The History of Walker Church

A Poem by Larry Williams

Let us imagine the prairie at night
A quarter moon rising like a big yellow cup that God could
drink from
The singing of crickets of katydids
The swift fox adds a note
The coyote's howl
Backed by a chorus of long swaying grass
Touched with the winds out of Bloomington
Shaking like a preacher on fire with the truth
And the distant thump of an Ojibwe drum
To add a human note
To a liturgy
A holy place
Beautiful as simplicity itself
A decent place to worship

A bustling noise to the north
Commerce, lumbers over the plains like a Saturday night drunk
With promises of plunder
Shaping stone and glass and wood
Amid the screeching of saws,
The ringing of hammers
Bringing sin and the fight against sin
To the Bloomington Road just past Lake Street

Picture a wood-framed church
Stained-glass windows, the only adornment
The congregation out front in rows, like new houses
50 strong
The women decked out in dark ankle length dresses
White blouses
A profusion of flowered hats
The men stiffed up to their collars
Guardians of sins handed down from their fathers
The children, small serious-faced copies
Standing in dirt
The grass is gone
The fox skulked off to Edina

Walker joins Methodism in midstream
Later poets will announce
The hungry, wretched, coarse, impious, ignorant, rumsots
The maimed, enslaved and bonded, crippled, blind
Destroyed by industry, abandoned by the clergy
That Wesley had in mind
To bring the good news to:
Of human perfectibility
Through faith, good works, frugality, temperance
Are outside the picture
Like a great army
Waiting for supplies these folks may bring
From these beginnings
From these modest respectable beginnings

Picture 1908 and progress
The congregation, too numerous to count
Stand where the new church will stand
As if the 20th century were already shouting
More! Bring More!
Houses, more weddings
More shops, deaths
More baptisms, births, spirits to be attended
Methodism triumphant, tested, proven
Written in the character of faces looked at close up
Honest, disciplined working men and women,
Mothers and fathers of streetcar conductors,
of future
Readers of how to win friends and influence people
Of police, firemen, Broadway musicians, ballplayers
There's not a hint of sugar in the diet
Though from out east flowed a stream of inventions
Mustard gas and monied heros with suspicious
Tailor-made cigarettes
Sins, more subtly packaged than anyone's
theology dreamed of
Lay on the horizon
But not yet
Statistically pacifistic, anti-slavery
Pro-education, on the side of the poor
Walker, with some help from T. B.
Built a new brick church
For the greater glory of God
What hopes, perhaps visions, a new building brings
We can only imagine
The minister first standing at the pulpit
The seamless plaster, smelling of fresh paint
Furnace quietly going about its business
Maple floors and oakwood pews
The ushers beaming
What opportunities for the spirit! for the soul!
Walker grew
They learned to sing
The choir was greatly improved, the pipe organ came
The baseball team, the boy scouts, the campfire girls
The world was dizzy with change
Bicycles with small wheels so even the ladies could
Ride to the Methodist picnic
Sneaky little under the sea boats with primitive missiles
To blow up our doughboys
And sneakier ships and bigger missiles
And prohibition, new liquor dealers with machine guns
and derbys
The Washington Ave. speakeasy
The Charleston, cars and bigger cars ...
With inviting mohair seats
Music that exploded and nowhere mentions salvation,
The man nobody knew
Turned out to be a businessman with a helluva
Chaplin, teetered on the edge of the screen
Like the common man's hopes
Now almost dashed, now precariously re-established
And the hard times come
Capital reeled to its corner with a bloody nose
And the unionists and framers took over the podium
While quietly, the police and the national guard beefed up
In case they went too far
As they did, singing re-worked Christian songs
My how the time flies when you're busy
Revivals, the gospel preached
Sunday School, spilling over to the parsonage
Come to Walker, hear the choir on Sunday"
The corner tavern, quietly re-opened
Cocktails, the jukebox
Every man has a right to his own opinion
A dime for a beer, we don't preach here

Turn, and look again
& the hemlines are up and the shoulder-pads
As if fashion itself were part of the war effort
Kilroy was here and marked himself with chalk
S. Jones and hopscotch
35 Walker men and women
Pictures carefully pasted into the record
"Our servicemen at Walker"
One obituary. Although there were others
VE Day and the liquor dealers cleaned up
VJ Day and wall street triumphant
Draped the world with tickertape
A world safe for democracy
For refrigerators
For the GI bill $6,000 no money down house in Richfield
Where the children could have a better life
For the women, first out of the life rafts and back
to the kitchen
For Jim Crow and the insult of Wounded Knee
Smouldering the cities, on the plains
For the flash at Hiroshima that may blind us all
For the fear bred poverty that seeped into the core
of America, of Walker
Not enough for anyone
Peace, but not at any price
For the FBI in peace and war
For Beaver, and the American way of life
For the cracks that opened in the foundations of
the cities
The peeling paint, the broken window
For the weariness that left them unrepaired

Oh, if the church or a poem or the community could
fall to its knees
And say, Lord, where are we going, what are we doing?
This would've been the time
When the slickpaper evangelists, powered up for the lights
For the crowds, dug into our hearts and pockets
For God and country, love it or leave it
When defenses were everywhere and no one felt defended
Korea, Darvon,
Bomb shelters,
Duck and hide, the Rosenbergs, teach a commie a lesson for
Peggy Sue went to sleep and ruined her reputation
Walker moved to the suburbs, one by one
Away from the hungry, wretched, coarse, impious, ignorant,
The maimed, enslaved and bonded, crippled, blind
That Wesley had in mind
To bring the good news to

The long drive to church on Sunday
After Saturday night at the legion
Bingo, freeways
The wreckers ball
New corporate plans for the city
The race question
Who has a right to sit next to who
What if your daughter married one
Don't step on my blue suede shoes
And a new young pastor
Chocked full of the gospel of Christ
Prepared to flunder Egypt
For the greater glory of God

Oh, what hopes, perhaps visions, a new church brings
The cracked plaster, the ghost of the 50 voice choir
The furnace, a thing to be closely studied
With noise as a first impression
Trophies for the winning ballteams of '42 and '43
Echoes of teen retreats with pink chintz and Jello salad
The tarnished organ pipes, the leaking bellows
Don't buy missiles buy black
None of the way with LBJ
Residents unite!
Walker pushes the city, how shall the poor be fed?
The legislature, how shall the sick be healed
The nation, where is justice?
Pushes the congregation, and the congregation is gone
The budget, bricks without straw
Pipe by pipe, the organ slinks away
The guitar,
Amazing grace and the banks are made of marble
The poor, who will always be with us, among us
Lest we be as little children
A community defined
Teaching human dignity
That the margins of profit are watered with tears
Long hours on folding chairs
Devising strategies for the defense of the poor
Free Huey
Don't forget to vote
An explosive making
Of pots
Hell no, we won't go
Songs, and rumors of songs
Methodism, tested and proven
Looks through the eye of the needle, a trimmer Walker
Egypts plunder, dances on the maple stage
Annual conference budgets waver (Lao Tzu, Confucious,
Buddha, Jesus, Commune)
Fresh Air,
Lilac poems and Xmas revels
Anarchist democrats, fix cement, hang plaster
For the greater glory
And if the church, or this poem or the community should
at last finally pause,
And ask where are we going, what are we doing?
It would be like this, like the history of Walker,
Coming young into the world, going away old
Generation after generation, making and handing over
Birth and re-birth
The tip of the tongue, alive with new arguments,
For the good news to the poor, for the release
The recovery love and justice
This is the history of Walker Church