Every time I talk with my friend Julian Rush, I learn something new.
When he called last Saturday afternoon, it was to ask about Kate and Dmitri, and how they liked living in his home state of Mississippi. I shared several high points and not-so’s, noting that the racial divide has both saddened Kate and kept her searching.
Having grown up in the South during the 50s and 60s, Julian gently commented that progress has been slow, but there has been progress. He said he remembered asking his mother, as a child, why the man so fiercely dedicated to his family had to drink out of a Mason jar…and why the new maid was told to lift the toilet seat and sit on the porcelain. The answer was, that’s just the way we do things.
“Even as a little boy,” he said, “I knew this was wrong. We were a good, loving Christian family. Why was this just the way?”
Julian’s way through this lifetime has helped change inequity in another dimension—that of gender rights. If you lived in Colorado during the early 1980s, you may remember him as the Boulder Methodist minister who would not lie when asked if he was gay. It was a national first and a personal crucible. For his response took him through a whirlwind…setting him down in Kansas as a tire salesman when the church refused his request to continue as a member of the pastorate.
When he returned to Denver a few years later, it was to lead the Colorado AIDS Project, and he did so with power and purpose. It was there I first met him. Prior to his retirement, he headed a national group working to advance end-of-life rights and choices.
If you’re familiar with contemporary hymns, you may have heard—or sung—one of Julian’s. (Yes, he’s a composer, too.) It’s called “In the Midst of New Dimensions,” and it is a hymn of inclusiveness. You can hear it performed at The Church of the Pilgrimage in Massachusetts at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=259674709378148323#
Julian told me recently that the Methodist church initially requested to include it in their hymnal, but asked that it be published under a pseudonym. His name was just too controversial. Julian told them no. Some 15 years later, the song’s in there.
The fact that our hour-long talk ended just minutes before the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal was one sweet synchronicity for me. Brought to mind the lyric from Julian’s hymn that I love:
“God of rainbow, fiery pillar,
leading where the eagles soar,
we your people, ours the journey, now and ever,
now and ever,
now and evermore.”
© 1985. Julian B. Rush