In the summer of 1983, AIDS came crashing into my life. I was forty-one years old.
The memoir reflects upon my small-town roots, beginning in Southern Illinois as the son of a Pentecostal preacher who was, by day, a coal miner. It examines how these roots influenced me to build two ministries in the Episcopal Church that served people with AIDS and their care-givers. It begins with my fumbling through early discoveries of my own sexuality, and juxtaposes this with my ordination process. In 1981, I came out as a Gay man at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington DC, which set the stage for the vital role that I would play in the building of a ministry that served those afflicted with AIDS. While homosexuality was not accepted in the broader Church, my coming out did foster support as I formed the AIDS ministry.
As many died, and I plunged into service through my ministry, my relationship with my Life Partner came to an end. In addition, alcohol had become a reliable source of relief from stress. So, while my passion for healing spurred me on, I realized that this priest had to heal himself in the process. It was at this point that I sought refuge in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and attained sobriety.
One of the gifts of sobriety was my meeting and falling in love with a man who became the love of my life. This man happened to have full blown AIDS. In spite of the tragedy and horror that surrounded us, we managed to have two of the most meaningful and significant, loving years of our lives. His death only spurred a deeper commitment to my mission, a mission that would lead me through many ups and downs in terms of my own understanding of human frailty – within myself, and in the people I served.
Ordained by Angels reflects not only upon the real life Angels who helped me build my ministries, but the Spiritual forces that are always available to us, especially in times of desperation and need. This is the story of how, in the midst of one of the most significant health crises of the twentieth century, love not only survived: it thrived. In the end it was love that pulled me through, just as it sustains me in facing the challenges of today.
Miraculously, I lived to tell this story. Now the story lives through me and is yours as well.