Sanctuary

For a century this inner-city church has served as a refuge. But its most important mission has always been outside the walls.

Marguerite's father eventually became the pastor of another church and remarried, moving into a house next door to where Marguerite now lives. He died February 19, 1958; it was Ash Wednesday. At his funeral, fellow minister Harry Huntington said of his friend and colleague: "He was more than a preacher; he was a minister to his people, sharing in their joys and sorrows...His only son is a minister. I can think of no greater tribute to the integrity and sincerity of a minister than that his own son should follow in his footsteps...Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"

At the Iliff library, Millette pulls a squash-yellow brochure from a box that holds memorabilia from the First German Methodist Church. Printed in English in the mid-1930s, it laments how the church was under pressure from outside, pressure "felt by all foreign-speaking groups and organizations...except, perhaps, Catholics.

"No one was to blame, but in the natural order of things, the young people wanted to be LIKE their neighbors. They refused to be DIFFERENT. At least they wanted to be the SAME all the time and not on weekdays only. So they naturally drifted into the English-speaking churches."

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First German had continued to lose membership. Finally, all the German churches were consolidated into one United Methodist church with first part-time and ultimately full-time use of the English language at all services. "Now the children of the parsonage are scattered far and wide," the brochure reads. "The future of the church is a grave problem.

"But whatever the outcome, nothing can mar the past or blot it out. Nor can any power destroy its influence. These will live forever."

Marguerite visited the old church several years ago as a guest of Robert Woolfolk. She was thrilled to see the old steeple, renovated and rising high above tall trees that had been mere saplings when she first played around them. "I think it's wonderful that the old parsonage is being used for their community projects," she says. "My mother and father would have liked that.

"Otherwise, I was surprised at how much the church looked just like when we left...except for the piano...it was gone." Marguerite pauses and passes a hand across her eyes. "Yee gawds, that was a beautiful piano."

Ten-year-old Barry Staten was playing baseball on the asphalt playground at Sacred Heart Catholic School when he spotted the older boy with the Molotov cocktail. He'd seen some of the local teenagers fooling around with gasoline bombs and, of course, the television news reports of race riots. It all looked exciting. Besides, what else was there for a boy to do on a hot summer afternoon in 1966 in the Five Points neighborhood?

"Hey, can I have that?" he yelled, trotting over to where the older boy stood next to the school. The boy looked Barry over, as though appraising whether the chubby brown kid could be trusted. Then he handed the bomb to Barry.

The next thing Barry knew, the older boy was lighting the rag wick that hung from the neck of the gasoline-filled bottle. Suddenly things were no longer fun. Barry thought the bottle might blow up in his hand, so he tossed it down a school stairwell and ran like hell.

He ran straight across the alley and through his back door. Only then did he turn and see the billowing clouds of black smoke. The fire trucks arrived and put out the fire. Fortunately, there wasn't much damage; otherwise things might have gone much worse for him.

As it was, one of his baseball buddies told on Barry, and it wasn't long before the fire marshal and the police were at the door. "It wasn't me, it was him," Barry cried, accusing his accuser. He wasn't half so worried about the authorities as what his father would do when he heard.

Chester Staten was a stern man who didn't put up with any guff from his son. He wasn't much for church--the family went only on Easter Sundays--but he believed wholeheartedly in the biblical expression Spare not the rod. Many times he'd given Barry such a whipping that Barry's mother had called the police to stop him.

It didn't take much to set the old man off. If he told Barry to be home at 6 p.m., getting home at 6:02 was not good enough. And try as he might, Barry was always late. Then he'd stand outside the house, where no one could see him, and watch the family as they ate dinner and turned in. Sometimes he'd stay out all night and wait for his father to leave in the morning. But then his father would just give it to him when he got home that night.

So Barry was desperate when he denied throwing the bomb; no telling what his father would do. But this time Chester stuck by his son, telling the police that Barry didn't know anything about "making no Molotov cocktails." Barry's mother wasn't so sure, but after the judge let him off with a warning, she just lectured him not to hang out with certain boys who were bound to come to no good.

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