Harrowing Of Hell
November 19, 2022

The Founding of St. John’s, Kirkland

Dear Epiphany,

Most of you are probably not familiar with Father Cameron Morrison, but he was a significant priest in this parish a long time ago. If his name sounds familiar, it may be because of the significant controversy that arose after his untimely death in 1922. Father Morrison wasn’t feeling well so he went to the Senior Warden, Dr. Chal Bryant, who recommended a stomach x-ray and prescribed barium sulfate to be taken ahead of time to facilitate the procedure. What Father Morrison picked up from Capitol Hill pharmacy was barium sulfide, which killed him. (This is, incidentally, why I avoid having a doctor as Senior Warden). The result of this mix up, however, was the impetus for a federal law requiring doctors to write their prescriptions to pharmacists. Out of tragedy came a significant blessing that we experience today.

But that’s not what I want to focus on in this note to you. I want to talk about the fact that Epiphany, under Father Morrison, was the founding parish of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Kirkland. In the early 1920’s, a spirit-filled cohort of Christians in Kirkland were looking to start an Episcopal Church. They reached out to Father Morrison and Epiphany and together they partnered in this endeavor. And so, until his death, Father Morrison, Sunday after Sunday, took the ferry from Madison Park to Kirkland to celebrate mass at this newly founded mission church.

That was 100 years ago, which makes this the 100th anniversary of St. John’s, Kirkland. As a way of celebrating their founding, I was invited to participate in a pulpit exchange with the Reverend Michael Ryan, the Rector of St. John’s, who is here at Epiphany today. The hope of this exchange is to remind us, here at Epiphany, that we are a church who, over the generations, has had significant impact on growing the Episcopal community in the Diocese of Olympia. Missional outreach is part of our DNA, and I am glad Father Mike is here to remind us of this heritage.

Here is why: The Episcopal Church in the Northwest is changing; the nature of Christian fellowship is changing; and, as one of the surviving and thriving Episcopal churches we may be called to help develop new ways of being Jesus followers in this part of the world. And if that day comes, it will be good to remember that we’ve done this before, it is part of who we are, as a spiritual center of gravity. It is part of our spiritual DNA. Father Mike is here to remind us of this, and I am glad for it.

Peace upon your soul.