WES Blog — The Other Side of the Tracks

As your Congregational Administrator, most of you know my name, or at least that I’m the one that processes the checks and tracks the budget.  But you may not know much more about me or why WES is important to me.

I was born a Methodist preacher’s kid in central Illinois, and we moved a lot.  I lived in seven towns across that area, none larger than 1,200 people.  Each of those towns had one thing in common.  There was the neighborhood you lived in and the one on the other side of the railroad tracks.  One side was mostly protestant and white collar, the other side mostly Catholic and working class. 

Only very rarely was there a person of color.  I remember only three people.  One was an African American named Lemoine.  He lived alone in a tiny house and occasionally came to my father’s church.  But mostly he spent his time across the Mississippi in Hannibal.  The others were a Korean woman, who had married a soldier, and her mother.  They never left their house, but sometimes you could see them looking out their picture window, dressed in their bright silk robes.  All three of them lived, of course, on the other side of the tracks.  There must have been LGTBQ+ people, but no one would have admitted to that.

Later I moved to Washington to go to school.  DC also had its own boundary between two neighborhoods – Rock Creek.  Here, though, it was based more on race.  Whites with means lived on the west side of the creek, people of color and those with lesser means on the other side.  My sister, who also lived here, eventually told me she was a lesbian and took me to gay nightclubs.  But in those days, it was risky for gay people to come out of the closet.  So the clubs were hidden very far across the Creek, where their bosses and coworkers wouldn’t see them.

Times have gotten better since then, but we’re still divided by boundaries.  Now they’re more often cultural rather than physical ones.  We’re very lucky to have a place like WES where we all work to remove those boundaries – to pull up the tracks and treat everyone with decency and respect regardless of their race, gender, or however they may feel about deities.  To elicit the best from each of us as human beings.  That’s why WES is important to me.  Discovering WES has given me a hope I never had before.


Tom Hutton