As we've worshiped together online during the COVID-19 pandemic, we've realized that this format has provided a great way for congregation members to get to know people beyond their "social circles" in the church. We decided to extend that "getting to know each other better" with a series of features on members of our congregation.
By Mary Anne Pikrone
Allyce Bullock, who has been sidelined with back problems for some time, says she’s now delighted to have another role at St. John’s—as head of the Care Committee, which keeps track of people on the weekly prayer list. The committee also will be working on sending meals to people who are sick, and making home visits.
A member of St. John’s for almost 15 years, Allyce brings to her new role a lifetime of experience that ranges from hippie/anti-war activist to widowed mother of two young girls; from city planner to Spanish teacher, from Methodist to non-Christian to Episcopalian.
Allyce grew up in the Rio Grande valley near the Mexican border, and graduated in 1970 from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, with studies in Spanish and political science. One summer she lived with a family in Mexico City, which helped her to realize “how little I knew about other people and how they lived.”
Drawn to social justice issues, she marched in antiwar demonstrations in Dallas while working her first job as a research assistant at United Way. She studied city planning at the University of Rhode Island, and took a job with the Missouri Municipal League in Jefferson City. In 1980, she became a Community Development Supervisor in Webster Groves. She married Johnny Bullock, an African-American man, and had daughters in 1984 and 1986. A month after Allyce began teaching Spanish in 1995, John died from chronic leukemia. The girls were 9 and 11.
“People talk about Covid-19…I had a rough life for six and a half years before Johnny’s death,” she recalls. At one point, she had no money and had to ask her father for help paying bills.
Meanwhile, Allyce moved away from Methodism, tried the Unity Church, and ended up at an Episcopal church one day, where she asked to speak to a priest. The priest introduced her to Dutch Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen’s books, including The Wounded Healer. The priest urged her to come to a liturgical church, because that was the best way to “learn who we are…to get it in your pores.”
Allyce’s first spiritual director introduced her to St. Teresa of Avila; this particular quote from the Christian mystic has stayed with her: "Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, Though all things pass, God does not change. Patience wins all things. But he lacks nothing who possesses God; For God alone suffices."
Later, during a time of discernment, a spiritual advisor told her, “Every No in life has a Yes, and every Yes a No.”
Active at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Webster Groves, Allyce enrolled in the Episcopal School for Ministry to deepen her faith. She had to sell her house in Webster to make way for work on Highway 40, and bought a house on Castleman in the Shaw neighborhood. She became block captain, became acquainted with her alderman and grew comfortable with the city.
At the time, she alternated between Christ Church Cathedral downtown and St. John’s. She got to know the Rev. Teresa Danieley, former rector of St. John’s, and decided to worship with us.
Allyce tells how she, Christine Cannon, the late Lucy Hale, Scott Splater and Teresa started the Peace Meal effort at St. John’s. She received some money from family in Texas, and used it to buy two stoves, a refrigerator and freezer for Peace Meal use.
Allyce was an active coordinator of Peace Meal for about eight years and started getting bread donations from bakeries. For their first big Peace Meal, she, then-fiancé John Richards, and Scott bought and transported the big, white tables and chairs we now use for the meal and meetings. Planning began in 2006, and after several initial meals in 2007, the Peace Meal program started fulltime in May 2009.
Allyce has also served on the St. John’s Vestry, was a delegate to the annual diocesan convention, was elected to serve on the Missouri Diocesan Council and was co-chair of the Diocesan Task Force on Hunger for several years. Working with Bishop George Wayne Smith helped her to realize “when you see needy people, you see the face of Jesus,” she said.
Allyce eventually retired from work in 2013. She had been director of project serving vulnerable populations for the St. Louis Mental Health Board. Also in that year, Allyce married John Richards after he moved to St. Louis from Dallas, where he was an attorney and a published poet.
Allyce hopes her recovery from back problems continues so she can be more active in the church again. A certified member of the Community of Hope, an organization of lay chaplains, she has made weekly visits to Barnes Jewish Hospital patients. She also completed a semester of Clinical Pastoral Education at Christian Hospital during the time of the Ferguson unrest.
Allyce’s daughter, Julia Bullock, has sung opera all over the world and now lives in Munich, Germany, with her conductor-husband. Daughter Sarah Morgan has two girls, an infant and 4-year-old, and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband. She works in educational consulting for charter schools, and her husband works in international affairs.
Allyce says worshipping and working with St. John’s “gives me an opportunity as a follower of Jesus to walk the walk with other believers…and to seek and serve Christ in all people.”
Mary Anne Pikrone is a member of the St. John's congregation, and serves on the church's Editorial team, and on the Communications committee.
Various members of the St. John's congregation contribute to this blog. For editorial suggestions, contact Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at firstname.lastname@example.org