Wrought Iron Gates
At a California church, a sort of holy war
BY ASHLEY POWERS
Under the glimmer of a fingernail moon, Christopher Kelley tiptoed toward a two-story, Spanish Mission-style building in Los Feliz. He and his crew were jittery. What if a security guard spotted them?
A few blocks away, late-night revelers mingled in trendy bars. But Kelley’s target was dark and hushed – exactly as he wanted.
The building’s front door was protected by a padlocked, wrought-iron gate. So the crew crept around back, sidestepping a few jugs of rainwater and a tomato plant. They strained to hear whether anyone had followed them.
Then a locksmith pried open the door.
Motion-sensitive lights flickered on. Kelley felt a rush of joy. For the first time in weeks, the priest was back inside his church.
St. Mary of the Angels is an Anglican parish embroiled in an odd sort of holy war.
On one side are the Rev. Kelley and his supporters, who say their rivals are resisting the parish’s efforts to join the Roman Catholic Church. On the other: parishioners and Anglican authorities who accused Kelley of wrongdoing, took him to court, ran him out of the church and changed the locks.
Church quarrels are frequently decided in courtrooms, particularly when property is involved. A few years back, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles took a dispute with a breakaway parish all the way to the California Supreme Court.
But the St. Mary’s saga is notable for its viciousness. The church has perhaps 60 members, and the bickering among them has been marked by incendiary accusations and screaming matches that often end with “God is on our side!” The parish itself became such a battleground that for a time community groups were shooed out and services canceled.
“Never in the annals of church history has it gone down quite like this,” said Canon Anthony Morello of the Anglican Church in America, which has sided with the group trying to oust Kelley.
Kelley arrived as parish priest in 2007, having been chosen by St. Mary’s elected board of directors. Now 65, he is white-haired, blue-eyed, slight in build. He speaks in a soft, somewhat grandfatherly tone.
“He was just so pleasant,” said former board member Keith Kang, now a leader of the rival faction.
Kelley and his family – the Anglican church allows married priests – had been living in Michigan, where he worked as an archivist. They relished the summery feel of Los Angeles and the parish’s only-in-Hollywood history. (Its founding priest, Neal Dodd, had bit parts in dozens of films. He usually played a clergyman.)
Kelley and his wife, Mary Alice, moved into the church cottage with two of their children. They embraced the eclectic mix of congregants, many of them converts from other faiths, and the church’s black cat, Vesper.
Somewhere along the way, the goodwill crumbled. The two sides can’t even agree on how.
Kelley says the troubles stem from his enthusiasm for joining the Roman Catholic Church, a door that Pope Benedict XVI recently opened for Anglican parishes. At Kelley’s urging, St. Mary’s members have twice voted to head down that path.
“We can see the dispiritedness of the Anglican movement,” Kelley said. “Pope Benedict’s offer was a sanctuary for us.”
Such a step would sever their ties to the Anglican Church in America, a group of conservative parishes that long ago broke with the larger and better-known Episcopal Church. Kelley portrayed the effort to remove him as a last-ditch attempt to remain in the Anglican fold.
Kelley’s adversaries said the dispute has little to do with faith. Instead, in court papers they described him as a tyrant who mishandled church money – allegedly paying a dental bill with parish funds – and who threatened to excommunicate those who crossed him. Kelley denied the allegations.
Several longtime parishioners had begged Anglican authorities to discipline him. Langley Brandt said in an email to a church official that Kelley was prone to “violent temper tantrums” in which “his face goes red, his hands stiffen and become like a skeleton, and he screams at you with eyes budging.”
In December, a majority of the parish board asked the priest to leave. He didn’t. In April, Anglican officials said they, too, tried to push him out.
Kelley said the bishop who wrote the letter suspending him had no authority to do so, and he continued leading church services.
Kelley’s last Sunday Mass in the sanctuary, on May 20, included a reading from the Gospel of John. It began “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
His rivals did not attend. In court papers, they alleged that Kelley staffed church services with security guards, forcing his adversaries to worship at a condominium complex. (He said that wasn’t the case.)
Soon after, they secured a temporary restraining order against the priest. It barred Kelley from acting as St. Mary’s rector, pending a hearing on the allegations. Church authorities also asked the court to do what they had been unable to: kick Kelley out for good.
One morning in mid-June, Kelley and about a dozen supporters streamed into a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. He wore black garb, a white collar and a small gold cross on his lapel; one of his supporters clutched white rosary beads.
During a brief hearing, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones dissolved the restraining order. Then she told the parties: Figure out the rest yourselves.
“Who the priest of this church is is not a question for the courts,” she said to smiles from the gallery. (None of Kelley’s foes had shown up. They were at the church.) The judge’s written ruling also said there was “no competent evidence” that Kelley had mishandled church funds.
Kelley’s supporters declared victory and rushed to St. Mary’s. They ran up to the wrought-iron gate, which had been locked. One woman noticed a sign listing Morello as the “priest-in-charge.” “Yuck,” she said.
Then the group waited. And waited.
Their smiles disappeared.
