Memories from The Monastery

The good and wonderful times

“The Monastery was known for its white parties. After closing Galaxy, white parties had become the in thing in New York, and I copied it from Flamingo. I remember Flamingo had a white party and we implemented the format where everybody comes in May and wears white. From the time The Monastery in 1977 through its close in 1985, the white party was our greatest celebration. The thing I recall the most is Collins Hanson, very popular, a frat / jock type, and for some reason Collins would always (at 19) want to tell me what to do and how to design The Monastery. And most often I followed his advice. In 1979, I recall Collins had somehow bought a truckload — a pickup truck, loaded with lilies, and made the lilies into circular, huge 4-5′ balls, circular balls of flowers, and hung them in a terraced effect on spinning motors. 36 feet straight down from the ceiling. The odor of the spinning flowers, the lights, the music, the sprinkling of holy water, raised the level of this curative, charging energy to everybody that walked into the room. I recall it was 10:30 in the morning the next day before we could get the people out of the church. There were at least 100 people who danced the entire night away. The white parties were the branding of the monastery.”
“Unknown to our parishioners, I would go to St Josephs on Capitol Hill and take vials of holy water and bless the building, and in the middle of the evening when the spirit was there, and the people danced in unison, I would throw holy water from the pulpit and in my private prayers hoped the best for them, the building, our planet, and myself.”

However, beyond the celebration lies a platform for human connection

“I recall a night at the monastery and I was in the main sanctuary measuring the sound system sitting on a bench seat and a young man walked up to me and said “Hey, will you dance with me? I have nobody to dance with. I’m going to die soon.” I was so overwhelmed and taken back that unknown to him I was dancing with tears envisioning the fact that I calculated he had no-one who loved him, no-one to be with, and a realization that his life was about to end and perhaps the last dance he had was with me.”

The Monastery Sanctuary

“When the AIDS epidemic began, I immediately shut down the baptismal font and asked the King County Health Department to come in on Friday and Saturday nights and offer free testing and counseling in the basement of the church. I did that because at one time we had a maximum of 15 people living at The Monastery. They were scarred and troubled people who needed a place that they too could (transform / build) and be somebody. they helped clean the church in exchange for a meal a day and showers and a place to stay. Many of the people that lived there were in the range of 18 – 23 year olds. 70-80% were gay. I remember oscar who was a salvadoran refugee, who saw the church and knocked on the door asking for shelter.”

“And that reminds me of the last dance that tens of thousands of people I know had over the years of being a minister and the dance master. Beautiful people, 18, 19, 20 year-old’s and poisoned. I never went to an AIDS funeral, people that were life, beauty, exuberance, they were robbed of the experience of life. I just couldn’t see it. I remember I got a letter from Collins Hanson, a close friend, bright, good looking, blond/blue eyes, mix between football player, actor. Collins, on his death bed sent me a letter — reminds me of one of the prophets who sent a letter to the apostles telling him that winter was setting in and he may not be here for winter and that the prison he was in, it was cold. If they could, would they bring him his winter clothes? Maybe he would be gone before they could take the trip. And I remember Collins’ letter. It was poignant, it made me cry, but I could not see the person who was not the Collins that my memory still keeps today. My mother was cremated after she died in a nursing home. My sister wanted me to go look at my mothers dead body before they cremated her but I refused. I liked the memories of the living. perhaps we should let the dead bury the dead. I let the dead bury their dead. I have a mission and that is to remind my friends that we must prepare to leave here and we must prepare to defend here. Our enemies are not only within, but outside, objects, or God forbid, beings, and we have no defense shield for either. Some day soon our existence will depend upon our ability to defend our planet as a family.”


The ULC Monastery

My organization, the Universal Life Chuch Monastery, recently published blog pieces that reconciles our lives with the Islamic faith, touch on gun control policy, and tackles marriage equality. These are all incredibly important conversations to have, and I’m proud that ULC has succeeded in building a platform on which these conversations can take place. It is typical to receive negative feedback from people who think that ULC has no right to discuss these controversial topics which promote difficult conversations. Some people, offended by these efforts, will even go so as to challenge ULC’s existence as an organization.

Religion in our Society

The Universal Life Church makes a concerted effort to post pieces related to important topics of the day, and will continue to do so. Recently, religious beliefs and their consequences have dominated news headlines around the world. However, religion cannot exist in a vacuum, and it is crucial that our society utilizes whatever faith or beliefs we may have to affect real positive change in the world. One of the core tenets of the ULC is “to do that which is right”; this tenet is not a preventative message warning us away from doing things that are wrong – it is instead a sincere appeal to our followers to proactively do good in the universe. Every Sunday, traditional churches around the country are addressed by ministers who deliver sermons derived from the challenges our society faces in the world. Indeed, the teachings of Jesus Christ frequently touched on issues that would have been pressing challenges of the day.
As a church committed to improving human relationships and protecting our society’s freedom and equality, ULC plays a vital role in sparking important conversations which promote the search for mutual understanding. The ULC also utilizes its platform to provide a voice for those who may not otherwise have one. For example, the reason the ULC blog publishes pieces about the Syrian refugee crisis is not because of some nefarious hidden agenda, but because after seeing images such as that of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a beach, it becomes an impossible issue to ignore. There is a reason the logo of the ULC is a shield – it is the ULC’s duty to defend the equality of all.

Searching for Solutions

While political in nature, the goal of these posts is not to promote a political agenda. Instead, it is to show that the “faith world” and the “real world” must sometimes intersect. The Universal Life Church will never tell you which candidate you should support or which ballot measure you should vote for, because you are capable of making these decisions on your own. However, the ULC will never, ever stop writing about important issues and highlighting items of concern. The ULC doesn’t pretend to have answers to the incredibly complex issues facing our society today, but starting a positive dialogue among our followers is undoubtedly a positive step in the search for long-term solutions.