Interview with Bob Barrett
Bob is the pastor of the Yachats Community Presbyterian Church. The Yachats Gazette had originally intended to follow up on Bob’s offer to perform free marriages for gay couples, but our conversation extended so far beyond that original point that this will be a two-part series at minimum.
TYG: Why offer to perform same-sex marriages for free?
Bob: So, in the days immediately following the election, I had several people reaching out to me expressing some real concern and fear over what they might expect under the new administration. People in the LGBTQ community, ...
TYG: What is that?
TYG-Graphic Design: Queer...
Bob: Yes. And people in the minority community, particularly in the Hispanic community, people of color, that approached me and met with me at the church and here at the Green Salmon, at the grocery store—I would really, without any exaggeration, say that in the months since the election I have done more pastoral counseling than I’ve done in my entire two years here in Yachats. I guess my offer was even before the election—I thought there might be people who wanted to be married before a new administration. It was more a show of support and solidarity; I don’t know that I really expected that anybody would take me up on it when I made it, but it was a genuine offer. I really believe that apart from what anyone might believe as a person of faith or as part of the church, or what their views are on same-sex marriage and whether or not it’s sin—I don’t happen to think that it is sin, although that, for me, has been an evolving position as well: I grew up with a much more traditional, conservative understanding, and I have evolved there—but whatever your feelings are on the issue, I think that there needs to be a clear separation of church and state. In the United States we say we believe in liberty and justice for all, and all really needs to mean all. If there is to be a separation between church and state, then there ought to be a means to become married apart from the church, and our government needs to recognize that. I’ve kind of felt for a long time now that marriage should be a purely civil contract that people enter into [between] two consenting adults. If they want to have that then blessed, sanctified in the eyes of God, then if they can find a church or a pastor that is willing to do that, I don’t believe that the government—because, again, of the separation between church and state—should tie my hands if my religious beliefs say that it is not sin. If I think they ought to have the same rights as anyone to have that recognized by the church and blessed by God, then I want to have the right to be able to do that.
TYG: [...] So what is “pastoral counseling”?
Bob: People that are kind of struggling spiritually, and wondering where God is in the middle of all of this... It’s not psychiatric counseling, and if it goes on beyond one or two meetings—it’s more listening than anything, and offering some common sense advice—anything more than that, and I refer them to professional counselors, because that’s not really my background. People just want somebody to listen, somebody to vent to; certainly lots of tears and honest sharing of their fears.
TYG: Useful service!
Bob: Thank you.
TYG-GD: Can you tell us a little bit more about you? How did you come to your profession? How did you come to Yachats?
Bob: Yes! Gosh! About me. [ponders]
TYG-GD: Where did you grow up?
Bob: I grew up in a little town called Naugatuck, Connecticut.
TYG-GD: I think I’ve heard of that, or been there—I taught at Trinity College, in Hartford.
Bob: Yes! Kind of an hour south of there, down I84, Waterbury. Very blue-collar. Uniroyal was there. Rubber: they made tires, Keds sneakers—very working-class community. Great place to grow up. I grew up in the Catholic church.
TYG-GD: In the Catholic church!
Bob: Roman Catholic! I really loved church: I loved the ritual, the smells—everything about it. I would mouth the words of the mass, and I’d play. Other kids would play garage and mechanic and doctor—whatever it is that kids play, and I was playing priest. [laughter] And we would pretend to be having communion with little wafers.
TYG: That must have been an amusing game for adults to watch!
Bob: Yes, I guess!
TYG: What caused you to change over to Presbyterianism?
Bob: Well gosh, that’s kind of a long, convoluted story as well. I really thought, as a kid, that I felt a calling. Now whatever that means... I think if you don’t really have one, then it’s not really easy to understand.
TYG: I have one—it’s not religious, but I have a calling to engineering. History a little bit, but mostly engineering.
