1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 35
“I want to belong to a church again,” she said quietly. “Some people are content without being part of a denomination, but I am not. The Catholic Church…” She shook her head. “Is no longer an option for me. And I don’t care for most of the Protestant churches.”
She gave the people assembled in the room a look that fell just this side of hard. “That includes the Lutheran church, and if that offends any of you, so be it. I’ve thought about it a lot over the past year or two, and I decided I want to belong to an American church. So I chose the Episcopalians.”
Kresse’s frown was back. Could the man manage to let an hour go by without it? “The Episcopalians are an English church.”
To her surprise, Eric Krenz responded. “No, they’re not, Georg. They originated from the Anglican Church but they’ve been independent for more than two centuries.” He waved his hand. “In that other universe, I’m talking about. What you have today in our universe is a complicated situation where over there” — he waved again, more or less in the direction of the British Isles — “you’ve got a big pack of down-time English clerics and kings and Puritans and whatnot squabbling with each other, and over here” — he now gestured more or less in the direction of Grantville — “you’ve got a very small pack of up-timers who share a lot of doctrine and most emphatically do not share a lot of attitude with the English.”
By now, everyone in the room was frowning — Gretchen too — trying to follow Krenz’s convoluted explanation of religious evolution spanning two universes and twice that many centuries.
Wasn’t bad, actually.
“What he said,” stated Gretchen.
As she usually did, Tata remained behind after the meeting adjourned. More unusually, Eric did also.
“How do you come to know so much about the Episcopal Church?” Tata asked him.
Eric’s expression became shifty-eyed. “Well…”
“Ha!” Tata didn’t quite curl her lip. The face she made indicated that she would have except the issue was not worthy of her outright contempt. “Tried to seduce an up-timer once, did you? It went badly, I imagine.”
Eric gave her a sulky look. “Anne Penzey. I met her in Magdeburg when Thorsten and I were training in the army. She was, ah, young at the time –”
“Young?” said Gretchen. “I know the girl! She couldn’t have been more than… That was what, two years ago? She’d have been no older than sixteen!”
“Seventeen,” Eric protested. “Almost eighteen, maybe.”
“It’s not worth getting worked up over, Gretchen,” Tata said. “It’s true that Eric is a lecher but he’s terrible at it so no harm is done.” The laugh that followed was more in the way of a giggle. “Look what happened there! Seventeen years old — practically a child, still — and she fended the clumsy lout off with a lecture on ecclesiastical history.”
She now moved to the issue actually at hand. “I’m curious myself, though. Why did you pick that American church?”
“It’s a little hard to explain. Most of the American churches are… how to say it?”
“Peculiar,” Eric provided. “Downright weird, some of them — especially the ones that call themselves Pentecostal. There’s even one church in Grantville — so I was told, anyway; I didn’t investigate myself — where they speak in tongues and play with snakes.”
“I’m not sure that rumor is really true,” Gretchen said. “Although it might be. Some of the American churches seem a lot like Anabaptists.”
She shrugged. “I was raised Catholic. I like the… what to call it? The way Catholics do things. I was told the Episcopalians are much alike, that way. Some of them, at least. The ones they call ‘high church.'”
She smiled, then, a bit wickedly. “Especially Admiral Simpson.”
“Simpson?” Eric and Tata were wide-eyed now. Clearly, both of them were trying to visualize Gretchen Richter and John Chandler Simpson worshipping in the same church and…
Having a hard go of it.
“He is on the side of the angels, these days,” said Tata. Dubiously.
“I think it’s more of a loan,” Eric cautioned. “Any day — you never know — Satan might call it in and demand his interest.”
Three days later, Tom Simpson came to Dresden. With him, he had in tow a young woman named Ursula Gerisch.
“I’m your bishop,” he told Gretchen. “Don’t ask me any questions, though, because I’m trying to study up on the job myself. Laud just gave it to me. I think mostly out of pique — probably some spite, too.”
Gretchen stared at him. “I thought someone named Robert Herrick was the bishop in the USE.”
Tom shook his head. “He’s headquartered in Magdeburg. Originally his diocese was named as the whole USE, but now it’s being divided. Herrick will wind up with everything that’s not part of the so-called ‘Grantville Diocese,’ as Laud is calling it.”
“Which covers what part of the country?” asked Gretchen, frowning.
“I don’t know yet. I don’t think Laud himself does. But apparently it’s going to cover Saxony. I wouldn’t worry about it, though. Between you and me, Herrick doesn’t really want the job anyway so he won’t be underfoot too much. Which is a good thing, from everything I’ve heard about him.”
Gretchen had received an earful herself on the subject of Robert Herrick’s shortcomings while she’d been in Grantville.
She moved aside from the doorway to let Tom and Ursula enter her apartment. It was quite a nice apartment, as you’d expect in the Residenzschloss. “I would offer you something to drink but I’m afraid I don’t have anything at the moment except some water. Although I could heat up some broth. I’ve been very busy lately and the boys” — the sounds of two young children playing in another room were quite audible — “don’t like coffee and tea. I don’t bother keeping it around unless I know Jeff is coming for a visit.”
She was babbling a little. A bishop? Tom Simpson — huge, affable, cheerful, friendly Tom Simpson, so unlike his father — was now a bishop?
Well, why not? They lived in an age of miracles again, as witness the great cliffs created by the Ring of Fire.
“I can’t stay long anyway, Gretchen. The only reason I came to Dresden is because we need some special equipment made to get the ten-inch rifles out of the river — never mind the grisly details — and this is the best place to get it done quickly. Grantville and Magdeburg have better facilities for the purpose but they’re so backlogged with work I decided to come here instead. But I’m leaving first thing tomorrow.”
He turned to Gerisch, took her elbow and hauled her forward. “Ursula is the best proselytizer we’ve got. She’s a whiz at it. She agreed to move here and my mother agreed to subsidize her for a while. And if you want to know why a Unitarian is willing to support an Episcopalian missionary, trust me, you really don’t want to know. My mother’s schemes can confuse the ghost of Machiavelli. Just accept that she is.”
He breezed right on, not giving Gretchen a chance to say anything — which didn’t really matter since she had no idea what to say anyway.
“We need a proselytizer here in Dresden because until you get enough people to form a congregation there’s no point my sending you a priest, which is good because I still have to study up on how I’d go about ordaining one in the first place. Hey, give me a break. I’ve been a good Episcopalian all my life but it’s not as if I paid a lot of attention to how the gears turned. So to speak. I was a wannabe professional football player and then a soldier after the Ring of Fire.”
He finally broke off — for maybe two seconds. “So there we are. Can you put Ursula up for a few days until she finds a place of her own?”
“Great. I’m leaving, then. I’ll see you again… whenever. Probably not until we take Munich, though.”
And off he went.
Gretchen closed the door and looked at Ursula. The woman had an odd expression on her face. It seemed to consist mostly of unease combined with penance and perhaps a trace of defiance.
“I must warn you, Frau Richter, since you will no doubt hear of it soon anyway. My past is… not very reputable.”
Finally! A place to rest her anchor.
“Neither is mine,” Gretchen said, growling like a mastiff.