Eventually, they learned that their rivals had no plans to let them in.
Keith Kang’s wife, Diane, who was just arriving at the church, walked up to the priest.
“You know you’re fired, don’t you?” she snapped. He looked as if she’d slapped him.
Kang joined Pat Omeirs and other churchgoers in the parish’s front office, where they could peek out a window and keep tabs on Kelley’s group.
“Father Kelley is a rogue priest,” Omeirs said, his hands balled in frustration. “He has no respect for authority in the church.”
Kelley believed Jones’ ruling allowed him back into St. Mary’s. His adversaries countered that the judge had left the matter in the hands of the Anglican officials who want Kelley gone. And her ruling left just enough wiggle room for both sides to keep bickering.
“She never went so far as to say, ‘You have to give it back,’ ” said Kelley’s attorney, Alan Dettelbach.
The priest griped that Jones had washed her hands of the matter, “much like Pontius Pilate.”
The next day, another court hearing – and the arrival of two LAPD officers at the church, summoned by one of the sides – did little to break the stalemate.
“He’s going to rush the gates!” one of Kelley’s foes screeched as the priest’s group assembled.
One of the police officers turned around and sized up the priest and his band of mostly aging men. “They’re not going to rush the gates,” the officer said.
A woman cracked the gate just enough for the cops to slip through. After much discussion, the officers decided that the judge’s ruling offered them little guidance.
The next night, Kelley’s plan succeeded. Sort of.
After the locksmith let them in, Kelley’s group streamed into the church’s first floor, an unassuming space with a stage, a kitchen, a nursery and a children’s altar festooned with red roses. Presiding over the unlikely scene: a picture of Pope Benedict.
The group climbed stairs to another door, which leads to a long hallway. It’s close to the second-floor sanctuary where Kelley once preached. The locksmith opened the door. Kelley’s group peered down the hall.
At the other end: their rivals.
Both sides rushed to call 911. Kelley’s group retreated downstairs. They’ve been there in varying numbers ever since – one month and counting.
During the day, Kelley and his supporters, who come and go most days, pray for a cease-fire. At night, they take turns guarding the space, sometimes by napping on the stage. Meanwhile, they’ve filed their own lawsuit.
Their foes on the second floor, also protecting their turf in shifts, aren’t ceding ground, either. Keith Kang often carries a video camera to document any confrontations. And Morello, the Anglican official, said church authorities are taking steps to discipline Kelley via an ecclesiastical trial.
The other day, Kelley was sitting at a table, drumming his fingers on a Book of Common Prayer, when someone drew a parallel between the standoff and the biblical tale of King Solomon. The king settled a dispute between two women over a baby by threatening to slice the child in half; the woman willing to give up the baby to keep it safe was awarded custody.
It wasn’t Kelley who made the comparison or his supporters.
It was the armed security guard they’d hired.
Harpenden’s Diamond Jubilee Arch to be reinstalled
A DECORATIVE wrought-iron arch commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, taken down just five days after being placed over a Harpenden street, will be reinstalled after finally being given the go-ahead from district council.
The arch, commissioned by Harpenden Town Council (HTC) for several thousand pounds, had to be removed from Thompsons Close at the end of the Jubilee weekend as St Albans district council (SADC) had not granted planning permission.
District councillor and former mayor of Harpenden, Michael Weaver, who had agreed to its installation ahead of its consideration by SADC, said he was delighted the council’s planning committee north had approved the structure on Monday, July 9.
He went on: “The Queen needs a tribute and it will help regenerate Thompsons Close.”
Cllr Weaver said the Jubilee arch project was initiated more than six months ago, with funding and its siting agreed by the town council.
However just before Diamond Jubilee weekend celebrations started, he received a phone call one evening from the company which made the arch.
It said employees had worked around the clock to complete the project in time for the long weekend, and they were ready to install it straight away.
Cllr Weaver explained last month that he agreed to its placement “in the public interest” as he did not have time to consult the town clerk or new mayor Cllr Nicola Linacre.
He said: “It is in the public interest to show loyalty to the Queen.”
However he was warned the structure would have to be removed immediately as the arch did not have approval from SADC. It was taken down Wednesday, June 6.
A spokesman for HTC admitted shortly afterwards there had been a “miscommunication” as the planning application had been lodged with SADC, but the planning permission would take longer to come through than anticipated. He explained: “The town council has approved the street, the funding and the position of the arch, but we have to go through the process of obtaining approval, because it is in a Conservation Area.”
It’s Gategate! Wrought Iron Fence Doesn’t Protect Brooklyn Stoop Drinkers from Fines
By Sarah Grothjan
Andrew Rausa and two friends must have underestimated New York officials’ interest in regulating peoples’ drinking habits when they were given summonses for public drinking. Getting in trouble for drinking on your stoop is nothing new, but Mr. Rausa, a legal eagle, believes a humble fence gives him the right to imbibe, and he’s fighting back.
Two officers issued the summonses after witnessing Mr. Rausa and his companions drinking on their Brooklyn stoop, The New York Times reports.
