Episode 2 - Good Will
People popped up in Richard’s life along the way and gave him direction. Call this vocation, good will, or “breaking the spell”—it altered the course of his life. When Mrs. Masek, a neighbor in the tenement building where Richard lived, recommended Good Will Sunday School, little did Richard or his mother Henrietta know it would open up the world to him.
Good Will Sunday School was part of the outreach mission of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church to the families living in the tenements on Manhattan’s East Side. The archivists at the Presbyterian Historical Society located the church bulletin from May 19, 1939, when Richard was nine years old. It includes a sermon by the pastor, Dr. George Buttrick, recounting 100 years of history of the church. Several of the people who figured largely in Richard’s childhood are noted:
“When Dr. Coffin came, the railroad tracks still ruled Park Avenue. He and Miss Weir and Mr. W.W. Hall, the latter still serving devotedly in our Goodwill Branch as well as on the Session, followed moving vans around this neighborhood in quest of new members. Mr. R.E. Lewis came as a lay leader in 1911 serving this church loyally until his death last fall. Miss Harriet Andrus came about the same time: As we watch her present energy we find ourselves trying to recon how fast she traveled when she first joined our staff.”
Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church history https://www.mapc.com/about-mapc/history/
Presbyterian Historical Society https://www.history.pcusa.org/
“Savanna” by Xylo-Ziko https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Xylo-Ziko/
Conversations between a dad and his children capture the sheer joy of talking, singing, and laughing with Richard, a man of simple pleasures, expansive intelligence, historical perspective, and progressive politics. In Season 1, Richard is living under lockdown in his senior living residence during the coronavirus pandemic. It tells the story of Richard’s resilience and of the family’s efforts to ease the psychic impact of his isolation. In Season 2, Margaret asks Richard why he talked so much about vocation when she was growing up. Richard offers the wide arc of his theological understanding—from the need to care for working people to the cosmic Spirit that holds the universe together. They decided to devote an entire podcast season to vocation.