My full name is Robin Grant Jordan. My mother named me Robin because she liked the name. Robin is a diminutive of Robert, which is derived from the Anglo-Saxon name Hrothbheort, or Bright Fame.
Robin is a popular name in English folklore—Robin Good Fellow, or Puck, the mischievous sprite of William Shakespeare’s play, Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, and Robin Hood, the legendary outlaw of Sherwood Forest, bane of the Sheriff of Nottingham and friend of the poor and downtrodden. Robin and Hobbin is a country term for a hobby or hobgoblin, a mischievous imp or bogy or bogey. The latter is derived from the Welsh bwg, or ghost.
Robin or Hobbin is also a term for a small horse or pony or a hobbyhorse, a wicker horse for a Morris dance. Traditional Morris-dancing includes characters from the Robin Hood legend—Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Little John, and Friar Tuck. The púca sometimes takes the form of a small horse or pony.
My mother also named me Grant because one of her grandmothers was a Scotswoman, and the clan to which she belonged was the Grants. The Grants’ ancestral land is located in Strathspey, east of Loch Ness.
I was born in Royston in Hertfordshire, England, on the Feast of St. Barnabas the Apostle, on June 11, 1948. I was baptized by the Rev. Humphrey R. Humphreys at St. Mary the Virgin (Church of England) in Therfield, England, six days before Christmas, on December 19, 1948. It snowed the night before and snow covered the churchyard. My mother’s cousin Alan Sweetman was my godfather. I still have The Book of Common Prayer that he gave my mother for me when I was older. It is bound in leather and fits in the palm of my hand. On the flyleaf Alan wrote “To Robin, on the occasion of his christening, December 19th, 1948, from Alan.”
The first church I attended was St. Nicholas' (Church of England) in Stevenidge, in Hertfordshire, England.
The first church that I remember was St. Peter's, also in Stevenidge. St. Peter’s was mission church launched to serve the New Town on the outskirts of Stevenidge. The church first met in a Nissen hut. The congregation sat on folding wooden chairs that were apt to collapse with a loud crash, startling the babies in the congregation and making them cry. In 1954 a multipurpose building was built. Enormous screens closed off the chancel and allowed the nave (which had a stage at the west end) to be used as a hall for community use.
My mother, my older brother and I lived with my mother’s parents. My mother had married an American serviceman who was stationed in England after the War. After my older brother was born, they had moved to the United States. My father had abused my mother and she had left my father. This had happened before I was born. Her younger sister who had also married an American serviceman and lived in the United States had helped her to return to England, my older brother in tow and pregnant with me.
My parents never divorced. My father was Roman Catholic and my mother was Church of England. In those days the Church of England did not sanction divorce except in cases of adultery. Cruelty was not grounds for divorce.
My family was living at Five House near Therfield when I was born. They moved to The Brook when I was still a baby and then to New Town outside of Stevenidge when I was two or three years old.
The first school I attended was St. Nicholas Church of England Elementary and Primary School in Stevenidge. My mother was a teacher on the staff of the school. The school uniform was a maroon blazer, grey shorts or skirt, and a maroon and dark blue cap. The blazer had a dark blue badge on the pocket with a crosier, a mitre, three bags of gold and a cross embroidered on the badge in gold. The school day began with assembly, which included a Bible lesson and prayers from The Book of Common Prayer. We sang gospel songs from the Moody and Sankey songbook, accompanied by a teacher on the piano. The headmaster who was a Church of England minister gave a short address. Our play equipment included landing nets and ammunition boxes. We climbed the landing nets and built forts and houses with the ammunition boxes.
We were surrounded by reminders of the War in the 1950s—pillboxes overgrown with weeds, tank traps and washed-up mines cordoned off with barbed wire at the beach, and upturned helmets used as flowerpots. A number of the highways had formerly been runways for bombers and fighter planes. Nissan and Quonset huts were ubiquitous. War-time rationing had not completely ended.
My grandfather retired when I was five or six years old, bought a cottage and some adjoining land on edge of the Great Common in the village of Iccleshalt St. Andrew’s in Suffolk, England, and took up farming. The cottage was named Rosecott after all the wild dog roses growing in the hedgerows surrounding the common. My grandfather grew wheat in the two fields that he bought with the cottage. We had an apple orchard, a flock of chickens, a large vegetable garden, a Jersey milk cow, and a flock of geese. We kept the geese in the pound on the common. We also had no electricity, no running water, and no telephone. Our primary source of water was a well in the front garden from which we drew water by a bucket tied to a rope. We purified our drinking water with Halazone tablets and then boiled it. We took baths in a galvanized metal tub, heating the water in a copper. We cooked on a coal range and a paraffin stove. We used Primus mantle lanterns and small weighted oil lamps for illumination. We had an early battery-operated portable wireless, or radio, that was the size of a small suitcase and on which we listened to BBC and Radio Luxemburg broadcasts. We made our own butter and cheese and stored the apples on a bed of straw in the front shed. My grandfather sold the rounds of cheese in the open-air market at Bungay.
