This time of year I can’t help but think about San Antonio. Cascarones broken on each others’ heads, leaving patches of red and yellow eggshell and blue and green confetti on the ground. The Mexican rodeo, where we drank Tecate and gawped at the dignitaries in their white suits and multicolored sashes. The Battle of Flowers parade, complete with high school marching bands and floats carrying teenage royalty with titles like Duchess of Divine Rainbows. The bands will have parents darting in and out between the orderly rank and file spritzing the performers with water so they do not overheat in their uniforms. The Duchesses, each trailing a 100+-pound train, will be wearing flip flops and people will yell, Show your shoes!
This past Friday the 13th, if I still lived in San Antonio TX I would have attended a tardeada (afternoon gathering, possibly with snacks) at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center to hear Dr. Arturo Madrid, a professor at my alma mater, Trinity University, read from his new book “In the Country of Empty Crosses: The Story of a Hispano Protestant Family in Catholic Mexico.” I plan to buy the book and review it on this blog. It’s a family history and involves places and people I know with surprisingly few degrees of separation. Check out the summary and brief interview in the San Antonio Express News.
Back in San Antonio I was a member of University Presbyterian Church, which was at the time led by senior minister Elizabeth MacGregor Simmons. Lib has Presbyterian roots going way back, encapsulated (for me anyway) in the story of one “Session” MacGregor. A cousin three or so generations removed, ol’ Session earned his moniker after one too many nights of drink and rowdy behavior saw him dragged before his democratically nominated and voted-in peers. This group would be the governing and disciplining body of the church, aka the session.
I don’t imagine I’d have to search too hard to find a “Session” in my own family, famous or infamous. My journey to Presbyterianism began in 1877 when my great-great grandfather, John Henry Robinson, went to church with his brother Will in Moberly, Missouri. Having arrived in the United States from Manchester, England in 1874, the Robinsons lived in Pittsburgh PA, Fort Worth TX, possibly Denver CO, and in 1877, arrived in Moberly. I’ve excerpted the following from my grandfather John Alan Hord’s book, Wonderful Grandparents: John Henry Robinson and Alice Clyde MacWilliams Robinson (self-published in 1990).
…when the family was settled in Moberly, Matilda carefully dressed her two oldest children, Will and John H., on a bright Sunday morning and told them to ask a neighbor where the church was, and then to go there. The neighbor pointed out a church steeple. Apparently she did not ask them what church they had in mind. They went in the direction pointed out to them. They came to a church and went in. It turned out to be a Presbyterian church. At less than nine and seven years of age, they must have been brave but uneasy little boys as they went through the doors of an unknown church in a town where they knew no one. They probably were unsure of where to go and moved slowly, but someone must have noticed them and made them feel at home. The boys liked the church and were enchanted by the lady choir director. As soon as they could, they joined the youth choir. They became staunch, lifelong Presbyterians and choir members. Their mother was pleased. She and the other family members all joined the church that the boys had found.