communion, grace and all that
There was a memorial service at husband's church today. The first part of the service, during the Ministry of the Word, was sad, with many of us reaching for Kleenex, especially as the eldest son spoke.
But I was struck, when we had returned to our seats after communion, how much the act of Eucharist had changed the atmosphere in the building. It didn't take away the grief, nor wipe out the sadness, but there was calm and peace among the assembly.
I couldn't help but think about the discussion about liturgy taking place over at Good in Parts
. This congregation was well versed in the Book of Common Prayer, and the energy and attention they gave to the service, I think, is the kind that good Anglican liturgy aims for. Although I'm sure we all had our moments where we were lost in our own thought processes, as a body we moved together through the ritual. It was very formal liturgy: smells, bells and asperges, but I felt the presence of the Spirit. I don't have a lot of experience with less structured worship, but I felt something missing in the last two funerals I attended that were not liturgically based.
As often seems to happen at funerals, there was an unintentionally funny bit at the end where the question was raised, "how many Episcopal clergy does it take" to open the box of cremains. The answer, by the way, was "never send a priest to do the junior warden's job." Junior Warden to the rescue. I do believe God sends us these moments in the midst of grief as a sign that life goes on in this world, and that it all will be okay in the next.
May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.
great moments in retail, part one
I've been a waitress and restaurant hostess. I've worked in museums. For goodness sakes', I'm an experienced parish priest. So I know something about the trials about "working with the public." (Can we talk about phone calls that begin with "can I speak to the pastor?")
But I lost it yesterday in the line of a well-known craft/chain store. The young woman who was working the register had not exactly set any speed records for opening her line, and was rather desultorily (I love having a chance to use that word) ringing up my set of purchases when the woman at the other register (who notice, wasn't working at all) started asking questions about the schedule. My checker didn't even say "excuse me" but got involved with the conversation, then set down my item and picked up the schedule to solve this burning issue.
"How about you finish dealing with me first?" It popped out of my mouth, I'm not sure where from.
She set the schedule back down and finished ringing me up. I was exceedingly polite--that was, after all, what the whole encounter was about.
What I've reflected on since then is that the voice that pops out and stands up for me often comes from a place I'm not aware of. It happened to me at the RSCM course, when I needed to take an action to rein in a wayward adult at Eucharist.
(And, I have to admit, I don't mind standing up for better customer service, either).
I finished this a week or so ago but hadn't gotten my act together to post it. See,>Beth
, I really, really am knitting. I've just learned that I can't post about it until I'm all done with a project. That's part of what keeps me going on to finish. Anyway, this is a Fishtail Lace scarf from the pattern at the Summer of Lace yahoo group. I used it to use up some TLC Heathers (part of the summer stash-busting process). I'm pleased with how it came out. TLC is a decent acrylic. The pattern is written for sport-weight so I used the smaller set of pattern repeats. I found it easy to memorize and understand the flow of the lace pattern and took it to the RSCM course. While the boys were rehearsing I would knit! It was fun to knit to all the beautiful music. Everyone was so amazed at what they thought was a difficult pattern. Shh, don't tell anyone how easy it was.
books, books, books
Husband and I came home with more bookshelves last night. I'm still unpacking books, trying to get them in the right place, trying to get them in some sort of reasonable order. Some of the way the books have landed have been entertaining, like a couple of volumes of Jim Morrison's poetry next to books on depression. When we got to OKC, we just started unpacking boxes, and most of my professionally religious books are still in the boxes from my office (note to self: I've gotten by without most of them for a very long time. What should this tell me?)
Of course I can't go through books without thinking about why I keep them or why I have them in the first place. Where I bought them. What was going on in my life when I first read them.
For example, I have a collection of the works of Bobbie Ann Mason. Why, you ask. Ms. Mason's writings, short stories and novels (most famously "In Country," which was made into a movie) are set in the Jackson Purchase area of western Kentucky, which runs right along the Mississippi River. I spent 2 summers in the Jackson Purchase learning that I wasn't cut out to be a professional archaeologist, and another summer as an employee of Murray State University as an intern at Wickliffe Mounds Research Center, which I discovered on some jaunts this spring is now owned by Kentucky State Parks. When I pick up those books I am reminded of being gawky and awkward (why do I have these books again) but also of those moments when I had glimpses of adulthood and adventures, when I had the possibility of changing life into something I wanted to live and not what others wanted me to do for me.