My older brother and I roamed the common and the woods and fields on its edges. We found curlew nests on the common and caught roach, sticklebacks, and tadpoles in the ponds. We gathered hazelnuts from the hedgerows lining the country lanes. We picked mushrooms in a neighboring farmer’s field. We bicycled with our mother to Lowestoft and camped on the cliffs overlooking the English Channel. We went boating at Southwold and after dark watched the phosphorescent jellyfish floating in the water of the harbour. We went home happily munching fish and chips bought at a local chipper, sprinkled with malt vinegar and salt, and wrapped in newspaper.
The four years that my family lived in Iccleshalt St. Andrew’s, we attended the parish church.
My mother, my older brother, and I cycled five miles every day to the nearby village of Rumborough where my mother was the headmistress of the village school. She and another teacher taught six grades in two classrooms. Our lessons included a Bible lesson as English schoolteachers gave religious instruction in English village schools in the 1950s. I still have a composition book in which I wrote down the first stanza of my favorite hymn, Percy Dearmer’s “Jesus, good above all others,” in lead pencil, and then decorated the page with hearts and crosses in color pencil. We sung in our morning assembly hymns from Songs of Praise, which Dearmer edited. My mother led the singing and the other teacher played the piano. The tune for “Jesus, good above all others” is Quem Pastores.
My mother had received her training at Hockerill Teachers’ College, jointly operated by the Dioceses of Chelmsford and St. Albans. Her training had included daily chapel services and courses on the Old Testament and the New Testament. My mother had received a bishop’s certificate in Old Testament studies. She would have earned one in New Testament studies except the professor was a former missionary to a South American Indian tribe and adopted a very patronizing attitude toward his students.
My mother began and ended each school day with prayers from The Book of Common Prayer. She dismissed her pupils with the Collect for Aid against All Perils.
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.My mother took me out of Iccleshalt St. Andrew’s Village School because I was not learning to read, and enrolled me as a pupil at Rumborough Village School where she could keep an eye on me. My mother as the head mistress had a cottage next to the school, and we stayed at the cottage on occasion, especially when the snow was very heavy and closed the road to Iccleshalt St. Andrew’s. My mother did make use of the garden in front of the cottage, growing sweet peas and strawberries. During recess I would crawl through a hole in the hedge and help myself to the strawberries in the garden.
One of my favorite past times was to explore the country lanes on my bicycle and visit the parish churches in the surrounding villages like Iccleshalt St. John’s.
In the 1950s parish churches were left unlocked. I was attracted by the stillness and the quiet of the empty churches, hallowed by centuries of prayer, as well as the opportunity to climb the church towers and overlook the beautiful sun-drenched countryside of Seely Suffolk—Holy Suffolk—so called for its numerous churches.
When I visited Rumborough’s parish church, the door was stuck and I never saw the interior.
One thing that I remember from my childhood was my grandparents’ great love of hymns. They knew many hymns by heart and would sing them as they went about their daily activities. My grandmother’s favorite hymn was Charles Wesley’s “Jesu, Lover of My Soul,” sung to Aberystwyth.
My grandfather played the organ and piano. He had also played the violin in his youth. He had played the organ at a Wesleyan Congregationalist church and taught the young men’s Bible class when he was a young man. He always kept his Bible next to his bed.
My grandmother’s father was a schoolmaster. His practice was to attend both Church and Chapel with his family. He had pupils in both the local Church of England parish church and the local Non-Conformist chapel. In this way he not only had contact with the families of his pupils but he set a good example for his pupils. He lost his voice from the shock of diving into the icy water of a canal or river to rescue a boy who had fallen into the water, and was unable to teach for a number of years until he recovered his voice.
Our entire family, including my grandparents, immigrated to the United States when I was ten years old. We crossed the Atlantic aboard a cargo ship that also carried passengers. We sailed from Liverpool and disembarked in New Orleans.
My grandfather who had come out of retirement went to work as an accountant for a New Orleans insurance agency. For three years we lived across the Mississippi River from New Orleans on what is called the West Bank. We eventually purchased two acres of land about thirty-five miles north of New Orleans, across Lake Pontchartrain. My grandfather built a house on the property on weekends, and we moved to what is known as the North Shore. I was enrolled in Abita Grammar School and my older brother in Mandeville Junior High School since we lived on the boundary between two school districts. On his daily commute to New Orleans on the Greyhound Bus my grandfather met a parishioner of Christ Church (Episcopal) in Covington, Louisiana. My family began attending Christ Church.
The church was a picturesque white wood-framed, clapboard building that had been constructed by slaves in 1846 and consecrated by Bishop Leonidas Polk in 1847. It was the oldest surviving Episcopal church building in St. Tammany Parish. Bishop Polk later became a Confederate general in the American Civil War and was killed by a cannonball that struck him in the stomach.
