Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Our friends who are scientific, atheists or have no interest in religion make me think about what I believe about God and religion.

I am happy to call myself religious of the Christian Episcopalian persuasion. I have doubts and am open to discussion and examination of my faith, thinking and beliefs.

I call myself religious because I sense that there is so much in the people, the world and the universe that give me awe and wonder. I am breathless at the “vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses and this fragile earth, our island home” as our Book of Common Prayer reads.

All this stands before me and moves me. To repeat, I stand in “awe and wonder.” Men and women of science explore all aspects of this universe, the world and the people in it. Medicine and psychiatry delve into the intricacies of our bodies and minds.  Physics, mathematics and computers help us understand the working of the world better. Astronomers lead us in exploring interstellar space. Governments and political science attempt to organize our political lives.

Religious people explore the holy, sacred or divine dimensions of life. They don’t get explored easily. Logic and reason can help. Religious perceptions are deeply personal.

Many religious people testify that they have had a personal encounter with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or some force beyond them selves. Southern Baptists believe that this spiritual experience is necessary for salvation.

The Old and New Testaments of The Bible hold many stories of religious experience. Sometimes it happens in dreams or walking along a road or in the face of injustice.  The Idea of the Holy by Rudolph Otto describes many reports of a Mysterium Tremens, a mystical experience described as holy, somehow connected to God or a divine source. I suggest that the proliferation of religion throughout the world is rooted in some kind of mystical experience.

True confession time. I am religious but have not ever had a Mysterium Tremens or mystical experience. I am religious because I always have been, I like going to church and am comforted by the Eucharist, the prayers of thanksgiving, the singing and community. I was brought up in a family that went to church on Sundays and said a prayer at dinner. My father was a priest. My parents read Bible stories to my brother and me. Going to church on Sundays was as natural and normal as eating breakfast. I am a follower of Jesus. I follow his call to care for the poor, the sick and those seeking justice.

People can be religious without a special mystical event or metaphysical illumination.

Here are several patterns:

You went to church as a child, gave it up in college, married and had a child and went back to church as the child grew.

You left the church of your childhood, then married a religious person and went to church with him or her.

You faced the death of a parent, spouse or child and found comfort again in religion.

Many men came back to church when diagnosed with HIV disease.

You, like me, always went to church.

You felt close to God or had a near mystical experience when you were out in nature, hearing great music, viewing great paintings or sculpture. I certainly felt powerfully moved when I fist saw Michelangelo’s David in Florence, Italy.

Visiting sacred spaces are very moving for many: St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, St. Peter’s in the Vatican, Notre Dame in Paris, the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

Scads of people proudly proclaim they are spiritual but not religious (SBNR) I suspect spiritual is the word they use to separate from a religious path they now reject.

Sexual intercourse and sexual intimacy resulting in orgasm some regard as mystical. There is a sense of complete oneness with the other partner that is mysterious and touches the divine. In the sex act one is completely selfish and self-giving at the same moment. There is mutual joy.

Certain drugs produce what are called mystical experiences. LSD for some produces profound mental, physical and emotional experiences which the taker may describe as seeing God or having a sense of the divine.

Certain dancing like whirling and leaping can produce mystical states.

I promised to write about God. Recently, I was reading about metaphor. Joseph Campbell was asked if he believed in God. He responded, “I know a good metaphor when I see one.” I entered into a new way for me to think about God. I just can’t pray to the “ground of all being” and “God as being itself.” The philosophy and theology is fine. But how to pray? I now pray to God, the father. I wish I could say God the mother. That does not work for me. I wish it did. It will work for many other men and women.

God the father is personal, intimate, a being to whom I can pray. Father means creator, symbol of love and forgiveness. When I pray now to my God, I know God means so much more than a divine parent. But now I can pray to and worship a personal God, a metaphor for the “ground of all being.” I also am thankful that God has given me this gift of knowing God.

In liberal and scientific circles being religious is not popular and even frowned upon.