Bob: Yes! So, I kind of just felt that I had this calling to the church, but at the same time, I wanted to be married and I wanted to have kids, and that wasn’t really an option in the Catholic church. [laughter] [...] As I was growing up, I made some friends who were in a youth group at the Lutheran church. I’d asked my Dad if I might go to youth group with my Lutheran friends, and he kind of thought that no, you go to youth group at the Catholic church. So I would sneak out of the house to go to youth group at the Lutheran church, because I was such a radical rebel trouble-maker.
TYG: Was it more fun at the Lutheran or at the Catholic youth group?
Bob: It was much more fun at the Lutheran church, which is why I wanted to go! So I was sneaking out of the house to go to youth group, and I had a sister who had some medical issues. She’d overdosed on some sleeping pills, and my Dad called the priest. She was in a coma at the time, and my Dad had asked whether he could come down to the hospital and he said, “Gosh, I’m really busy—I don’t think I’ll be able to make it.” Which just devastated my Dad: we were really, really involved in the church. A friend of my Dad said, “Well, my pastor will be here in ten minutes.” And he called the pastor, and the pastor was there in five minutes! He sat with them all night, prayed with them. My sister recovered, and the next Sunday we were getting up, getting dressed, getting ready for church, not a word was spoken about anything but we drove out of the driveway, turned the other direction, and ended up in the parking lot of the Lutheran church where I’d been sneaking out of the house to go to youth group in. From that moment, we were Lutheran.
TYG: So in other words, your whole family got fed up with having such an impersonal touch.
Bob: Yes, and it really led me to an understanding, later as I looked back, that every time I’ve had a switch, I realized how important it is to have a personal relationship, and it’s led me to be available and caring. It really needs to be more than just a job—it needs to be a calling, a vocation. So I spent 15 years in the Lutheran church. That’s where I met my wife; we were married, and began raising our kids in the Lutheran church, and then I was elected to represent our region, the New England region, at the church’s national gathering, the church-wide assembly in Indianapolis.
TYG-GD: Had you already been to seminary by then?
Bob: Oh no, this was as a lay-person.
TYG: What were you doing for a job?
Bob: I worked for the State of Connecticut, for what at the time they called the Department of Mental Retardation. I really enjoyed that, and also saw it as a calling, as a ministry. I spent almost 30 years doing that for the State of Connecticut, in all kinds of capacities. I worked in group homes, then became a case manager and worked in their supportive living program with individuals that were independently living in the community with some minimal supports. But we had a split, again over a new pastor, that really divided the church. We tried to stay as long as we could, but the church went from about 200 members to about 30 members, and it was not really a place to be raising the kids. I kept trying to say that pastors come and go, and the loyalty is to the church, but it just didn’t really seem like there was going to be recovery. So we started looking for another church. I had no intentions of leaving the Lutheran church—I was fairly comfortable there. Well, let me back up. I was called to be a church delegate at the assembly, and at that assembly, it was one of the first years where they were really struggling with the whole issue of gay marriage and ordination. At the time, I was still very fundamental and conservative in my thinking, and really thought that it was a sin. If I were to love the sinner and hate the sin, we couldn’t allow gay marriage or ordination. I really thought there was plenty of biblical warrant to support that.
TYG-GD: So in terms of ordination, you mean that a gay person couldn’t become a clergy member.
TYG-GD: Does the Lutheran church allow for women [clergy]?
Bob: Yes. They had done that for a number of years— well, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America [does]. The Missouri Synod still does not.
TYG-GD: Now that’s not a question of sin, is it? Is it just ability, or what?
Bob: No. It goes back to Paul and his letter to the church of Corinth, I guess, saying that women should be silent in church and that men are to be teachers, and the whole, you know. So if you really look at the Bible and take the Bible as the inherent, infallible word of God and an instruction manual, then I guess you could justify those beliefs. I no longer see scripture that way—I see it as a human construct.
TYG-GD: Well, there are some internal contradictions.
