Honoring Keith Coppage
Part II - A Life of Mission
If you google Keith Coppage the first thing that comes up is a link to a very nice review in "Larkspur Patch" in 2012 of his books: Bay Area Roller Derby and Roller Derby to Roller Jam. You don't have to know Keith very long to hear about his love for Roller Derby. The books told the story from the founding of Roller Derby in the 1930s in Chicago and its first success until about 1950. Keith became friends with Jerry Seltzer (whose Dad, Leo, had begun the "skate-a- thons") and chronicled the story of the resurgence of Roller Derby in California under Jerry's effort in the 1960s and 1970s....then reappeared early in the 2000s. By 2012, there were 1280 leagues in 38 countries with over 100,000 participants! Keith swears he fell in love with Roller Derby when he was 8 and the Dodger game he planned to watch on TV was rained out. Switching channels, he found the "skate-a-thon" and it was love at first sight! If you get a chance, check out the links on google - you'll love the pictures!
When Keith landed the job at Mt. Diablo High School, he decided to move to Concord. Realizing he had in many ways enjoyed the Episcopal Church, he set about to find one nearby. He called St. Michael's to find out the time and exactly where the front door was and the first Sunday he came, he thought he had gotten the time wrong - such a huge church and such a small congregation. He had come to the contemporary service at 9 AM and it was the Rev. Leslie Nipps second Sunday there. He remembers both the priest and the people being friendly. But he didn't offer to be in the choir.
Sometime later Rev. Pam began at St. Michael's on Epiphany - and she asked him to be one of the Kings (which included singing one of the verses from We Three Kings) ....needless to say, this was the end of his anonymity and he was drafted into the choir.
In 2010, Keith put together a cast, taught the music and the script, and produced Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at Mt. Diablo High School - and of course it was a GREAT success. And then the miracle occurred...... Keith decided he would like to bring the show to St. Michael's. Not sure if he should bring the kids over to the church to perform (mixing church and school) he put together a single show.... And again it was a GREAT success. But more than just being in the performance, the kids from Mt. Diablo wanted to hang around and chat more with the people they had met. At the end of this performance of Joseph the kids from Mount Diablo sang the alma mater - and without a pause many in the audience stood up (following Alice McMillan's lead) and joined with them. So, Keith thought to himself (and talked to others) about bringing music and shows to the Church.
By the next summer, Keith's group (now including alums & chums) had produced Godspell, and this time performed three or four nights at St. Michael's. As funding and interest in the arts began to disappear at school, Keith thought more about bringing kids to the church. St. Michael's was becoming part of them and they were becoming part of St. Michael's. Originally the Grant Street Players was an alumni group at Mount Diablo, but after Godspell it became a St Michael's group.
Now the Grant Street Players have become part of who we are. They have raised money for St. Michael's and other organizations who addressed issues that they wanted to support. They have helped around the church, and adopted the Grant Street Players room in the (now) Keith Coppage Mission Center. On the walls are their posters from many performances, and on some days there are racks of costumes, piles of instruments and a refrigerator full of sodas. Some sing in the choir now, some are acolytes, and one Sunday a month they fill all the lay roles in the church (readers, choir, acolytes and often greeters). They surprise us with new performances (in 2015 they did a stellar job performing Working - the adaptation from Studs Terkel's book) - and occasionally cooking and baking And we would be lost without them.
But we, as a church, have Keith to thank for taking a chance to introduce a lot of teenagers to a church which was not their experience. Many had been to other churches but none had been in St. Michael's until they began to perform here. The kids come often to St. Michael's now - sometimes they read and work - sometimes they visit or rehearse - and sometimes they just sit in the church and reflect - they tell me it's a peaceful place. But they also say now that it's their church. They worry about us - and we worry about them. But we know that God is in this place - and that the kids would not be there, were it not for the faith, the joy and the sense of mission and inclusion that Keith has shared with them.Rev. Amanda+
"Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,you did it to me.' (Matthew 25:34b-40)
St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church