My First Singing Gig in Years - and It Is in a Church - Yikes!

By Kay Ebeling
City of Angels

October 18, 2008

I haven't been able to post in more than a week. I was beating on a pillow at 3:00 in the morning, crying through gritted teeth, ďWhat they did to us was heinous and they're getting away with it.Ē Then at 3:20 I was standing beside the bed laughing out loud. No I canít just put it behind me, this pedophile priest rape survival experience follows me wherever I go.

For years I havenít been able to walk into a church, so instead I found storefront parishes, living room Bible studies. A few months ago I started singing with Hollywood Mass Choir. We sing black rooted gospel songs like the ones I feature in videos here at City of Angels 4. A big highlight of my little old lady life lately has been Wednesday night practice with this choir. I'm opening up the voice I got as a gift and putting it to use again. I used to sing Joni Mitchell songs and pass the hat as a hippie, so singing with Hollywood Mass is reawakening the performer in me, opening up my voice so I can hit those notes, singing this music that to me is as passionate as anything that came out of the sixties, or HAIR! I think black gospel music is going to accompany Americaís recovery from 8 years of Bush, and this music is Hot- I Mean! Janet Jackson born again now talking to God is what I channel as I belt out those high notes, ďEmanuelĒ --

At 3:20 in the morning other day I realized, oh no, singing in a choir, that means I'm going to be performing in churches. I'm being forced to return to a church, not as a parishioner, but through the back stage entrance, up on the altar, performing.

This experience should be empowering - if I don't have to run out in the middle of a song and puke on the doorstep.

In a conversation I had this morning, I suddenly remembered, this all harkens back to when we were homeless. My daughter and I lived in our car and shelters in LA from 2003 to 2005. As a result we got to know a lot of other homeless people in LA. That is how I learned about this inner city deep in the ghetto gospel music, the Massage on KJLH 102.3 FM in LA every weekday and the music they play on Sunday afternoons. I started listening to those songs and singing along, then I found Hollywood Mass Choir.

We sing in those same songs in Hollywood Mass Choir, the songs that became part of my life when we were homeless.

I keep saying, nothing happens in Godís world by mistake. Now in order to sing these songs I love,

I have to get over it

a bit

and be able to sing in a Church.

Starting tomorrow morning at 11 AM.

I am a little scared.

Along the side of this blog I run YouTube videos of different choirs performing the type of songs we perform in Hollywood Mass Choir. I sing them around my house all the time. I wanted to get back to performing --

For years I heard about this group Hollywood Mass Choir, but thought they were a Catholic group because of the word "Mass." In the choir's name the word "mass" has to do with Masses of people - most of our songs we try to get people to sing along with us.

It just did not dawn on me until 3:20 AM the other day that singing in a choir means singing in churches. The particular church where we will be performing tomorrow is one I have tried two maybe three other times to attend. Because I know I need the social structure of a church in my life, I have tried for years to be part of churches. Iíve seen so many people do better than I do through hard times because they have a church in their lives.

So for years, no decades, I have tried to join different churches.


Iíve jumped up and down at Pentecostal services when I was living deep in the redwoods of Northern California.

Oh, and I really wanted to join up with a polygamous family in a Mormon sect for a while back in the late 1970s. I really ďgotĒ the way they connected God with sex and procreation and all that, polygamy in Mormonism really turned me on for a while.

It still does. I could not take my eyes off episodes of Big Love, watching them over and over again just last year.

But recently Iíd given up on trying out churches. Because to be honest, every time I go to a church and then let the pastor know I am a pedophile priest rape survivor, I have felt doors close in my face. My calls stop being returned.

In some cases I have suspected that the pastor himself was afraid I was there to investigate him, and he was carrying on with someone, maybe even a minor, I don't know.

I canít trust any of them. That's a big part of it too. I sit there in the pew watching almost any pastor and start wondering who heís banging behind closed doors. Itís hard to keep my mind from going there.

