Our service ended with a Eucharist, celebrated at an
imposing altar. I
learned to make my gestures big, to open my arms wide, to lift the cup
above my head. What I never quite got the hang of was the chanting.
Vogan is one of the most dedicated church members I know. Every Sunday, 15
minutes before the prelude begins, he climbs up into our soaring, Gothic tower
with one goal: to set our 2,020-pound church bell into full swing. Then, for
ten whole minutes, the Old South bell calls all of Boston to pray.
William Robeson, a former slave and father of civil rights leader and singer Paul Robeson, became pastor of the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1879. After 21 years of service, white members of the presbytery forced him out because of his outspoken efforts to end racism and repeal Jim Crow laws in Princeton. The congregation had to sell the manse due to loss of funding. The church repurchased the manse in 2005 and turned it into the Paul Robeson House, a meeting place to advance human rights. In an act of racial reconciliation, the Synod of the Northeast is clearing the debt of $175,000 that remains on the mortgage held by the congregation (PCUSA, November 13).