“We were all kind of stunned for a second,” Mr. Rausa told The Times. “It happened over the gate. It was a very tangible physical divide–when they said the words ‘public property,’ it just didn’t make any sense.”
Mr. Rausa, who is entering his third year at Brooklyn Law School in the fall, said he used his iPhone to clarify what the New York administrative code defines as a public space. According to the code, it refers to anything “which the public or a substantial group of persons has access, including, but not limited to,” a park, sidewalk or beach.
Law background and iPhone in tow, Mr. Rausa vocalized his findings to one of the officers.
“I don’t care what the law says, you’re getting a summons,” the officer said, according to Mr. Rausa.
Instead of paying the mere $25 fines (and forever carrying a permanent mark on his record), Mr. Rausa told his friends to plead not guilty in an upcoming court proceeding, with Mr. Rausa representing himself.
“My issue,” Mr. Raussa said, “is not some yuppie, I-think-I’m-above-the-law issue. It’s the fact that I brought to the attention of the police officer that he was not in the right and he was not receptive at all.”
Sounds more like a know-it-all issue to us.
New stoush brewing over Erskine College
by NIKKI MACDONALD
Century-old pohutukawas spread splendidly above, but weeds smother the plantings, broken glass flecks the path. Even a water pipe has become a canvas for bored taggers.
The path’s destination is Island Bay’s Erskine College – the imposing Gothic building that for 79 years housed several hundred schoolgirls, moulding some of New Zealand’s top female minds: former Environment Court judge Shonagh Kenderdine; broadcaster Maggie Barry; comedienne Ginette McDonald; politician Winnie Laban; photographer Anne Noble.
Its gables stretch for the sky as they did when the building was opened in 1906, but sparrows now nest in the decaying eaves, windows are blocked with roofing iron, curtains are yellowed and ragged remnants. Inside, photos show pooled water and a box of historic hymn books turned pigeon’s nest.
On April 16, Wellington City Council declared Erskine College unsafe, reigniting a two-decade-old debate about the future of the four-storey college building and its adjoining chapel, which both carry the Historic Places Trust’s highest heritage status. The chapel is recognised as one of New Zealand’s finest Gothic spaces, its 14.5-metre rib-vaulted ceiling ranking with Old St Paul’s for architectural splendour.
The site’s owner, developer Ian Cassels’ The Wellington Company, wants to demolish the old school to build something usable, and vest the chapel in a trust, saying it’s no longer economically viable to strengthen the buildings.
to be continued
Garden gates open into private spaces
By Julie Robinson
They say “come on in” or “keep out.” They block a view or encourage a look at the space beyond. Once inside, occupants leave through them or are held inside. Their design is sometimes utilitarian and practical, sometimes artistic. They often reflect the owner’s personality or the space within the gate.
Charleston landscape designer Beth Loflin considers a gate’s purpose, the style of the home and the space beyond and whether the owner considers the gate a focal point or something that should blend into the garden when she works a gate into a design.
“A gate is the first object you see when you enter a space. It sets the tone,” she said. “It can be welcoming or not so welcoming.”
Loflin’s choice of a simple loop of rope instead of a sturdy latch to secure the picket wood gate into her own backyard reflects her personal message. “Everyone is welcome. All you have to do is lift the rope. Latches are too hard to work,” she said.
When Bill Mills, Charleston garden designer and general manager of TerraSalis, steps out of his car to open the gate on his driveway, he appreciates the transition from his home into the rest of the world and vice versa.
“Coming into the gate, I let myself into my own private refuge,” he said. “When I open it to leave, I peer out into the world beyond.”
He designed and built the substantial wooden gates that open into his secluded Fort Hill home and property. He first planned to build stone gate pillars, but was inspired by the simple wooden gates friends in Vermont chose for their property.
“They described them as unpretentious, which is perfect for my home,” he said.
A look into a few other Charleston backyards and gardens reveals a variety of styles, materials and purposes.
Donna and Steve Mallory’s gate is both artistic and functional. They commissioned blacksmiths Matt and Tessie Wallace to create unique gates into the courtyard entrance of their Fort Hill home. Their house number appears twice on the gate. An easily visible “400″ in the upper left provides clear identification. Upon closer examination, a more abstract “400″ can be seen in a large “4″ on the left gate and a circle within a circle that’s part of the geometric pattern on the right gate.
The imaginative design was long in the making. The Mallorys first talked about replacing the old wooden gate that kept their border collies in the hilltop yard of their contemporary home about five years ago. “We wanted something different that was easy to open and close. It had to be something our dogs couldn’t get through, but that our friends could operate,” said Donna, who labels herself “gate-impaired.”
Steve eventually found inspiration in the website of a graffiti artist whose geometric designs resonated with him. He drew a rough sketch. “I thought we could adapt something like that into a gate,” he said.
He showed the Wallaces his design of squiggles, numbers and geometric shapes, which they used to forge, weld and install the wrought-iron gates. Matt worked a small dragonfly into a corner of the taller gate when Donna mentioned that she liked dragonflies.
to be continued