April 14, 2013: Counter Cultural Church on the Sunset Strip

Posted on : Apr 11th, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This Sunday, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear from Allan Rohlfs, who served here in 1968 as a Seminary Intern.   When news of our joining the UCC went national, Allan read about us and contacted us.  Below is a glimpse of what our ministry was like in 1968.  With Allan’s permission, I have excerpted portions or our email correspondence.

Please come and hear him in person on Sunday!

Dan,

Congratulations on joining the UCC. I interned there under Ross (Greek) in 1968-69, from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (without prior approval).  We held acceptance groups for gays (not yet “gay”, rather “homophile community”, but primarily for that year we served everyone on the street–hippies and runaways.  Contact me if you want history for at least that year.  Most exciting time of my life!  And yes, the release of the album, “Jesus Christ, Superstar” was held in the sanctuary during that year.  I now attend a UCC church here in Chicago.

Warmly,

Allan Rohlfs

Hi Allan,

Great to hear from you!  I’m guessing you are the famous, but until now unnamed

“Gay Lutheran Intern who started the outreach to the gay community?”  Is that you?

Dan,

I’d be glad if it were, but alas it wasn’t me. I’m straight and married to a wonderful woman.  Lutherans get placed in internships arranged by the seminary and always at Lutheran churches. I rebelled having met Ross earlier and secured my own funding, rejecting my placement to a Lutheran congregation in Massachusetts.  Ross had started groups, if I remember correctly in the late 1950s.  None were going in 1968 because of the counter culture.  Sunset Strip was the counterpoint to Haight-Ashbury, so the primary mission was to that group.  The church had voted unanimously to open doors to those on the street, and then shortly thereafter 2/3 of the congregation left.  That was before I came.  But a gay group was started during my year.  LA free clinic started there the year before I came.

We were notable because neighbors complained about dirty hippies so we contacted Hollywood Presbyterian which had a gym and showers, and the big Methodist church (First Methodist of Hollywood) which also had a gym to open its locker room for showers and we’d staff it.  They declined so we got a hose and shoved it through the bathroom windows, solicited bathing suits, got a washer and dryer donated by the Rotary club and hippies would throw their clothes into the washer, put on a suit, go to the parking lot and hose off behind  a  bamboo screen (we also got bar soap donations somewhere).  We started the whole project with a foot washing ceremony which Ross performed and ABC national news was there.  Neighbors were furious.  We also had a lunch every day–feeding up to 50 people.

When I returned to Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago for my senior year I challenged in ethics class the understanding of homosexuality based upon the information I learned from Ross during those groups.  About 1/3 of the actual congregation remaining was gay.

Marge Champion became a member of the church after seeing that ABC broadcast.  I also saw Peter Fonda there for some event and Rafer Johnson (Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon) during the years’ time.  We had Friday night coffee house, which was a group discussion and Diane Linkletter, Art Linkletter’s daughter attended.  She committed suicide shortly thereafter while on an LSD trip.

It was sometime after I left that the congregation changed to be mostly (entirely?) LGBT.

Warmly,

Allan

Hey Allan,

Oral history may have made you an honorary gay!  You must be the famous “Lutheran Intern!”

Did you become a Lutheran pastor? Glad to hear you are now UCC!!!

Dan,

I never was ordained.  The year at West Hollywood was so exciting, it killed me for anything less, and there wasn’t anything like it in the US.  While waiting for something to appear I turned to personal growth.  I got started at West Hollywood–it was the “scene” in LA and avant garde therapists volunteered in droves to give groups for our clientele and I participated in everything.  Dance therapy from UCLA, psychodrama, Synanon “attack” groups, conventional social work groups, gestalt, and more.  While waiting for something to appear I continued my personal growth work and turned more and more attention to psychotherapy.  But still from a social change perspective.

At the University of Chicago I came into contact with Eugene Gendlin, a student of Carl Rogers and the developer of focusing, <www.focusing.org>  Shortly thereafter with Marshall Rosenberg, the originator of Nonviolent Communication, <www.cnvc.org>.  I learned empathic listening from Gendlin, began a practice, and simultaneously taught listening as a learnable skill to increase the availability of helping processes to the general population.  Similarly I studied with Marshall to teach nonviolent communication.  I now do both and am on the adjunct faculty at Lutheran School of Theology for their intro course in pastoral care where I teach everyone empathic listening.

More later.  Many thanks for your warm response.

Allan

Matthew 25:31-45

Jesus tells a parable about “how God judges us.”

When Jesus returns in glory, all the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate them from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, placing the sheep on the right, but the goats on the left.  Then the Ruler will say to those on the right, “Come, O blessed of my God, inherit the realm prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer, “When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”  And the Ruler will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my sisters and brothers, you did it to me.”

Then the Ruler will say to those on the left, “Depart from me, you cursed; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”  Then they also will answer, “When did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to you?”  Then the Ruler will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”

Leave a Reply