This is the story of feeling very unwelcome in my own home town.
CBS News came to town in the spring of 1990 to do a story about men and women with children who marry people who also have children. My editor asked me to go to a church and photograph the video news crew covering this story. It seemed like an interesting piece for our paper to do, with only the usual two flaws. 1) It was the media covering itself, and 2) It sort of smacked of small-town hicks getting excited because big-city tv people were visiting. As I write this, I don’t want to name the church where they were filming, and saying that it was a Baptist church doesn’t narrow it down much. Let’s just say it was Ada’s biggest church, and let readers surmise the rest.
At the time if this event, I was getting to know my second 20mm lens, which in the film days was in the class known as ultra-wideangle. I had it on one of the cameras when I left the office, and was looking forward to using it.
The crew was already working when I arrived, filming the rehearsal of the wedding slated for the next day. Everyone seemed busy, and since the crew was taking sound, I thought it best to begin working and stay quiet. As always, I shot first from a distance, with my 105mm. I picked up this habit from working breaking news scenes where I might get thrown out for safety or other reasons, so I shoot with a longer lens as I approach, so I won’t go home empty-handed. Then I moved closer and shot a bit with my 35mm, then finally got up on the stage with the crew and make some nice close-in stuff with the 20mm. As I stood there, one camera operator moving toward me from my right reached out and touched my arm, which I correctly interpreted to mean he needed to move where I stood, so I got out of the way.
I made a few more images, then stepped outside to walk the four blocks back to my office. Within a few seconds, a woman, who did not identify herself, came out behind me and called my name. I turned around and said something like, “Yes, ma’am?”
“I want you to know that you will never be welcome in this church again.”
I, uh… what? I literally stood there with my mouth open for a few seconds. Did she really just say that? Why?
To this day, no one at Ada’s biggest church has ever explained why someone, speaking as their representative, told me I would never be welcome again. Nor has anyone at that church ever, not once, told me I was welcome.
This, faithful readers, is the kernel of Christian fellowship. I am not welcome.
About that time, the camera crew and CBS News correspondent Erin Moriarty came out also, having finished shooting inside the church. I had a cordial chat with all three of them, and they were just as puzzled as I was that this church would be so hostile and unaccommodating, so my behavior with the news crew obviously wasn’t the problem. (I thought of this story last night as my wife and I watched 48 Hours Mystery, which was narrated last night by Moriarty.)
So for the last 21 years, I have regarded Ada’s largest church as a place where, while I sometimes go there to do my photo assignments, I am not welcome.