Alice, Corpus Christi, and Portland, TX

Distance traveled from San Antonio: 1,977,231 steps

Churches: Church of the Advent, All Saints, Good Shepherd, St. Mark’s, St. Bartholomew’s, and St. Christopher’s by the Sea

 

Opening Prayer
Holy God, you always show mercy toward those who you love and you are

never far away for those who seek you. Be with your servants on this pilgrimage

and guide their way in accord with your will. Be a companion for them along their

journey, a guide at crossroads, strength in their weariness, defence before dangers,

shelter on the way, shade against the heat, light in the darkness, a comforter in their

discouragements, and firmness in their intentions, in order that, through your

guidance, they might arrive unscathed at the end of their journey and, enriched

with graces and virtues, they might return safely home; through Jesus Christ Your

Son, Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for

ever and ever. Amen.

 

Welcome to Alice, Corpus Christi, and Portland, TX!

 

Alice
Alice lies 45 miles west of Corpus Christi and has a population of 19,000. The city was established in 1888, first under the name Bandana, then Kleberg, and eventually to Alice, after the daughter of Richard King of the King Ranch. Its original economy was built on the cattle industry, with a shift to oil production in the 1940s that still continues today. It is often called the crossroads, as Alice sits almost square in the middle of San Antonio, Laredo, McAllen, and Corpus Christi. 

The Episcopal Church has been present in Alice since 1893 through the Church of the Advent. They worshipped in the same building from 1896 until 1954 when construction on their current building began. A parish hall and classrooms were added in 1969. They have one service a Sunday at 9 am, with fellowship and classes for all ages following. Church of the Advent is welcoming to all in the community and is “committed to each other and our community.​..we celebrate God’s love through fellowship,  worship, and praise.” They are currently served by The Rev. Tom Turner. 

The various cultures that call Texas home have given us truly amazing and unique traditions that resonate far beyond the State’s borders.  Whether it’s enjoying some Tex-Mex at your favorite San Antonio restaurant or listening to Tejano music as you walk this pilgrimage, there are countless ways to experience the melting pot of Texas.  For the music fans out there, the genre known as Tejano music has produced countless stars both big and small and has had a tremendous impact on other artists ranging from Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs to Los Lobos.  If one really wants to learn all the history Tejano music has to offer, a visit to the Tejano ROOTS Hall of Fame Museum is in order.  But before we can dig into the museum, we first must understand Tejano music.

Though there had been Germans in Texas prior to the revolutions that swept the German States in 1848, it was the mass migration of individuals from the German lands in the second half of the 19th century that helped spread the influence of the music from these regions with the accordion quickly finding a home in Texas.  The popularity of the accordion and waltzes quickly grew, especially among the Tejano and Mexican American communities that had long called Texas home.  Musicians would combine the accordion with traditional Spanish lyrics and begin traveling to different communities providing entertainment and helping to spread the bases of Tejano music.  By the early 1920’s several Tejano music artists would find their way to small-time recording companies, though these records would have a limited release and would often have racial undertones pinned to the presentation of the albums.  In 1946 Armondo Marroquin of Alice Texas would found Ideal Records, a record label for Tejano music for both a local and national music market in response to what Armondo felt was the abandonment of regional musical styles by other record labels.  Through tireless work promoting these Tejano artists, Armondo and Ideal records helped popularize Tejano music, and through the master recordings many early artists’ works have been preserved for future generations’ enjoyment.  On May 3, 2001, Governor Rick Perry signed House Bill 1019 which officially designated Alice as the birthplace of Tejano music, with the ROOTS museum bringing the history of the music to life.

For the pilgrim whose trail takes them to the ROOTS museum, they will find artifacts, musical instruments, photographs, stage costumes, and other materials highlighting many of the stars of the genre.  In addition to their preservation efforts, the museum has sponsored an annual Noche De Fiesta Tejana weekend in Alice where both new and past artists are inducted into the Hall of Fame and allowing for rising amateur musicians to show off the ever-evolving genre.

While we continue to travel the Diocese for this pilgrimage, it is important to remember to take time to recharge ourselves.  Though many of the stories of the past that have and will be told during this journey may be difficult to hear, they are important in coming to understand the long road ahead for seeing true social justice for Texas.  

