The Upstairs Lounge Fire


Richardson Circulates Statement to Congregation

June 28, 1973


In view of the uproar caused by the Memorial Service at St. George’s on Monday night for the Rev. “Bill” Larsen and others who died in New Orleans worst fire Sunday night, I wish to point out the following:

  1. St. George’s is not a private club but the House of God.
  2. The Rector is given authority of the canons of the church to arrange services at all times.
  3.  The group asked me for permission to hold their memorial service at St. George’s.  In good conscience I could not turn them away.  Do you think Jesus would have?
  4. Bill Larsen, a fine humble, devoted Christian and Minister of that group was trying to exercise his pastoral duty that night at the bar.
  5. The group asked us not to give the service any publicity and we in turn asked the press not to publicize this, but since they are always looking for stories for the public they paid scant heed to our request.
  6. The small chapel on Magazine Street used by this group could not begin to hold the 50 or 75 or more persons who attended the service.
  7. God’s Church exists to help all people, regardless of who they are or what they do.
  8. While there has been considerable criticism from some of our own members, and from a few outsiders, most of which has been relayed not to me but to several ladies of our parish (who are not the authority), there is a mounting number of people in the community, both clergy and lay persons, who are voicing their entire agreement that the memorial service was a very Christian thing for St. George’s to permit, and the question again comes up, “Would Jesus have barred these grief-stricken people from His Church, or would he have welcomed them?”

Therefore, if any considerable number of St. George’s members still feel that our church is to minister only to the select few, and not to the whole community, then I should seriously consider resigning as your Rector in the near future, so the Bishop and the Vestry can look for someone else.

(signed) William P. Richardson, Jr.

P.S. I love you all, even if you violently disagree with me. But remember, we must try not to be Pharisees, thinking we are better than others. At all times I try to follow what I believe to be the Lord’s Will, and the Christian attitude. Upon returning from India the last of July, I shall decide what course of action to take.   

In an open letter to the congregation, Richardson states pointedly his reasons for permitting the memorial service at St. George’s and offers to resign if opposition is too great.
Source: St. George’s records by Rev. Richard Easterling.
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