and Mrs. Peck waved solemnly as we went by. The column turned up South Street, past St. Peter's Church, to the war memorial. Here we stood at attention and recited the Pledge of Allegiance in front of the flag and, in the silence that followed, felt the great responsibility that it bestowed.
The ceremonies continued. The names of those who had died in the service of our country were read, a prayer of thanksgiving for their heroic sacrifices recited. The climax was the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by my friend David's mother, Mrs. Dennis, an understudy of the famous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. As she reached the highest note, my young soul was moved beyond words.
The little boy in the Scout uniform was the products of a long line of Yankees who had migrated many times before my parents reached Morristown. My father's father grew up in Greene, New York, a village northwest of Binghamton, where he was a banker and justice of the peace. His grandmother, Rachel Beckwith, came from an old Connecticut family; one of her ancestors was an original Yale trustee, and another owned the land on which Yale built its first buildings in New Haven. The first Moore we know of in America was Alexander Moore, constable of New York in the 1730s and a member of the vestry of Trinity Church, Wall Street.
My grandmother Adelia "Ada" Small Moore's family lived in Maine, where Small Point still bears that name. In 1852, they moved to Galena, Illinois, a thriving Mississippi River town where my grandmother spent her girlhood. She recalls President Grant, a friend of her father's, taking her on his lap at a dinner, and bidding him farewell on his way to the White House. With the advent of railroads, Mr. Small left Galena for Chicago and the greater opportunities this growing city would afford an ambitious lawyer. My grandfather, meanwhile, having attended Amherst College, traveled west to Puget Sound seeking adventure. In those days, the railroad ended in Kansas; from there, he had to ride on horseback. He entered the her in Puget Sound and, after a few years, rode back to Montana, where he came to know Sitting Bull. The story comes down that Sitting Bull told him to leave, for there soon would he trouble with the white man--and so he left for Chicago, where he joined Mr. Small's firm and married Small's daughter. Grandfather was most successful in business and moved to New York in 1900. His house, designed by Stanford White, still stands at 4 East Fifty-fourth Street in Manhattan.
My mother's family settled in New Lisbon, Ohio, in the early 1800s, having come from Vermont, where my great-great-grandmother, Rachel Hanna, is said to have held an entire pack of wolves at bay with her steadfast gaze as she hurried home from a neighbor's house. The family later moved to Cleveland, where the Hannas organized the successful mining establishment M. A. Hanna Company.
My father courted my mother on the portch of the old Oceanside Hotel in Magnolia on the North Shore of Massachusetts, attracted by her beauty, charm, and her championship tennis. He never kissed her until they were engaged. Soon after he graduated from Yale, they were married and moved to Morristown. I was born there in 1919 and grew up with my older brother, Bill, and two older sisters, Polly and Fanny.
In those days, Morristown was a small country town, civic-minded and proud of its heritage: George Washington had wintered there. Because of the beauty of the countryside and the convenient commute to New York on the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad, in the early twentieth century several very rich families built elaborate English-style estates there. Our family was one of them.
When my grandfather died, in 1922, my father ceased practicing law in order to look after the family interests in the companies my grandfather had helped to found, including the National Biscuit Company, the American Can Company, Bankers Trust Co., and the Lackawanna Railroad.
I recount this family background because it instilled in me a faith in America and an old-fashioned kind of patriotism. In later years, when I became engaged in progressive movements, I never lost this deep trust in our country, nor did I ever wish radically to overturn the established order.
The books I read as a boy extolled the same simple patriotism--The Rover Boys, Tom Swift, With Kit Carson in the Rockies, Davy Crockett--as did the movies we saw. On Friday evenings, we children would go to the movies, accompanied by one of our nannies. We were each allowed a box of Charms as we settled down to Pathe News, Felix the Cat, a Laurel and Hardy short, and then the main feature. Our favorites were the Rin Tin Tin movies, which showed a brave police dog (as we then called German shepherds) fighting in the trenches of World War I with our boys. The climax came when one of our soldiers went over the top to rescue a wounded comrade and was wounded himself; Rin Tin Tin sensed there was trouble and by barking and tugging at khaki trouser legs brought help. In the process, of course, the dog was also wounded. The moral was crystal clear: even dogs would risk their lives for their country!
Every night, before I went to sleep, my Scottish nurse, Jean Watson, would read me a story and listen to my prayers. "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Our Father, who art in heaven ... God bless Mummy and Daddy and Billy and Polly and Fanny, and make me a good boy." I believed God was right there. Jean also taught me the Creed and the Ten Commandments, and my mother took me to church every Sunday. How boring, I thought. But I prayed for our country, anti I kept in mind the end of the Scout's law "A Scout is brave, clean, and reverent." The Scout's handbook had a picture of a clean-looking Scout leaning against a pew in front of a stained-glass window. God and our country were all but indistinguishable.
In this way, I soaked up a political point of view: simplistic, conservative, unquestioning. Only in later years, when I first saw the ugly side of conservatism through the eyes of the poor people of Jersey City, did I become more liberal at heart. And it was not until I faced the reality of the war in Vietnam that my blind childlike patriotism began to disappear.