The church had large clear glass windows, three on each side, that were mounted on pivots so that they could be tilted to allow a breeze to blow through the interior of the building on hot summer days. The building’s acoustics were excellent, both for reading and singing. There was only one aisle running down the center of the church. This aisle was flanked by "horse stall pews," each with its own door or gate. This door or gate was apt to swing open or shut with a loud crash, drawing attention to any late arriver trying to sneak into the service after it had started. The box pews were narrow and kneeling in them was uncomfortable. In the late 1880s a bell tower and shallow chancel had been added to the building.
In the 1960s Christ Church had Holy Communion only on the first and third Sundays of the month. The church had Morning Prayer on the remaining Sundays. The rector and his wife had been missionaries in the Philippines. They had been interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II. The rector and my grandfather had a common passion: poultry. The rector raised prize-winning Silver Gray Banties. He would give his chickens to my grandfather when he retired.
Unlike the other young people I did not attend Sunday School. I preferred to listen to the sermon. I read Bernard Ramms’ Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics in high school. The father of one of my friends had sparked in me an interest in what the Bible actually says as opposed to what others say the Bible says. He was a Jehovah’s Witness and had attempted to convince me of his sect’s interpretation of the Bible. The only time I set foot in a Sunday School classroom was to teach a Sunday School class of fourth graders. One of the Walton sisters who were pillars of the church offered to pay my seminary tuition and other expenses if I were to seek to be admitted a candidate for holy orders.
I was confirmed by Bishop Girault Jones at Christ Church on February 28, 1965. I was presented by The Rev. Carl H. Stolley Jr. I was admitted to the Holy Communion on the same date.
I graduated from Covington High School with honours on May 25, 1966. My favorite subjects were English, History, Latin, and Speech. I took three years of Latin and would have taken a fourth year if my high school had offered a fourth year. I was the president of the Latin Club. I was also the Junior Class president. I took two years of Speech and was a member of my high school’s debating team.
I graduated from Southeastern Louisiana College, now Southeastern Louisiana University, with honours in the spring of 1970. I was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Sociology. In my final year at college I was elected to the Pi Gamma Mu National Social Science Honor Society.
After a brief stint in the US Air Force I returned to Southeastern to work toward a Bachelor of Education degree in Social Studies and English and Teacher’s Certification in Secondary Education. I was a few hours short of completing my degree requirements when failing grades in two night courses—Eighteenth Century English Literature and Tests and Measurements, inadequate finances, and mounting student loan debt prompted me to seek full time employment.
Instead of following in the footsteps of my great grandfather and my mother and becoming a teacher, I followed in the footsteps of another relative in an earlier generation. She was one of the first social workers in the City of London. For twenty-seven years I worked for the State of Louisiana, one year in a federally-funded substance abuse program, two years in the non-public assistance food stamp program, and twenty-four years in child welfare services—foster care, child protection investigations, and family services. I took early retirement at the age of fifty-five.
I was licensed a Lay Reader for the Diocese of Louisiana on May 25, 1985. I was one of the last Lay Readers that were licensed under the old diocesan canon: applicants for the office of Lay Reader were required, even though they might not be assigned pastoral or administrative responsibility in a congregation without an ordained minister, to be trained and examined and found competent in the Holy Scriptures, their contents, and background; The Book of Common Prayer and Hymnal; Church history; the Church’s doctrine as set forth in the Creeds and the Catechism; the conduct of public worship; the use of the voice; parish administration; appropriate canons, and pastoral care. After they were licensed, they were expected to continue their studies and to report annually to the bishop on their progress.
I served as a Lay Reader in the Episcopal Church for seventeen years and was involved in a number of music, teaching and worship ministries. I was a member of the church planting team that launched St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Mandeville, Louisiana, serving as the worship coordinator on the church planting team and chairing the mission’s worship committee. I was also a member of the steering committee that oversaw the new work. I was senior Lay Reader at St. Michael’s for fifteen years.
On May 12, 2002 the rector demanded my resignation due to my open sympathy for the Anglican Mission in North America, which at that time had more to do with the failure of the Decade of Evangelism, the Episcopal Church’s distaste for evangelism, and my own disappointment in the deanery clergy’s and my own immediate pastor’s lack of enthusiasm for church planting than anything else.
On May 20, 2002 I tendered my resignation. Although I did not formally terminate my membership in St. Michael’s or transfer my membership to another church, I was subsequently dropped from the parish membership rolls.
The year after I resigned as senior Lay Reader of St. Michael’s, Gene Robinson was elected, confirmed, and consecrated an Episcopal bishop. God had led me to choose a different path from that of the Episcopal Church.
Since May 2002 I have been involved in various ways in six new church plants at different stages in their development in five different denominations. They include an unsuccessful AMiA church plant, a successful United Methodist plant, and two successful Southern Baptist plants. For two years I served as a Boy Scout troop committee member and chaplain.
Hurricane Katrina and the high cost of living in its aftermath forced me to leave Louisiana and relocate to western Kentucky. I now live on the outskirts of Murray, Kentucky, a small university town, near the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
On November 1, 2017, on the Feast of All Saints, Bishop William Millsaps, licensed me as a lay reader in the Diocese of the South in the Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC) and placed me in temporary pastoral charge of St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Benton, Kentucky. I am pursuing a late life vocation in the EMC.