For the first quarter century of his ordained ministry, until a season as priest in charge at Christ Church in Ontario in the nineties, the Rev. Jim Friedrich managed to avoid attending a vestry meeting.
My first thought when he told me this was that since people are inclined to the sin of envy, one might want to keep that kind of thing to oneself. Yet curating a unique vocation, serving God and God’s people by doing what he loves, is Jim’s example to lay and ordained practitioners alike. Describing himself as an itinerant religious engineer, he pioneered rock masses, among other liturgical innovations, and smiles as he describes Bishop F. Eric Bloy’s support of his venturesome plans for his May 1970 ordination at All Saints’ Beverly Hills.
One of his delightful stories from that time concerns a performance at St. John’s Cathedral (it was still a parish church), when his longtime friend and colleague the Very Rev. Gary Hall portrayed one of the carpenters who built the crucifixion cross. He and his coworker weren’t sure about the guilt or innocence of the condemned person it would bear. “They wondered ‘What if we go on strike?’” Jim said. Among his many other contemporaries and friends in our diocese are the Rev. Fred Fenton and the Rev. William Persell as well as the late Peter Haynes, with whom he played in the Campbell Hall band.
Canonically resident in Los Angeles, Jim now lives in the Diocese of Olympia, where his spouse, the Rev. Karen Haig, is rector of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Bainbridge Island, and he serves as an assisting priest. He’s in town this week visiting family and friends and attending the 36th annual All-California Sacred Harp Singing Convention in Altadena. It was a blessing and joy to have him stop by St. Paul’s Commons, Echo Park Thursday afternoon to tell me about his life and ministry. For several years I’ve followed his thoughtful posts, especially on Israel-Palestine, at https://jimfriedrich.com.
Right off the bat, since Sacred Harp singing comprised a gap in my musical education, Jim gave me a primer. He’s also a film historian who teaches a class on how Jesus is portrayed at the movies. His father, Minnesota-born the Rev. James K. Friedrich, produced Christian features and shorts, including “Day of Triumph” (1954), for his own company, Cathedral Films. Jim said his dad showed them in backyard house church meetings around Los Angeles during World War II, at one of which the elder Fr. Jim baptized his infant son.
Among younger Jim’s other LA stories is attending Bob Dylan’s legendary show at the Hollywood Bowl in September 1965, where Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, later of the Band, and organist Al Kooper helped Dylan shatter the acoustic folk paradigm to bits. Learning this, yet another of Jim’s brushes with greatness, I was tempted to kiss his ring.