As a little troy, I was sick a good deal. All I wanted to do was lie in bed, where my Jean would wait on me and worry over her "poor, wee lamb." I was given beef broth, enemas--humiliating and painful--and, if nothing else worked, a dose of castor oil in a glass with orange juice, which did little to disguise the slimy stuff. Sometimes I had feverish dreams, in which a large, gray balloonlike cloud descended on me from above, repeating louder and louder: "I am the biggest thing in the world! I am the biggest thing in the world! I am the biggest thing in the world!!" Finally Jean would rush into the room to comfort me. I can still see her in her curlers and pink flannel nightgown. I knew my mother loved me, and she was soft and tender, but Jean I could always trust to be there when I needed her.
Jean told me often that she had given her life to the care of us children and never regretted it. She was great fun with her Scottish songs and her endless willingness to play games, but she worried constantly about us; if I was out late she would become so anxious that she would throw up. This obsessive attachment felt like prison.
My mother was a remarkable woman in many ways. Her guernsey herd was one of the finest in the country; her dalmatians were champions; she drove our champion hackney, Seaton Pippin, to best in show five times in Madison Square Garden. She was beloved by all who knew her for her charm and her good works, her enthusiasm and sense of humor.
Although I am sure she did not realize what she was doing, she imprisoned me as well. Mother was sick a good deal: she had neuralgia, what we would now call migraine headaches. I remember her lying on the sofa in her bedroom in a purple silk wrapper. Mother's room had a special smell, a lavender aroma from her perfume and from the sachets in her lingerie drawers. Twin canopy beds faced a fireplace. Large windows looked out on the garden on one side and the woods on the other, tall tulip trees in a stately grove through which you could see the lower pastures. On the floors were hooked rugs; the tables and a few chairs were American antiques of maple, pine, and cherry. Two easy chairs and a sofa were covered in chintz. I particularly remember her dressing table of tiger maple and the mirror above it, in which she placed the schedule of hunt meets for the season. Luster pitchers and cups stood in a corner cupboard and little china snuffboxes and ashtrays were on the tables. The room was large and sunny. By the time I was seven, my older sisters and brother had gone to boarding school; for all intents and purposes, I was and only child until I went to St. Paul's School at the age of twelve.
When Mother was feeling well enough, I would curl up beside her and she would read to me. The books she chose seemed magical: Knock Three Times, about a boy who entered another world by knocking on a tree; The Princess and the Goblins, about a little girl who followed a thread when she was lost in a cave; Black Beauty; The Secret Garden; and Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Sometimes, when nothing was planned for the day, she would say, "How about an adventure?" The word adventure held a special meaning, because that is what my storybook friends Uncle Wiggly and Jimmy Skunk were always having. Off we would go in the pony cart, a little two-wheeled red-and-black rig called a Meadowbrook, perhaps to Mr. Leible's nursery to pick up some pansies for the playhouse garden. Sometimes a cow blocked our path.
Thus were the silken threads of love woven around me. But with love came guilt. If these women who loved me so much gave their very lives to me, I had to pay them back by being a good little boy. I still find myself reacting in the same way, by being compulsively conscientious. I seem to need to pay something back to others, even to God. I suppose this tendency was a part of what drove me to the ministry and to the particular kind of ministry I chose to follow.
My friends and I played cops and robbers, kick the can, golf, and tennis, and all were great fun. But I was anxious and fearful when I played football or baseball; having been coddled so much as a child, I was afraid of being hurt. My brother attempted to toughen me up by teaching me to box. My sister Polly taught me to ride. I adored my older sister Fanny, but she went away to school when I was very young.
My father was home much of the time. I knew he loved me, but he was distant and rarely played catch with me or did other fatherly things. I never remember sitting in his lap. He sat in a big chair in the library, read, or listened to the radio. He drank a great deal but never seemed drunk; he would become slower in his speech, repeat his stories about salmon fishing or shooting a bull moose, then doze off. As I grew older, it was harder and harder for me to have a good conversation with him.
We were taught clearly what was right and wrong: never lie, never steal, don't bully, be generous, doll's be a crybaby, cleanliness is next to godliness. However, the message we received about social values was confused. Charity was a good thing. Mother sat on countless charitable boards: the Visiting Nurse Association, the Women's Exchange, the Memorial Hospital, the women's auxiliary at church, the Audubon Society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and so on. My father established a fund to improve undergraduate teaching at Yale and gave generously to St. Paul's School. He was flattered that the austere rector asked to be called Sam; they would smoke cigars in the walled garden of the rectory, speaking of ways in which Dad could help the school.