Bob: Yes. [laughter] So, I believe that we’re called to live in the tensions, and to recognize that while it may be divinely inspired—if you believe that there is a God, and that we try our best to understand the mind and will of God for us—that there are times when things that were written were just completely contrary to what God’s will for us might be; a god of peace and of love and of grace and of mercy and forgiveness. So it’s our job as believers, and certainly as clergy, to separate the wheat from the tares, from the chaff. So I’ve really come to realize that there are some pretty atrocious things in scripture that were used to justify some pretty atrocious behavior. We need to call that out, and make amends for that, and as a church, to atone and apologize for that.
All of that being said... At the time, when I was called to the assembly and they were wrestling with gay marriage and ordination, church leaders, bishop after bishop, were lining up at the microphone to speak in favor of ordination and to speak in favor of marriage, and I was just shocked. I was like, “HOW?” I was really thinking at the time that “Gosh, Satan has gotten control of this church!” But I still had no intentions of leaving the church. I thought the church would work it out and come down on the right side. But then we had the issue of the pastor who had taken over the church and really caused this schism. So we started looking for another church. I thought we would find another Lutheran church. We had another one in the town where I grew up, there was another one about half an hour away that Lorraine’s family were part of.
TYG-GD: Lorraine is your wife, correct?
Bob: Lorraine is my wife. But we just didn’t feel at home or welcome in any of those places. My sister had just started going to a Methodist church almost 40 minutes away. And I thought there was just no way I was driving 40 minutes just to go to church. But I said, “Well, we’ll just come next Sunday, worship, visit with you, but we’re not joining.” And we went, were greeted, just made to feel very welcome; it was a very hospitable, very welcoming, loving church, and we pretty quickly became very involved in the church and before you knew it, we were members at the church and I was serving on the church council and I was leading the youth group and there a couple of days a week, and driving 40 minutes to go to church there. They had a pastor who was very affirming towards lay-people in the church, and allowing for lay-leadership. He called me aside one day and said, “You know you’ve got a calling.” I said, “Yeah, I know I’ve got a calling; I’ve known since my junior year of high school, but people have been telling me since forever that if you can do anything else, do it, because it’s not an easy life, it’s not an easy calling, you’re not going to make a lot of money, you’ll be paying off student loans the rest of your life, and you get two o’clock in the morning calls.” So he said, “Well, you are not going to have peace or be content until you respond to this call.”
TYG-GD: That was very perceptive of him!
Bob: [laughter] Yes. So I went home, we tossed it around a little bit. I talked with Lorraine, I talked with my children Hannah and Zach...
TYG-GD: How old were they by then?
Bob: Oh gosh, this would have been... Hannah was just starting high school, Zach, middle school. We decided to go ahead and take the leap. So we put our house on the market, I found a seminary in Tulsa, OK, that I didn’t know anything about, but at the time it was one of the only places in the country where you could go to school full-time, work full-time, and they did this block scheduling where you would go from eight in the morning to nine o’clock at night, take classes all day on a Tuesday, and then I would work the rest of the week. So I flew out, looked at the area, had an interview at the seminary but had not yet been accepted at the seminary; we sold our house, loaded up a moving truck. We weren’t sure about living in Oklahoma and thought we’d rather live in Kansas. We kind of found a place on the Kansas border.
TYG-GD: Is Tulsa close to the border? I don’t know that area very well.
Bob: No! [laugh] It’s about a three-hour drive. But we made the decision, moved to Kansas with no job, not really a place to live—just moved out and thought we’d just figure it out! [laughter]
TYG-GD: Your family loves you a lot! [laughter]
Bob: Yes. It all firmed up as we were heading there.
TYG-GD: How long did it take you to drive?
Bob: Well, Lorraine and Zach flew together; Hannah and I drove out earlier. But... oh, this is so convoluted! You’ll never make a story of this!
[To Be Continued...]