I could reminisce about most of the books I've moved around today, so I'll stop now.
p.s. and a happy blogiversary to Beth
. I took a fabulous knitting class with her at Knitorious
in St. Louis last fall, and I'm so happy to be able to follow her adventures, yarn and otherwise, online.
No, not surprised at all
You scored as Mystical Communion Model. Your model of the church is Mystical Communion, which includes both People of God and Body of Christ. The church is essentially people in union with Christ and the Father through the Holy Spirit. Both lay people and clergy are drawn together in a family of faith. This model can exalt the church beyond what is appropriate, but can be supplemented with other models.
Mystical Communion Model
What is your model of the church? [Dulles]
created with QuizFarm.com
On July 28th it will be one year since I set up this blog. I'm trying to remember what prompted me to set it up. I saw the ministry my friend Mike
had through his blog, and read a few of the blogs of other Wash U. students involved in campus ministry. I saw the burgeoning world of crochet and knitting blogs. I suspect I was just curious to see what would happen, would I be able to maintain the discipline of writing regularly? Would I find a community of bloggers? Would anybody bother to read it?
Then, having blogged for awhile, I started to wonder why there wasn't a ring for blogging Episcopalians the way there were for all of those fiber artists. And it dawned on me that if there wasn't one, and I was thinking about it regularly, that maybe God was prodding me to do something about it. So thanks to the aforementioned
Mike at a Christmas party for agreeing to be part of the original two or three gathered together, we are up and running and over 125 blogs strong after seven months.
Two things have surprised me, that I wasn't expecting. There's such a community among bloggers, and it's not just virtual, it affects one's "real" life as well. When I posted we were moving to Oklahoma, I discovered I alreay knew Episcopalians in our new home, and have had the pleasure of meeting two of them already (Barbara
. Annie of Musing Mysteries, we still have to get together one of these days.
I also love being able to stay in touch with people I know in person but don't get to see very often: Beth
, and of course Mike. (I'm sure I'm forgetting people so forgive me). And I'm able to get to know some people better who I've only met in passing or through blogging, most of whom are listed in my sidebar.
The other thing I was surprised was how many people don't get it and get worked up about bloggers. Mike led a discussion about generational issues at last year's Congregational Development class and introduced the group to blogging by having them read blogs of some of the Wash. U. students. The baby boomers and up had some very strong comments "I don't get why those people
do it" etc. The words "they" and "them" came up so often I finally came out of the closet to explain why I kept a blog.
Hopes for the next year? Always to improve my own writing skills. To build more community, perhaps by actual gatherings--should the Blogging Episcopalians get together at General Convention? Could we do it without rancor and discord? I hope to meet more of the RevGalBlogPals in person someday. I'm planning to post my own faith story, perhaps in the next week or so.
My world has been expanded by blogging, so I'll just have to hope that's the movement of the Holy Spirit.
which I should have gotten up to write down in the middle of the night, and now that it's morning I can only remember that I was having a conversation with John Dally, homiletics professor at Seabury (among other titles), and we kept getting interrupted by Eskimos. John, I wasn't aware that you spoke Inuit (grin).
please note the gratuitous Harry Potter reference
St. Augustine’s, OKC
July 24, 2005
When you're on the road as a supply clergy, you never quite know what you're going to find when you turn up at a new church. When I first started supplying in St. Louis, I drove by the church I was going to on a Friday to see what it looked like and to find the real door (you know, all churches have the door and then the REAL door). The part of the building that looked like the church seemed large and spacious, but when I turned up on Sunday, it turned out that was the parish hall, and the small building, the size of a chapel, was the church. When I was here the first time, back in early June, when I walked into the worship space here, I realized that what I had imagined it looked like in here as I had driven by was quite different from what it actually looked like. For some reasons, I had expected it to be a smaller space, and was startled and pleasantly surprised to find out how large and spacious it was in here, and with such a formal pulpit. In both case, I had expectations, had imagined how things looked.
