I learned the meaning of the word ecumenical as so many of us learn words, through context. I was a senior at San Francisco State in 1983, predictably an English major. Our classes were housed in the old cinderblock Humanities building right on 19th Avenue, on the east end of campus. Off campus, but closer to us than the Hayakawa-designed triangular student union, was the Ecumenical House, or EcHouse as it was known. There may have been religious activities there connected with its Episcopal Church parent, but I never knew of any. They did have great coffee and pastries. We’d go there on breaks between classes to study, share literature and stories. It was the café’s name that made me look up the word. And I did feel accepted there, a warm vibe greeting me but no proselytizing. I just looked The EcHouse up on the Internet and it’s still there, defined as a religious institution. It didn’t feel like that, so I guess it lived up to its name. I can picture today’s English majors combing over texts while they caffeine up and share pithy quotes with friends. Cheers!–Carolyn Crane


I was raised up to be a non-denominational, bible thumping, evangelical fundamentalist before Born Again became a political party. I attended Santa Clara University (the only college I applied to so I could stay close to my sweetheart who was still in high school and who dumped me during my freshman year).  It was from the Jesuits who have run SCU since 1851 that I had my first exposure to Ecumenism, learned that Catholics were not idolaters (as I had been taught), fell in love with the writings of Thomas Merton, chanted with the Hare Krishnas who had been invited to campus, and destroyed a professor on the last day of “Bible as Literature” by debunking his notion that the flatness of the visual art of the Middle Ages represented the way they actually saw the world (when it was no more than a set of design conventions prior to the development of Renaissance perspective).These days I vacillate between Unitarian Universalist and Hindu.  I list my religious affiliation on formal documents as “Reformed Confused.”  —Robert Lee Haycock