San Francisco minister to receive similar award
Cathedral of Hope surprised Tim Seelig, artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale, with the church’s Heroes of Hope award last Sunday.
On Sunday, the church will present an identical award to the Rev. Cecil Williams, a Methodist minister from San Francisco.
Cathedral of Hope began presenting the Heroes of Hope award in the 1990s to recognize those who have taken courageous stands for the rights of all people, including GLBT people, church representatives said. Recipients have included gay rights activist John Thomas, Congressman John Lewis, gospel singer Cynthia Clawson and Betty DeGeneres, the mother of Ellen DeGeneres.
Last year, the church presented the award to the United Church of Christ in recognition of the denomination’s stance in favor of same-sex marriage and other GLBT rights issues. The church produced and broadcast commercials that included a gay couple.
United Church of Christ was the first organization to receive the award.
The Rev. Michael Piazza, dean of the cathedral, said church leaders had already decided to present the award this year to Williams, who oversees national and international ministries at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, in recognition of his work for social change.
Cathedral decided to present a second award to Seelig after he announced earlier this month that he will resign as artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale at the end of the 2007 performance season. Seelig will remain on the chorale’s staff.
Seelig’s announcement followed a highly publicized conflict last year that resulted in the resignations of several board members who objected to Seelig’s leadership style.
But the chorale’s 2006 season was one of the most successful in its 26-year history, with record-breaking attendance at a performance with the “Greater Tuna” cast and the highest income ever from ticket sales, Seelig said when he announced his decision to step down.
“Like me, Tim has had his critics from time to time,” Piazza said in a written statement. “But I have never seen a statue of a critic.”
Piazza added, “Tim Seelig is the one most responsible for creating the masterpiece that we call the Turtle Creek Chorale. Furthermore, Tim alone knows the name and face and voice and soul of every man the chorale has lost to AIDS, yet he has borne that loss with great grace and courage. He has kept us singing when our hearts were breaking, and that is why he is a Hero of Hope.”
Seelig was surprised with the award during the cathedral’s 9 a.m. service last Sunday after he had performed a medley arranged by Anne Albritton and often performed by the chorale to express the grief and loss the GLBT community has endured throughout the AIDS epidemic, Piazza said. The medley included “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” “No One is Alone” and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”
Williams will receive the Heroes of Hope award at the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services on Sunday. He will deliver the sermon at both tservices.
Williams was one of five students who, in 1955, became the first African-Americans to graduate from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.
He has been pastor of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church for 37 years, and during that time has created a 10,000-member church that practices diversity, spirituality and compassion, Piazza said.
He is respected as a minister, community leader, author, lecturer and spokesman for the poor and marginalized, and is recognized as a national leader at the forefront of the movement for social change, Piazza said.
“What brings this community of people together is the common search for acceptance, spiritual growth and social justice,” Piazza said. “Williams’ spirituality demands action through good works, as staff and thousands of volunteers feed more than 1 million meals a year to the hungry and offer the hope of recovery and healing in the lives of the city’s most marginalized. His tireless work has made Glide one of the most active, dynamic churches in the world.”
Cathedral of Hope is located at 5910 Cedar Springs Road.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 21, 2006.