The people that were listening to Jesus in this morning’s Gospel had also arrived with a set of expectations. They were expecting a Messiah. They were expecting God to send them a new king for Israel. But what they were expecting was kind of a cross between Julius Caesar and Dumbledore from Harry Potter, someone who would ride triumphantly in at the head of armies, and fix everything with a magic wand, kick out the hated Roman occupiers, right all the injustices and immorality in the world. They were expecting clouds of glory and flashes of lightning. That’s how the kingdom of God was going to arrive.
Instead, what they got was a rabbi wandering around the desert telling stories. And these weren’t grand tales of adventure. They were stories about everyday life. Like this morning. A seed grows up into a bush. A woman bakes some bread. A merchant goes shopping. A man buys a field.
Can you imagine what his listeners were thinking? What kind of kingdom is this, anyway? Mustard seeds? You can hardly see them. A woman baking some leavened bread? Women aren’t holy enough to participate fully in the rites of the Temple, and yeast is unclean, dirty, sour stuff. And what’s this with the pearl and the field?
There were a number of political parties in Israel making plans for the Kingdom of God. The Zealots were planning to overthrow the Romans by force, so I suspect they were training and hoarding weapons, I’m sure. The Essenes had withdrawn from society, and were planning for the Messiah by stringent purity codes and closing themselves off to outsiders. The priests in the Temple enforced their own codes of behavior and cooperated with the Romans, as did those who supported the puppet king Herod. The Pharisees offered strict adherence to the Law of Moses, all 613 of them. And the ordinary everyday people were probably just too worn out making enough money to keep their families alive to worry about anything else at all, and so were excluded from access to positions of privilege in any of these groups.
But the kingdom Jesus was talking about required a different set of plans. You can’t use a weapon to make a mustard plant grow. To bake bread you actually have to mix yourselves with the unclean things of leaven, and hang out with the women. And to find the pearl of great price or the treasure in the field, you have to be keeping your eyes open for what is real and what is not, and be willing to give up everything you own for it when it comes along.
The virtues this kingdom was asking for were a little bit different. I’ve learned a little bit this summer, gardening on my patio for the first time, about the kind of patience it takes. Watching the plants grow, and flower and waiting, for example, for the tomatoes to grow and ripen, I discovered how impatient I am. I can’t will those tomatoes to turn red no matter how much I go out there and talk to them. The same is true of making bread—it must rise and be kneaded and rise some more, and there’s no hurrying it along.
The other kingdom value in this morning’s parable is shared by the merchant and the man who buys the field. They’re going through life with eyes wide open, searching for something of great value, and recognizing it when they find it. They exercise the wisdom of true discernment, being able to distinguish those things which are not worth their time and energy from the things which are real, which are most precious, and worth committing yourself to, body, mind, soul and possessions.
I suspect there were people in the crowd that day who stood up and walked away, shaking their heads. This wasn’t what they came for. They wanted fire and brimstone, judgment on the Romans or on those who didn’t keep the Law of Moses. They wanted predictions of God’s triumphant return in glory.
There are moments when I’m tempted to walk away. There are moments when I feel impatient and blind, ready to give up on the whole kingdom of God project. Because I want someone to come in with a magic wand and fix all that’s not right in our world, someone to stop global warming and poverty and sadness with a triumphant return. And I suspect I’m not the only one.
But what are we offered instead? A meal. You can’t get more simple and everyday than that. But when we come to the table, with our eyes open, and waiting for God’s time to unfold, we may find that we are strengthened anew, for the tasks of patience and discernment we are called to.
The kingdom of God is all around us, happening in spite of us. With the grace of the One who went before us, to prepare a table for us, we can train our eyes to let go of our human expectations, and see God’s hand at work in the world about us. That treasure is worth everything we have and more.
