The third volume of the parish register of the Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany (SLATE) is a curious historical document. Spanning the 1970s-2000s, the register is very light on baptisms, rather light on marriages, very heavy with confirmations, and packed with funerals. As interesting as parish registers are, the SLATE burials are an especially vital historical artifact to the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Philadelphia as Chris Bartlett, Executive Director of the William Way Center, found. As reported in the New York Times, “Beginning in 2005, Mr. Bartlett began assembling the names of every gay male Philadelphian who died after being diagnosed with H.I.V. or AIDS, searching obituaries and the Names Project registry of people commemorated by the AIDS quilt, combing through records of social clubs and the rosters at St. Luke and the Epiphany, the Philadelphia church that took on the task at the epidemic’s height of “burying the people no one else would,” Mr. Bartlett said (2009).”
I took this photo about a year ago. The burial register is designed to span two pages, the identifies of these men can be found on the left (which I did not photograph). You will also notice gaps in the dates as well as burials out of sequence. Due to the large number of burials, the parish administrator assumed the task of recording them in the register. Many were not initially recorded, thus requiring supplemental pages to be added. I did not photograph those supplemental pages.
Personally, I find this image to be a powerful reminder/memorial. I took this photograph at age 36. Many of these men were “my age” at the time of their deaths. To read these names was…well let’s just leave it at that.