However, religion is alive and healthy and will always be with us and with our spirits.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Why the hate, the anxiety and paranoia? There is real danger afloat by our present leadership. But why the worry, the unease, the passionate distrust? Watching the president and his gang on TV is the culprit. Every moment spent watching the lords of misrule burns into our eyeballs and brains hateful long-lasting images. The more we watch, the more these people influence our anxiety and us. Get our news from newspapers, not TV or computer screens. Reading the newspaper allows us to pick and choose what and how much news we want to see. On TV we are at the mercy of the newscasters and politicians whose images etch into our brains. Newspapers and the printed word set us free to choose. Newspapers manipulate, too. But we can read or not. On TV we have to take what we get.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017



I banged my forehead on the closed door. Awakened at 2:20 in the morning, I wandered into my study to read for a while. The bump hurt a bit but the warm light in the room diverted my attention to the door. It is painted white. It is old-fashioned with segments etched into five panels on both sides. The oval handle is faded brass but has a nice feel when grasped.

The door is an entrance to this room, which is really a bedroom. So many different people have slept in this room, made love, had arguments and stretched while arising from sleep. The entrance now looks in on books, a computer, desk, a couple of chairs and a red, green and blue oriental rug.

In this room doors opened to my memory. I wrote a memoir in this room. What a delight to go over my life full of great joy, wonderful parents, brother, sports, girl friends, marriage and children. My early life was a door to a good education, successful career and retirement.
There was deep sadness too, divorce, separation from my daughters and the deaths of my parents and a grandson.

Yet even this distress was a door to new life. My daughters and I remain close. Married again, my second wife gives me utter joy. I learned how to be truly married. We learned to tell the truth, express affection and forgive quickly.

Recently, I banged my head on another door, the door to God. Reading about metaphor, I entered into a new way for me to think about God. I just can’t pray to the “ground of all being” and “God is being itself.” The philosophy and theology is fine. But how to pray? I now pray to God, the father. I wish I could say God the mother. That does not work for me. I wish it did. It will work for many other men and women.

God the father is personal, intimate, a being to whom I can pray. When I pray now to my God, I know God means so much more than a divine parent. But now I can pray to and worship a personal God, a metaphor for the “ground of all being.” I also am thankful that God has given me this gift of knowing God.

Jesus opened another door for me. I struggle with Jesus as truly God and truly man; the Trinity perplexes and redemption confuses. One day I entered a way of looking at Jesus. Focusing on Jesus’ ministry, I sensed the best thing for me to do is to use his work as an exemplar of my own. We are called to be healers, workers for the poor and hungry and fighters for justice for all.  I stopped worrying about right doctrine. The church’s orthodoxy is intact. I rejoice in a simple, direct and hands on work in the world.

Sometimes banging on doors brings entrance into new light.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Vintage Voice - published by the Church Pension Fund

