The Skin of Our Teeth

The Skin of Our Teeth

By the Rev. Lawrence Crumb, vicar of St. Andrew’s, Cottage Grove

The American playwright Thornton Wilder, best known for the high-school favorite “Our Town,” also wrote a play called “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Written during World War II, each act takes place just before some great catastrophe (the Ice Age, the Flood, a long-lasting war) that threatens to destroy the human race and civilization as it was known.

I once attended an outdoor performance in Wisconsin, where summer weather is unpredictable. In the scene before the Flood, one character said, “It’s starting to rain,” and it really did. Fortunately, it was just a brief sprinkle, and the performance continued.

The message of the play is that no matter the disaster, the human race has always survived, if only “by the skin of our teeth.” That is a good message for the people of our nation and of the world as we face the coronavirus.

There is often a light moment in tragedy, and it came for me as I listened to Sylvia Poggioli reporting on conditions in Italy. When she mentioned the Papa Giovanni hospital, I thought, “That’s a cute name for a hospital.”

Then I realized that “Papa Giovanni” is Italian for Pope John. I well remember Pope John XXIII, who was elected in October 1958, just after I had entered seminary, and died in June 1963, just before the end of my first year in parish ministry. He summoned the Second Vatican Council, which continued under his successor, Paul VI, and also taught us how to face death, saying just before his own death, “My bags are packed.”

Holy Week and Easter will be very different, as we watch the services of other churches on the internet and read them, or parts of them, from the Prayer Book at home. One way or another, we can reaffirm our belief in the risen Christ and experience the joy of Easter.

Wilder’s message of the survival of the human race has its spiritual counterpart in the life of the Church, which has survived persecution, natural disasters, and competition from other schools of thought and ways of life.

I was taught in seminary that the Church is not infallible, but it is indefectible – that is, it will never completely die out. We have Jesus’ promise that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18) and that he will be “with [us] always, even unto the end of the world.” (28:20)

2020 Diocesan Art Exhibition

Call to Artists: Episcopal Diocese of Oregon art exhibition 2020 on the theme ‘Ascension’

A gathering of artistic expressions from Episcopal Churches of Western Oregon

The Details:

  • All submitted art will be displayed May 10-July 5  at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland.
  • An opening 9am Forum with artists and 11am reception is planned Sunday May 10.
  • Approximately 30 juried pieces will be selected for this show.
  • Digital entries deadline April 15, 2020.
  • Artwork suggested not to exceed 36” in any dimension.
  • Due to space restrictions, we are only able to display a maximum of 4, 3-dimensional objects.

To Submit:      

  • Each artist will submit, in digital format, one piece to be included in the show
  • Indicate Dimensions, Medium, Title, (and description if you wish)
  • Send files as high-quality JPEG files (1800 pixels on longest dimension) to no later than April 15, 2020
  • There is a $25 registration fee. The fee is payable during art check-in by check or credit card on Tuesday May 5 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • For further information visit