So, it’s official. Grace Episcopal Alexandria has hired two new office staff—Kevin Hamilton and Santana Alvarado. My thoughts on the news:
- As part of the first same-sex couple to have its relationship blessed at Grace, I am all for diversity and inclusion. That said, I believe that staff should be hired first and foremost based on skills and their fit and feel. In that regard, I have concerns about both new hires.
Part of my concern is around skill sets. I know of both persons, and I believe there are some strong gaps in skill sets. Specifically, to my knowledge Kevin does not have any facilities experience, except for his role at St. Timothy’s. Unfortunately, Grace is a whole different kettle of fish, as evinced by the challenges that Jeff Aaron had, including when he proposed hiring a company to do HVAC maintenance work, not comprehending that the particular company in question does not do work of that sort. Oops. And while Santana appears to be really awesome, she’s quite young.
There are some other gaps, although it’s not generally worth delving into specifics.
- In the area of fit and feel that I have some strong concerns. Both candidates are openly LGBTQ+, which is great. But we are starting to see a trend where almost all the support staff and seminarians are LGBTQ+, and I am not sure that is good. Specifically, the staff should be diverse and reflect the full richness of the church’s history. All of any one thing is, or should be, problematic.
- Then there’s the issue of who gets to clean up the mess that perjuring priest Bob Malm left behind. Gone are the days of Malm’s overly noisy swagger, his gassing on about his athletic prowess, and his indifference to much besides his month at the beach every summer. Now, the women and sexual minorities get to muck out the stalls, even as Grace Church lurches ever closer to the existential cliff.
My gut, too, is that at a time when there is a very high level of alienation in the parish, this may all be a little too much, too soon. Diversity is great, but we’re seeing an abrupt departure from perjuring priest Bob Malm’s heteronormative, cisgender world. And while it’s good for the church to put the 1970’s mindset behind it, getting run over in the process isn’t good either.
- I have some further concerns about how members will react to the “ethically non-monogamous” thing. I express no opinion on the larger concept; only on whether it will work for members of a not particularly progressive church. Nor do members of Grace Church have any concept of issues as being none of their business; I’ve heard far too many rumors about closeted married guys, penile implants, and other childish bullcrap to have any confidence that Grace parishioners understand how to mind their own business. Nor has the church really explored queer identity; thus far, it’s only dealt with very mainstream gay and lesbian persons. Again, a clear distinction is warranted: I fully support those who identify as queer. I just question whether this is the time to go down that path.
- Most importantly, I don’t see the new hires putting up with the bullcrap that is part of life at Grace Church, including the petty, childish games of the Princess Porcine, Alison “Fluffy” Campbell, Dr. Kemp Williams, Kelly Motormouth Gable, and others. Particularly in Santana’s case, where she uses her creativity as a disruptive force, there could be problems.
Consider: Sugarland Chiow and perjuring priest Bob Malm claim that online criticism is a form of “domestic terrorism.” How will Sugarland and his ilk handle a gender-queer activist, when inter alia they couldn’t even deal with my repeated warnings that the parish was about to sail over a financial cliff? Indeed, my doing so resulted in Malm telling me I should go find another church, which is a pretty damned good sign of the depth of his Christian faith. And it shows what a toxic little bubble Grace is. Vestry members are fiduciaries under the law, and they violate their obligations as fiduciaries by ignoring looming financial issues. Nor can there be any dispute that the church has gone over one financial cliff and is about to face further financial challenges.
- The church is pushing forward at a time where it hasn’t dealt with its past. Bob Malm’s perjury, the organizational narcissism, and the years of bad behavior by church members and staff alike are still out there. Thus, to borrow a phrase from the Bible, the church is trying to build a house on a shifting foundation of sand. This is a recipe for disaster. A far better approach might have been to hire contractors for now, while spending time and energy on health and wholeness. Once there is a healthy baseline and established behavioral norms, then jump into deeper waters. As things stand, I suspect the church is getting ahead of itself.
In the end, time will tell. But I believe we are going to see some real issues within the parish over the coming year.