Corpus Christi
Corpus has a population of 327,000, making it the 8th largest city in Texas. The name comes from the Ecclesiastical Latin for body of Christ, referencing Holy Communion. The name was given to the city by the Spanish explorer, Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, in 1519. Corpus is known for its beaches, museums, and visitor attractions. The Texas State Aquarium is as fun as it is educational about Texas’ marine life. History buffs can enjoy a tour of the USS Lexington, an Essex-class aircraft carrier that was launched in 1942. Today the Lexington is docked and is a museum that provides an inside look at Navy life in WWII and beyond.  

There are four Episcopal Churches in Corpus proper, Church of the Good Shepherd, All Saints, St. Bartholomew’s, and St. Mark’s, each with their own personalities and traditions. 

The Church of the Good Shepherd was established on the second floor of the Corpus Christi Courthouse in 1863. At the time Corpus Christi was considered a missionary district of the Diocese of Texas. Church of the Good Shepherd became part of the missionary district of the Diocese of West Texas in 1874, and became a self-supported parish in 1910. They have four services a Sunday, and a variety of programs throughout the week for all ages. They are currently served by The Rev. Milton Black, Rector, The Rev. Phillip May, Associate Rector, The Rev. William Campbell, Assistant Rector, and The Rev. Frank Fuller, Assisting Priest. 

All Saints Episcopal Church was constructed in 1949, in the middle of cotton fields. The city has since grown around them, and in 2005 major renovations expanded the church to accommodate new needs and their growing numbers. They have two services a Sunday, and they have continued their covid-19 schedule of live streaming Morning Prayer and Compline every weekday. They have a beautiful indoor labyrinth and a long list of outreach programs. They are currently served by The Rev. Jonathan Wickham, Rector, and The Rev. Keith Davis, Curate. 

St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church began as a missionary church, Church of the Good Shepherd in 1959 and was given full parish status in 1964. They have two services a Sunday and strive to keep a family atmosphere in all that they do. They are currently served by The Rev. Sean Maloney, Rector

St. Mark’s motto is, “Real Faith for Real Life.  We welcome people of all backgrounds and ages.  No matter where we are in our faith journey, God Himself works with us in community building faith.” They currently hold one outdoor service and one live-streamed service each Sunday morning. They are involved in a myriad of outreach ministries, and formation activities for all ages. They are currently served by The Rev. John Hardy. 

The call to action for social justice is one felt by countless individuals throughout history, with a multitude of names filling the pages of Texas history with stories of fighting for the rights and freedoms of their fellow humans.  While the term abolitionist is one associated with the anti-slavery movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, the reality is that the term abolitionist only applied to those who sought the immediate end to the institution of slavery.  For an individual to proclaim immediate abolition of slavery could prove dangerous as much of the wealth found in the Southern United States was concentrated in the institution that kept humans in bondage and concentrated efforts were made to ensure not only the continuation but the spread of slavery in the US.  Many abolitionists of the day began to look to other countries and lands as possible homes and colonies for those formerly enslaved individuals to establish, with Mexico and Mexican Texas serving as a possibility for many with Mexico’s abolition of slavery in 1824.  One individual who would attempt to start his own freed slave colony in what is now Corpus Christi was the Quaker Benjamin Lundy.

The New Jersey native, Lundy was a passionate advocate for the universal immediate emancipation of all enslaved individuals and for the resettling of these individuals in colonies outside of the US.  While today we would look at this notion of sending away the formerly enslaved as racist (and by the standards of today it certainly is), at the time this was an attempted solution to the argument made by many pro-slavery advocates that the formerly enslaved would not live willingly or peacefully with their former enslavers.  For Lundy to establish this colony, he began in 1833 to travel to the land he believed perfect for a colony and one that he would hold close to his heart, Texas.  Traveling throughout the State and Northern Mexico, Lundy would visit and ingratiate himself with many in the Mexican government in attempts to be given a land grant for the future colony.  Gradually Lundy’s plan took shape and with the backing of Mexico’s government, Lundy would begin work in 1834 at the chosen site for the colony in modern-day Corpus Christi.  However, the tides of history would intervene and with the Texas Revolution and founding of the Texas Republic, Lundy would find his plans interrupted and permanently ended as the new Republic enacted laws in its constitution forbidding any free African Americans from residing in Texas.  Even though his plan for a colony had fallen apart, Lundy would continue to advocate for the full abolition of slavery and work alongside former President John Quincy Adams to delay Texas’s annexation to the US before passing away in 1839.

