Meeting at Denny’s was hell — but at least the spirits showed.

A Tough Time for Angels 

Meeting at Denny’s was hell — but at least the spirits showed.

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"Spiritualism is different from most churches," Charlotte says. "A lot of people that come aren't members, and a lot of people that are members don't come. Sometimes people will go to the other church [United Christian SPL at 415 Prospect], which starts at 6 p.m., and come into ours late."

The numbers are low, but some members try to make up for it with their zeal. The Mains are known for attending four different services on Easter Sunday. Oneitha sometimes attends both morning and evening Sunday services.

"That's not unusual when people get hooked on the spirit," Charlotte says. "When they start that spiritual awakening, they go really gung-ho, and they get as much as they can get."

"Spiritualism is more than a religion," Henry adds. "It's a philosophy, a science, a way of life. As much area as it covers, you'd think more people would be involved."

Actually, many people are involved, but not all of them worship under the spiritualist banner. Recently, elements of spiritualism have shown up in other churches. The increasingly popular charismatic movement emphasizes healing and personal prophecies. There are charismatic offshoots of the Episcopalian, Pentecostal and Catholic churches as well as a number of free-denominational stand-alone houses of worship. Unitarianism, often dubbed "the liberal religion" because of its emphasis on religious tolerance and individual freedom, also overlaps with spiritualism in several significant ways, including its increasing acceptance of healings.

"It's a philosophy any religion could turn and take back to its church," Charlotte says. "It's like the spokes on a wheel. People take off and start their own groups. We think they're coming to stay, but every time someone leaves, they take a little bit of me with them."

Not just worshippers have left in recent years. Moreland, also renowned as a Renaissance Festival psychic, had a loyal following that may now be staying away because of her absence. The Rev. Daniel Kudra, a popular pastor who held Sunday morning services at the chapel with the Rev. Mary Howell, left the church in 2001. And national networking has become more difficult since the demise of the American Spiritual Alliance, known for its annual conventions. Charlotte served on the ASA board and was once its president. Kudra was president of the ASA at the time of its dissolution.

"He had been the president the year before, and he put on a very nice convention, but he doesn't have carry-through," Charlotte says. "He didn't have time to do it, but he didn't want to turn it over, so it wound up falling through." The convention, the ASA's signature event, disappeared.

Charlotte clashed with Kudra at Ethelaine, alleging that he skipped scheduled services without warning. "That's the worst thing, to have people show up to a locked door," she says.

After leaving the ASA and Ethelaine, Kudra opened Angels of Light & Candle Shop at 4302 Bell, within walking distance of the Ethelaine. Several recent visits found the store shrouded in darkness during its posted business hours without any explanatory message. Cute cherubs peered through the windows through cold stone eyes. A call yielded only this recorded message: "May the light of your angels burn ever-bright to guide and protect you on your journey, wherever it might lead you on your spiritual path."

Nearly as defunct as the ASA is Ethelaine's board, which once included seven members and had five as recently as this summer. Today, Henry is the only active board member. "We tried to hold elections and give people a voice," Charlotte says. "But when things happened that didn't go their way...." She stops and laughs, a caustic chortle. "I've seen it so much over the years. So much negativity.

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