Sunday with Father Earle King

Note: The Rev. Canon Earle King has been rector of Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church for more than 25 years. Being an Episcopal priest is a second career for Father Earle. His first career was in music. He studied organ at the Eastman School of Music and became an organist. He later attended graduate school in Oklahoma and taught organ at the college level for a while. 

Although Father Earle enjoyed teaching and playing the organ, he said that he felt a call to the priesthood. He attended seminary and was ordained an Episcopal priest in the 1980s. He has spent the overwhelming majority of his career at Saint Martin in the Fields in Grand Island, New York. He is married to Paula King, who is choir director at the church. She served as organist for 17 years and just recently retired. The church’s new organist, Jeanne Suski, began today.

Sunday morning, I went to Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church. The church was full. My friend Amy and I found seats near the front. A large group of people was in church for the baptism of a baby named Anna Grace. This is a task that Father Earle, who has two adult sons, truly enjoys. He looks happy and relaxed when he is holding a baby. In fact, he has been given the title of “baby whisperer.”  

Here is little Anna Grace, ready to be baptized.

Anna Grace and Father Earle share a moment.

Today, I went with Father Earle to participate in the annual CROP walk. This year is the 29th annual CROP walk in Grand Island. Father Earle has participated in the walk from the very beginning. He once donated one of his running shoes to the event. It somehow managed to turn gold (I think that it got help) and it was mounted on a board. People who raise the most money for the CROP walk win the Golden Sneaker, which they keep for the year. It is a big honor to display the Golden Sneaker.

The CROP walk itself has a much longer history. It was started by Church World Service in 1947. The original goal was for midwestern farmers to share the grain that they grew with people in post war Europe and Asia. CROP, at that time, was an acronym that stood for Church Rural Overseas Program. This year, approximately 1,100 different walks occurred in cities, towns, and villages across the United States. The money raised goes for food aid and education around the world. Twenty five percent of the money goes for local food programs and food education programs. The local program that will benefit from Grand Island’s fundraising efforts will be Community Missions of the Niagara Frontier, which is located in Niagara Falls, New York. 

This year’s CROP walk was held in Beaver Island State Park. Participants could choose between three different walks. The “golden mile” is exactly one mile. The walkers simply walk to a half mile marker and then they walk back to the starting point. The second route was somewhere between one and two miles. The third route, which was the one that I chose, was about 3.8 miles. That is the most scenic. It goes along the windy roads of Beaver Island State Park, passes River Lea (the farmhouse that serves as a museum and as a headquarters for the Grand Island Historical Society), follows two separate nature trails, then a bike path, and then back to the starting point.

Here is Cathy Rieley-Goddard, co-pastor of Riverside-Salem Environmental Chapel (associated with the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ), to read a proclamation from the town board and to offer a prayer for the walk. 

Father Earle is among the group that is ready to take the walk. He brought an umbrella, as did several others. Fortunately, despite the dark clouds to the west, it did not rain.

This is where we checked in to participate in the CROP walk.

Here are a few kids, holding up the CROP walk sign.

The group is assembled and ready to run through the banner and start the walk.

And they’re off!

It is a joyful experience.

We have a few canine companions, as well.

We walk past the beach and head down the road to River Lea.

Here is one happy dog on the beach.

This was the original gate for River Lea. There are two of them at the entrance to the nature trail. A long time ago, the nature trail was a road with houses. The houses were demolished after the state bought the land to make it into a park. The stuff inside the houses, including River Lea, was sold. Stuff outside the houses was also sold. Among that stuff were the River Lea gates. In 2005, the gates were returned to River Lea, a donation of the Makowski family.

River Lea was scheduled to be demolished, along with the other houses in the area, but Grand Island residents united to preserve the house. Those residents became the charter members of the Grand Island Historical Society, which was formed in 1962.

It was a rain-free experience. I walked with a man named John, and, in the course of 3.8 miles, we managed to solve all of the world’s problems.

At the end of the walk, there were apples and hot dogs for all of the participants.

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