Politics at home were rock-ribbed Republican. My mother's uncle was Mark Hanna, the GOP boss in the time of President William McKinley; Grandfather Moore was a prominent industrialist. Their Republicanism was not ideological (not "right wing" as we now understand it) but business oriented. My father believed that the success of our country depended on free enterprise and that the Republican Party was favorable to enterprise. He could not stand labor unions and was shocked when a Roman Catholic, Al Smith, ran for president. Once a year, the local head of the Republican Party would stop by our library and sit down nervously as Dad unloaded his views and negotiated his annual gift to good government--the Republican Party!
We were admonished to finish whatever was on our plate: "Think of the starving Armenians," we were told. Clearly, we were supposed to help those less fortunate than we, and yet not only did we live in a most extravagant way, but a real class system was part of our daily life. We had servants who worked for us in the house and on our "gentleman's farm." How we all ate our meals was symbolic. Mother's secretary was served on a tray in her office. She did not eat with the family nor with the servants. Our Scottish nurse and my sisters' French governess ate with the children and try mother when we had breakfast or lunch but never when my father was at the table. The butlers, maids, and cooks ate in the servants' dining room in the back hall. The cow barn, the farm, the chicken yard, and the vegetable garden each had hierarchies of their own, and the people who took care of them existed in a clearly understood but unspoken social structure. We grew up in this milieu and took it for granted that that was the way things were. We played with the children of the groom but, for some reason, not with the children of the herdsman. Perhaps that was his choice.
We became good friends with many of the help. One of the chauffeurs threw pop flies for me on warm spring evenings. The grooms tirelessly taught us how to ride--how to gentle our way with our ponies, how to sit straight with toes in, and, when we were older, how to jump. "Lean forward," Bob Christie would say. "Throw your heart over the fence and follow it."
The captain of our boat, "Cap" Lockwood, who was around in the winter in Florida and in the summer at my grandmother's house in Prides Crossing, Massachusetts, was something of a father to me. He must have figured out that I was overprotected, for he never missed a chance to get me out from under my nurse. He took me sailfishing off Palm Beach, for instance. I had had luck for several years and never caught one of those great fish; nonetheless, day after day, we would troll across the purple Gulf Stream, watching the birds, seeing the flying fish, chasing a distant splash. Suddenly a great fin came up behind the bait. It's a sailfish," Cap yelled. Now be careful, don't jerk the line--wait till he strikes, and then let him run with it." I felt a sharp tug on the line. I let the reel run. Faster and faster the line went out. Cap shouted, "Okey, put on the brake. Strike him." The brake went on, the line went taut, and I was almost pulled out of the chair. I sank the hook and out of the water jumped an enormous fish, and then, even though the brake was on, he continued to run and jump and dance across the water--my first sailfish.
Fishing is still one of my passions; the water of the sea or of a stream, the washing of my mind by the wind, the lovely, wandering emptiness of my thinking, occupied enough not to stray into worry, but free enough to follow memories and fantasies, I love the sightings, the smellings, the feel of the wood of the boat or the rough surface of a solid rock.
Sometimes, the delicate balance between the family and those who worked for us broke down, such as the dreadful moment when my friend and I were having a fight with Charlie Benham, one of the sons of the herdsman, and I shot him with my BB gun. And Christmas was excruciating. In the afternoon, all of the help and their families would arrive at the house, all dressed up. Mother had a present for every person, every child. We Moore children, dressed up as well, stood awkwardly as Mother called off their names. Then we would hand out the presents to polite thank-yous and forced smiles. It was an agony of embarrassment. I am sure their children were as embarrassed as I.
I suspect my embarrassment arose from feeling that there was something not right about all this. All year long, everyone "stayed in their place" and did not come into the house unless their work brought them there, but on Christmas they were treated as equals, though not quite. Billy MacKenzie, the son of the groom, was one of my playmates. We climbed trees together, rode bikes, wondered about sex, smoked cigarettes I would steal from the silver boxes in the house--and yet here he was, in suit and tie, shaking my hand and respectfully thanking me for his present.
The adults treated me in a respectful but affectionate way. MacKenzie, the groom, was Scottish; Plowright, the butler, cockney English; Mr. Cowell, the farmer who always wore a tie even at work, country English; Tony, who took care of the vegetable garden, Italian; John Czap, the carpenter, Czechoslovakian; Mr. Creighton, the head gardener, Scottish and a man of some stature in the community. Some were called "Mr.," some by their last names, some by their first names, another subtlety of the hierarchy. As a small act of democratic rebellion, I called them all by their first name. For their part, most of them addressed me as "Master Paul." My grandmother's butler, Higgs, kept up this custom for years, ad absurdum: first I was Master Paul, then Mr. Paul Jr., then Lieutenant Paul, then Captain Paul, then Reverend Paul, and finally, Bishop Paul.
Thus was I introduced to the inconsistency of my own family's value structure. My mother unwittingly brought it to my attention. She would buy purebred guernsey cows, hackney horses, dalmatian dogs; she collected antiques and cultivated an exquisite garden--yet she always saved the ribbons from Christmas presents to use the following year. She would often say how guilty she felt "with all this"--sweeping her arm in a great arc, as if to sweep all this, all her guilt, away. My father, however, did not have a guilty bone in his body.
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