It is, in fact, a very interesting story; we’ll follow Bob Barrett’s conclusion in the next issue.
Interview with Valeria Tutrinoli: Numismatics
|A small smattering of tumbled coins belonging to Valeria's collection.|
The Yachats Gazette was fascinated to find out about Valeria’s interest in ancient coins.
TYG: Can I take a look at one [of the coins]?
Valeria: Oh! You can look at all of this.
Valeria: I’m just going to go through and show you what I do.
TYG: What a beautiful script on this one!
Valeria: So, when I get the coins, I buy them by the bag, by the pound or kilo.
TYG-Graphic Design: Who’s selling such things?
Valeria: Well, if you google “ancient obscura,” you can find dealers of all kinds of ancient antiquities. There’s a company that I occasionally get coins from that at one time was selling mummified cats and falcons. Ancient ones.
TYG: [distressed exclamations]
Valeria: So when I get a bag like this, I have a rock tumbler. As you can see, you can’t hardly tell these are coins. I throw them in [the tumbler]—this is some of the grit in the rock tumbler. When they come out, you can see some of the legends on it and the pictures. From this quality, you can kind of clean off the stuff [hardened dirt and rock, mostly], then put smaller grit into the polisher, and then they come out like this!
TYG: This is a very thick coin, isn’t it!
Valeria: So that one is Persian.
TYG: I wonder why they made it so thick?
Valeria: You know, they were hand-struck. So they had pellets that weighed a certain amount, and they had a die. So they put the pellet [down] and the die on top, and then some big person took a hammer [and struck the die into the lump.]
TYG: So I imagine some of the coins were quite irregular!
Valeria: All of them! All of the coins were struck. [...] Now this one is a Greek coin.
TYG: I was going to say it was an owl, but now that I look closer...
Valeria: Oh, you want to see an owl? This one is Athena, and on the back is an owl.
TYG: It’s beautiful!
Valeria: That coin was minted somewhere between 393 and 262 BC.
TYG: Wow. It’s surprising, because some coins look modern in the way they’re hammered!
Valeria: That’s imperial Rome, and that’s probably Constantine.
TYG: I was wondering if that was a Roman coin—just by the looks of it.
Valeria: So this is a bag-full of imperial Roman coins.
TYG: Now these are a lot more standardized.
Valeria: This one is really cool: this is Alexander the Great, and there’s an eagle on the back.
TYG: That’s really well-preserved!
Valeria: Yes. And that one was minted somewhere between 107 and 101 BC. That’s a tetradrachm. [...] Here’s [another one]: the weight is the same, but the shape is different.
TYG: So I imagine the pellets they come from were roughly the same size.
TYG-GD: What were they pellets of?
Valeria: These were silver, these are copper and bronze. This coin is a Hadrian—that’s Roman. And on the back is a galley.
TYG-GD: How did you get into this?
Valeria: Well, you know, most children have parents who read fairy tales to them. My father, having a classical education, told me Roman myths. They were just as interesting as any fairy tale! So I was at an antique show, and this fellow was selling ancient artifacts. He had Roman glass, and a whole lot of these unidentified coins. He said they were Roman, and he was selling them for three or four dollars each. And I thought, “Oh, these must be worth a million dollars!” and, of course, they’re not. So I bought a few, and he was very generous in telling me where I could get information about them, so it sort of sparked an interest!
When you get these unidentified coins, this is the fun part—it’s sort of like being a detective, or putting together a puzzle. When you get the coin, on the edge of the coin will be a legend, like “In God We Trust.” They might have the name of the emperor, they might have some other information. So you try to read what’s around it. I have all sorts of magnifying glasses. I even have some that I wear so that I can have both hands available. And then: this book has every ancient coin ever minted.
TYG-GD: That they know of.
