this one's for stephen
filmed at st stephen's episcopal church in lynn, massachusets while on tour in october of 2015.

this song was written in this sanctuary while visiting my older brother, andrew, who was an assistant pastor there in 2013. the lyrics were finished in june 2015, while attempting to sleep in another church, this time in florence, sc.

i sat on this video for almost a year. couldn't decide what to say about it. much of the lyrical content is biblical allusion, but the rest centers around some heavy, guilty doubt.

i come from a long line of pastors on my dad's side. my great grandpa raymond was a big tent evangelist in the 1930's. my grandpa hershel was a pastor for 43 years. my grandma margie taught me to love music with hymnal in hand.

i grew up playing in church. and, for a time, i was incredibly devout. kindergarten through 7th grade at various chrisitian schools. hundreds of hours of chamber music with the nc boys choir. then, i played drums in praise band until 2010 - when my faith started to fade. i always loved the sense of community in churchgoing, but i felt dishonest without leading worship without strong convictions of my own.

on the last night of my first visit to boston in 2013, my brother took me to a service at the society of st john, the evangelist (a monastic order near cambridge). at the end of the service, i went to speak with one of the monks in private. i confessed that i wasn't sure if i wanted to believe in anything, but that i needed my music to come from a wholesome place. so, he prayed that i would hear my own call, anointed me with oil, & sent me on my way.

in time, i've realized that i don't find fault with religion, but with 'the church' itself.

that said, st stephen's episcopal has always been an inclusive place. when i first visited, they had a female rector & openly lesbian youth pastor (all in a dioceses with an openly gay bishop). i felt an incredible sense of peace among them; as though god really could care for everyone, equally. the building has come to stand as an obvious metaphor to me. it needs work: leaky roof, crumbly molding, ancient carpet. but, the 1880's tiffany stained glass windows keep the sanctuary full of light, even on stormy days.

in the year since i recorded this video, i've heard more bigotry from christians than ever in my lifetime. our world needs forgiveness. we *must* evolve beyond such hatred. shouldn't we be good to each other on a human level?

andrew went on to become a chaplain at unc hospital, & now a youth pastor at duke chapel. he's an incredible leader, progressive thinker, & diligent servant. i couldn't be more proud of him.

i said all this to say that when you listen, think of stephen. the first christian martyr. moments before he was stoned by the jewish elite, he prayed for their forgiveness.

so this one's for him.

video by geoff ong with assistance from ye tun

more info on the church here

"lynn, lynn: the city of sin. you never come out the same way you came in."
-bostonian wisdom