Throughout our lives, we will be called upon to stand up for our fellow human beings in one form or another.  There will be times when we will be afraid to act and certain times when we will fail, but as disciples of Christ, we are called to care for all our neighbors.  As we walk with Christ on our pilgrimage, so too do we walk with Christ as we come to better understand both ourselves and those we share our homes with.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Portland
Portland has a population of 15,000 and rests on the top of the second-highest bluff on the Gulf Coast. It overlooks the Nueces and Corpus Christi Bay. Being close to the water, Portland offers visitors ideal locations for swimming, boating, fishing, and more. Sunset Lake park offers 300+ acres of marshland and a saltwater lake. The park has bike and walking paths, as well as the opportunity to boat, fish, and bird watching. 

St. Christopher’s by the Sea provides an Episcopal presence to the area. They hold one service a Sunday at 10:30 am, and celebrate feast days with great celebration throughout the year. They offer a food pantry to the community twice a month, and on Wednesday evenings host a theological book study. They are currently served by The Rev. John Blackburn, Priest in charge. 

For many individuals, the knowledge that we are truly known is both comforting and helps to reassure us that we are important to someone.  But what does it mean for an individual when their identity is lost to history?  An even more pressing question is what does it mean to have your identity lost in all aspects aside from being known as the victim of unjust extrajudicial violence.  In several of the places, we have found ourselves during the pilgrimage we have encountered both the named and unnamed victims of the various crimes of lynching that occurred in these towns.  Even when we do know the name of the individual, this information is often all we know of the individual along with their race, with the newspapers of the time reporting just the ethnicity of the victim and if we’re lucky maybe the age.  For countless others, ethnicity is all we know of those who suffered this violence, with their names and in truth, the life stories of these individuals lost to time.  In the case of the violence that engulfed Portland Texas and much of Nueces County in 1877, we know none of the names of those lynched, only the name of the individual whose death touched off the violence.

Texas in 1877 was a State that was both still feeling the economic impact of defeat during the Civil War and rebuilding its economy through the growth of the cattle drives heading north along with one of the many trails.  While the price one could get for cattle in Texas was low, significant profit could be made by selling one’s cattle at one of the railheads in Kansas prompting many acts of cattle rustling from both sides of the border.  Raids would occur periodically back and forth across the border with cattle being stolen from Mexico and some of those very cattle being stolen back.  In July of 1877, a victim of one of these tit-for-tat raids was Lee Rabb, the son of Martha Rabb who owned one of the largest cattle herds in the state.  While newspapers of the time report that he was killed by friends of the woman he loved because she was Mexican and he was not, later historical research shows that Rabb was killed while returning from a raid into Mexico for cattle.  Lee’s death would prompt large-scale attacks against the Mexican and Tejano communities of the County, with over 40 individuals lynched, many of whom were attacked randomly.  Sadly we do not know the names of any of these victims, only their ethnicity, and that their deaths were celebrated in many newspapers in the County.  From the newspapers, we also know that none of the murderers who participated in this violence were ever caught or tried, though years later many prominent County members would claim to have ridden in these terrors.  The story of this incident is one of many that occurred in the violence that erupted in Texas from the end of the Civil War to the mid 20th century that has been all but forgotten.  It is only in a few books that the event is referenced, with the possibility of knowing the names of the victims becoming an ever more distant prospect.

What does it mean to be truly known?  As a family, we come together every Sunday to proclaim not only the name of Jesus but to remember both those members of the Church who have gone before us and our neighbors who are still with us.  It is important to learn and discover more about the events of the past and the stories that have been lost from the narrative so that in a way we can come to better know those whose names are now lost to us.  These individuals are a part of the community of Christ and as we wish to be known so should we know those around us.

Closing Prayer

O God of unconditional love, you who show no partiality in respect to people or nations, we have heard your good news of great joy for all the people. We hear that good news, and in hearing, believe. We know that your sanctuary is a house of worship for all people, with no regard for the colour of our skin. As we worship you, knit us into a people, a seamless garment of many colours. May we celebrate our unity, made whole in our diversity. Forgive us for our inability to let our “old selves” die to the world. Amen.
-Church of Scotland

 

Next Stop Thursday, July 22nd

Location: Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, and Rockport, TX

Distance to travel: 74,000 steps

Churches: Church of our Savior, Trinity, and St. Peter’s