Valeria: That they know of. They put out one of these every so many years. It’s Roman Coins and their Values, by David Sear. You can order it through the library—they get it at the State library and they allow you to keep it out for a month or so, or you can buy the book at a bookstore. But every coin that was ever minted—that they know of—is in the book. So once you look at the coin and figure out who it is, you look up the coin in here.
TYG: I’m presuming it’s date-ordered by emperor?
Valeria: Correct. So it starts with Roman republic—this is before emperors—and then goes through imperial Rome, starting with Augustus, and goes all through the Byzantine.
TYG: Through [the Byzantine]? Wow!
Valeria: Well, almost to 660 [AD].
TYG: Okay. About 800 years short of the full. But I imagine that Byzantine coinage started declining around then. Because I believe the Byzantines were around until 1400 AD. I guess if you wanted late Byzantine coins you’d have to get another book.
Valeria: I guess! I don’t ever find later Byzantine coins in these little packages. In fact the newest Byzantine coin [I have] is around 400 AD.
TYG-GD: So, how can they afford to send out bags of these not knowing what’s in them?
Valeria: My understanding, from the different coin dealers, is that most of these come from Turkey or Israel. Israel has a plethora of ancient artifacts, especially Roman coins. Wherever the Roman armies were, you’re going to find coins. I’m not getting much from Turkey now because of all the conflict that’s there. So back to your question: When they’re excavating to put in a road, let’s say, they’ll come across a cache of coins. They’re already sifted through for gold and silver. They’re certainly sifted through for anything that comes up pristine, or in really good condition. Those are the coins that are worth something. And then everything else gets to be junk. I probably get these bags for $0.50 or $1.00 each.
TYG: So what about this one?
Valeria: That’s Persian. Oh, and this one is Cleopatra, in profile. Cleopatra was the daughter of Ptolemy.
TYG: I can see the Egyptian style in this!
Valeria: You can see, on this coin, that the legend is almost all off. So that one’s going to be a little more difficult to identify. With the magnifying glass, I write down as much of the legend as I [can make out], as much of the identifiers. Then I spend a lot of time going through [this book]. What I love about the catalog is that for each emperor, they give a history of the emperor, sort of like Cliff Notes. [laughter] So you don’t have to read about all their campaigns, but it’ll tell you who the emperor’s parents were, when he died or was killed—usually, they didn’t have elections, they just killed the emperors. There’s a book just like this for Greek coins, too, by David Sear. [...] This is the coin that commemorated the Ides of March, when they killed Julius Caesar.
TYG: Nice! Well, gruesome.
Valeria: Well it’s a fun way to learn about ancient history. Especially when you’re kind of holding it and looking at it.
TYG-GD: Do you ever dream up scenarios?
Valeria: No. Interesting idea! [laughter]
TYG: [...] This is so amazing... some of the minerals, I don’t recognize. What would this be made of?
Valeria: It’s either copper or bronze.
TYG: I just don’t know what rusts black!
Valeria: Well, it’s been in the earth for a long time.
TYG-GD: Silver oxidizes black.
Valeria: Well, this won’t be silver. [...] There’s so much dirt that adheres to this that you have to put it through the rock tumbler.
TYG: And then you can see what the actual color is.
Valeria: Well, it comes out a little shinier.
TYG-GD: I’d be afraid that a rock tumbler would obliterate the surface features.
Valeria: My method of cleaning these eradicates any numismatic value. [laughter] If you’re a true collector, these are not worth anything. If you took these to a collector and wanted to exchange them for money, they’d probably laugh at you. I just do this for my own amusement.
TYG-GD: How do others clean their coins?
Valeria: Oh, much more carefully. There are different chemicals that can be used that are not going to harm the coins. People who are very patient have all kinds of sonic cleaners that they can put the coins in. I don’t have an interest in the expense or the time. I’m more into the instant gratification. [laughter]
TYG: Thank you so much, this was fascinating!
Valeria: Hey, if you have any questions you can call me!
We wish our readers a very happy and successful New Year!