A Faith Deepened and Refreshed

By the Rev. Robert W. Cromey
My new life commenced in 2002 when I retired as rector of Trinity Church, San Francisco. My 20-year ministry at Trinity was mostly with gay men. Most churches have women as their regular attendees, and they serve as the backbone of parish life. At Trinity, which is in downtown San Francisco, our congregation was 85% men. Even the Altar Guild was all male. Wags dubbed us the gay 90s church because 85% of congregants were gay, and the rest were 90.
During my ministry, AIDS struck and for several years we ministered to dying men, their lovers, parents, and sometimes their children. We conducted 74 funerals. I joined with others to push the city of San Francisco and the Diocese of California to approve same-gender marriage.
After retiring, my wife Ann and I searched for a new parish to attend in San Francisco. After visiting a number of churches, we settled on the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist, not far from our home. There are many LGBT members and a few retirees like us. Like Trinity, the Altar Guild is all male. Our new parish also suffered heavy losses from HIV and AIDS. At St. John, we continue the fight for the rights of same-gender people to marry.
Fr. Richard Smith, the Vicar of St. John, urges our membership to fight to end police killings of black and Latino people. We are engaged in immigrants’ rights, as our neighborhood is a mix of Latino cultures. Our neighborhood is gentrifying, causing personal and family displacement, so we are working with city officials to find housing for the poor and seniors.
Some of us participate each Thursday in a Vigil for Peace and Justice outside the Federal Building. I had to give it up, as my creaky 86-year-old legs couldn’t stand for very long. I do preach about every six weeks, helping our Vicar, who is part time.
When I retired, I vowed to write 500 words a day as a way to keep my brain stimulated. I continue to write letters to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle on issues of state and church, LGBT rights, poverty, peace, and the homeless. I find writing short pieces for Facebook on social, political, and religious issues is well received. I also have a blog with over 400 entries. In addition, I enjoy writing RWC Memoir and Essays Irreverent, both self-published and available from Amazon. I also wrote a small book entitled So You Want to Get Married, also self-published. It has information and advice I gave in pre-marriage counseling.
My writing is the closest I come to meditation. Writing articles and sermons, I am astounded how often insights and epiphanies come to me. New angles, approaches, and stories enter my thought processes. I am a failure at sitting quietly. My prayer life is on the run, thanksgivings for all the gifts God has given me, Ann, my daughters, family, and friends. I pray as I go along with my life and activities.
Jesus is the exemplar and guiding light in my life. As the hymn goes, “I want to follow Jesus.” The lens through which I read the Gospel of Jesus is caring for the poor, homeless, the sick, and those afflicted by injustice. That is the essence of Christianity as far as I am concerned.
I am nourished in all this by weekly attendance at the Eucharist. I love our community, our parish church. It is a small group of very diverse people. College professors, medical doctors, teachers, a masseuse, homeless people, a union organizer, and street people are members. Eight of us retired elders, lay and clergy, a racial and cultural mix of people we would never meet elsewhere, come Sundays to sing, pray, and worship.
Fifteen years of retirement have given me the leisure to see my faith deepened and refreshed.

About the Author

The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey served parishes in the Diocese of New York. In San Francisco, he was Executive Assistant to the Bishop of California, James A. Pike, Vicar of St. Aidan’s, and rector of Trinity, retiring in 2002. Fr. Cromey has three daughters and five grandchildren. He has been married to Ann Cromey for 33 years. His ministry has always advocated for civil and human rights. You can contact him via email at

Friday, February 24, 2017


 People thrust into our minds these days are IMMIGRANTS. The President is waging war on illegal immigrants, insinuating all of them are criminals, drug abusers and cheats. The immorality of classifying one group of people by the bad behavior of a few is screamingly clear.

The fact that Republicans have repeatedly cut funding for the immigration service in the US. It has been easy for many determined people get into the United States or remain here because enforcement of laws again illegals has been sporadic. This crackdown is cruel because many children born of parents who are illegal immigrants face deportation even though they have never lived anywhere but in the United States.

A member of our parish, who is gay, was beaten almost to death in Honduras. If he is deported he faces certain rank discrimination, perhaps death on his return.

Daniella is an illegal. She fears deportation back to El Salvador and she and her daughter Lily face mob rule and sexual abuse at the hands of gangs roaming that country. US President Ronald Reagan spent years and money destabilizing that country as they had a communist leaning regime.

Many have pointed out that the agriculture industry in California and in many Border States depend on immigrant labor to accomplish harvests.

When the father in a family is deported, his wife and children remaining have no source of income and will have to go on welfare. Such cases have already been reported in the media.

Statistics indicate the flow of Mexicans into the United Sates has decreased. The flow of Mexicans going back to Mexico has increased. Our elected Republicans leaders pay no attention.

It appears that our leaders play on the prejudices and fears of the few in order to exert power over the poor and disenfranchised. Leaders want to win elections and make money by harping on popular issues, which are unconstitutional and unjust.

I hope the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights organizations fight these matters in the courts to the fullest extent possible.