Now I find myself singing tomorrow at Hollywood Presbyterian Church where the architecture, even the structure of the service, harkens really close to a Catholic cathedral. When Iíve tried to attend a service at this very Hollywood church, Iíve had to get up and run out of this church - as recently as two or three months ago.

In fact it was during one of those panic attacks out in the church garden area, that someone told me about Hollywood Mass Choir. They rehearse Wednesday nights in that building right over there.

All I really want to do is sing.

When I sing I feel no pain.

So at the same time I was running out of the church, I joined up with the choir. We rehearse in the music room on Hollywood Pres grounds. Still it just didn't dawn on my until 3:20 AM that day that I am going to be performing in this church and other churches on Sunday mornings.

I didn't plan for this to happen. I was just looking for a group to sing these gospel choir songs with.

You have to remember that one thing that made me vulnerable and available to the pedophile priest was a passion I had, even as a child, to find out more about Jesus. I remember ďgetting itĒ at a really early age. But since the same person teaching me Catechism classes and preparing me for First Communion was this priest who also took advantage of whatever chance he had to get sexual with me and get me aroused. Me and my sister, he really liked pretty little girls. So to this day I am confused. Am I drawn to spiritual pursuits in spite of a pedophile priest arousing me at age five, or because of the pedophile priest arousing me at age five.

Or there is no connection at all.

Right now I have to convince myself not to let the architecture of a church keep me from taking part in performing Sunday with the choir.

This morning I held a conversation with a woman in the middle of the country who was raped as an altar server in the 1970s. She and her mom had worked hard to get the church to allow her to be the first female altar server, and she at age 10 was also full of a passion for god and Christ. The first time she put on the robes of an altar server she felt better than she ever had in her life.

Within weeks the parish priest had her alone in the rectory sitting on his lap - you know the rest. This morning as she related experiences in her life to me, there were so many similarities between her story and mine, between her story and hundreds of others Iíve listened to in the past two years.

One of the most amazing things about being a priest rape survivor is finding out there are people all over the country who have had almost exactly the same experience you had, even though the experience had set you apart as awkward, antisocial, unable to connect with people, outright unable to be intimate - most of your adult life. Itís almost like we are all visitors from another planet, forever aliens in our communities, but with this connection to each other all over the country, when in actuality, in many cases we have never met in person, just communicated with through electronics, through the Internet and phone.

For years Iíve been yearning to go back to performance, some kind of performance, even though I'm approaching old lady-hood and my energy really isnít there to audition, get an agent, and build up a portfolio, the way people do here in LA. But I have this voice. As a hippie girl I traveled around with a guitar and sang a lot of Joanie Mitchell songs, imitated Joan Baez, I have this gift of a soprano voice that goes about as high as a soprano can go, and sounds good doing it. I even used to do Mariah Carey type arias, but that part of my voice is long smoked and Jacked away.

I really joined this choir just for the fun, the spiritual release, of rehearsing on Wednesday nights, but now I'm going to have to face demons from whom I have run most of the last years. I have to go perform in the sanctuary of a church that I could not even enter without getting physically sick just two months ago.

Tomorrow at 11 AM

To read about how I trashed my performing career go to City of Angels 1 and read the chapters about Hollywood in the 1960s, I don't want to go there right now, that's why I posted it at City of Angels 1 two years ago. I don't ever want to think or write about it again.

Just going to sing, starting tomorrow at 11 AM.

And no I am not going to stop producing this blog. Just have to replace the camera.

Beating the pillow that night turned into hysterical laughter, laughing out loud in the dark of my room 4 AM. Because so far I have never been able to stand being in the sanctuary of this church, a huge Presbyterian Church in the middle of Hollywood. I sing with Hollywood Mass Choir now and we rehearse in their music room. But every time Iíve tried to attend a service in the sanctuary of Hollywood Presbyterian Church Iíve had to run out of the church, the architecture itself has triggers. For some reason this Presbyterian church almost looks like a Catholic cathedral, all that is missing are Confessionals along the sides.

Thank God there are no confessionals along the side.

That's where Iíll be singing 11:00 tomorrow morning, unless I'm outside puking.

Stay tuned.


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