Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Grace Hospital

One of my favorite TV shows is "Grey's Anatomy" which is set in a fictional Seattle hospital called Grace Hospital. Last night was the season finale so the local news afterwards did a little feature on the reality of it all. First of all, the scene where the heart was being rushed to Grace for transplant had the helicopter landing with the Space Needle looming large in the background. It looked quite real and my husband said, "There is not exactly a hospital with a helipad right at that spot!" This is true but the scene was real and it was filmed here but it was the landing pad on top of the KOMO 4 News building. That very helicopter was probably whirring directly over my house during our winter and spring mudslides.

But what about "Grace Hospital"? Yes, there actually was a Grace Hospital built in 1885. It was an Episcopal hospital and was built so that people who were not Catholic would have an alternative. Remember those days when the hospitals were affiliated with a particular denomination? It was the same with cemeteries. In Helena, Montana we had two hospitals--St. Peter's which was orginally Episcopal and St. John's which was Roman Catholic. My husband was born in St. John's and his Mom was a staunch First Christian and rather anti-Catholic so I wonder about her experience.

I was born in a Catholic hospital in Deer Lodge, Montana where there probably was no Protestant hospital. My mother tells the story about how the nuns were kind of mean. First of all, they tried to convince her to have ether during the labor process. They gave her ether when my brother was born and it made her so sick she was not able to enjoy her new baby. My tough Mom refused and had me without any pain medication and afterwards, she felt great. Next, the nuns wouldn't let her have me with her as a newborn and they tried to discourage breast feeding which was considered barbaric in the 1950's. But my mother, having been raised Methodist but turned Episcopalian because of my Dad, was not afraid of those old childless prudie nuns in their full black and white habits. My mother has always been unconventional so she told those nuns where they could put their child birthing and rearing advice.

Whoa! I keep getting off on tangents this morning. Anyway, Grace Hospital in Seattle lasted for a decade or so. The Roman Catholic hospital called Sisters of Providence was much more successful so Grace closed its doors and was eventually torn down. The Episcopal Church next to it was called Trinity Episcopal and it is still there.

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Trinity Church

If you are a fan of "Grey's Anatomy", you might like to know the real Grace Hospital would be right next to the church in the picture above in downtown Seattle. Sisters of Providence eventually became Providence Hospital as the religious ties to our medical care fell away probably due to finances. Still to this day, the denominations have church members on the advisory boards, I believe.

Last night, as we were watching the news after "Grey's Anatomy" and learning about the real Grace Hospital, our former Episcopal Priest, Father Paul, came on. This priest is the one who orginally invited us to St. Hilda St. Patrick's where he was the vicar when we moved to Mukilteo. We had been attending the giant Cathedral Church, St. Mark's, in Seattle and had not yet made the decision to find a church closer to home.

St. Mark's has been in the news lately for two reasons. First of all, the priest at St. Mark's is openly gay and has lived with his partner for years. Recently, he was one of the finalists for the Bishop of the Diocese of California. ECUSA (Episcopal Church of the U.S.) does not really have the stomach for additional controversy---the controversy which still threatens to break us away from the world wide Anglican Community because of the gay Bishop back East. So the priest at St. Mark's did not get the job in California. It went to a married straight white guy from Alabama who I have read wonderful things about. We like to go to St. Mark's now and then for a large church experience. The members love their priest, Dean Taylor, and are joyous he will not be leaving. I am glad, too. I am inspired by his love of Christ and enjoy hearing him preach; the good work he does in our community is unsurpassed.
Dean Robert Taylor of St. Mark's is a remarkable Christian. I could write a whole blog about him because he is one of the saints among us. Originally, he is from South Africa and though white, he suffered terrible persecution because of his fight against evil apartheid. He continues his passion for justice here on behalf of the poor and oppressed.

The second reason St. Mark's has been in the news is that Nobel Prize winning retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited to help with St. Mark's 75th Anniversary. (Unfortunately, we were not able to go because of all of the "Grease", the musical, goings on.) And Bishop Tutu was Dean Taylor's mentor; together they worked to fight racism and poverty in South Africa:

"Cathedrals such as St. Mark's have a special place in society, he said at a news conference.
It's "a place of innovation, a place of excitement and exhilaration," Tutu said. "It is also a place that embraces, and a place that is on the cutting edge of gospel.
"St. Mark's is what a cathedral should be," said Tutu, making his fourth visit to the Capitol Hill church in the past 20 years."


So many threads here--it must be the sunshine outside bringing all of these thoughts to me. Archbishop Tutu for some unbelieveable reason adores Helena, Montana. I am not kidding. He is full of humor and loves to laugh. The son (whose sister I went to high school with) of a former Methodist minister in Helena has this singing comedy troupe called the Montana Logging and Ballet Company. Their purpose through humor and music is social justice. They are a fascinating group of guys on a mission and here is their website: http://mlabc.org/ And it just so happens that Bishop Tutu is a big fan. Tutu actually made a special trip to Helena a few years back because of this singing group. Naturally, the Episcopal church in Helena welcomed Tutu and my mother got to meet him and speak with him briefly one on one. It was terribly exciting for her and for me to hear about it---I mean to shake hands with Bishop Tutu for her was like a Roman Catholic having a private meeting with the Pope.

So where am I now in all of this--I need to go outside? Oh yes, we used to go to St. Mark's but I needed a babysitter so I called the nearest Episcopal Church in Mukilteo. Father Paul answered the phone and gave me some names. He invited us to St. Hilda St. Patrick's but admitted he could not compete with the excitement of St. Mark's in Seattle. I liked the non-threatening invitation and eventually it became burdensome for us to travel with two little ones to downtown Seattle on Sunday mornings. Father Paul left us after several years for a promotion to a bigger church in Seattle---Trinity---the site of the old Grace Hospital. I will forever be grateful for his positive influence on both of my kids. My daughter says that no matter where she gets married, she wants Father Paul to do the ceremony. I'd kinda like Bishop Tutu to be there, too.

Steering this post around, Father Paul was on TV last night talking about "Grey's Anatomy" and the original Grace Hospital on his church's current site. All that is left is a monument on the church grounds.

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Grace Hospital 1885

Whoa! This all started with a TV show. And another thing. It really bugs me when in order to give the impression of the rain in Seattle on TV, they use the sound of thunder. "Grey's Anatomy" kept having thunder in dramatic moments last night; not real. Our gentle rain does not come with thunder. Thunder and lightening are rare here.

And at the moment, there is no thunder, no lightening, no rain, and no clouds and I have an outdoor date with my furry child.

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"Get off the computer and come play with me! Now!!"
(photo taken this morning at 8 AM)