Evensong in Canterbury, 1999
All of the lovely music at the Royal School of Church Music course has made me crave the classic English choral sound, so I have tossed over NPR and "Spamalot" for the moment for some CDs I bought at Canterbury Cathedral on a visit a number of years ago.
But I can't play those CDs without thinking of a particular encounter on that trip.
I had just graduated from seminary, had just been accepted as a postulant (another blog post or two) and had the privilege of spending a few days in England travelling by myself before I was to meet up with my father for a meeting in London he wanted us both to attend (again, worthy of posting about at some other time). I had just graduated from Seabury and had some time before starting my position in the greater St. Louis metro area. Since I was travelling by myself I decided I would visit all the places I wanted to see--so I picked Canterbury, Norwich and Cambridge. Evidently these places that were special to me did not present the easiest of itineraries for the English Tourist Board (Book a Bed Ahead) or the now privatized British rail system, but I managed it.
I stayed in a guesthouse built into the wall that surrounds Canterbury Cathedral, and wandered around the historic sites. I marvelled at standing at the foot of Anselm's grave, cried at seeing Jonathan Myrick Daniels' photo in the Chapel of Contemporary Martyrs, and was generally overwhelmed with being at the heart of all things Anglican. Being flush with seminary Evensong experiences, of course, I wanted to take in the Real Thing in person, and so turned up in the queue one evening just before 4. There was a priest standing in front of me, in a collar, and with a button/badge on his jacket. I was an ENFP travelling alone so of course I was eager to strike up a conversation so I asked him what was on his badge.
He explained, "Forward in Faith."
Now, back in 1999, I had no idea what that stood for, so he went on, "we're the group that opposes the ordination of women in England." He paused and said, "and who are you?"
So I told him.
Being proper and English he recovered quickly, introduced me to the African clergy with him, and then invited me to sit with him during the service (keeping an eye on the heretic?) During the service, he pointed out various personalities and what all the various trimmings on gowns, tippets and hoods stood for.
After the service was over he asked me, "when are you being ordained?" I came up with what seemed like a likely date and he said, "I'll pray for you, even though I don't approve." I managed to say that I would pray for him, too.
I wonder if he remembers that encounter. I think of it often and it has turned up in a sermon at least once. I had many wonderful experiences on that trip, but I remember that moment more vividly than all the rest. We couldn't fix each other, but we did share in authentic Christian community for an hour. And now I remember and pray for him every time I listen to those CDs or think about that vacation.
Where two or three are gathered together, He is in the midst of us.
started a new blog ring yesterday night for RevBlogGalPals (did I get it right?) Check out the new ring code in the sidebar if you're interested. She also set up Blogging Methodists--a fine addition to the world of denominational blog rings. . .
Update: No, I didn't. It's RevGalBlogPals.
the cute and the it's-so-ugly-it's cute
Is this southern Arizona? No, it's the Tulsa Zoo. Still, nothing like a javelina (they labelled the poor guy as a peccary, but we Sonoran Desert rats know the truth).
The cats now know there is grass on the patio--purple fountain grass that is. They head right for it, completely ignoring the catnip. The black furry blob is Wilbur enjoying a snack.
the mess we're in
has a good discussion going on over at his place about the events surrounding the Connecticut Six. Now it is not my custom to comment on political events in the church; I'm with posters such as Father Jake, Costly Grace
et. al., who think there is much more to the story than any of us know. One of the things I've learned from studying systems is that outsiders rarely make the system better unless they come in as a detached reconciler to help pull apart some of the threads.
But what is has made me think of, as Jake said in one of his comments to the original post, that homosexuality is the presenting issue to our major problem. He defines it as one of authority.
I'd like to push that a little further. I think we have serious issues in the Church; authority is one of them. But as I blogged about earlier, in my journeys as a supply clergy in various dioceses (not just Oklahoma, I hasten to add), I see so many people who just look worn out. When I see them I think of "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
I think Christendom, the church set up as a keeper of power and status, has failed us. I think the Church in the West (I can't speak to the East because I don't have familiarity with it) has been selling people a bill of goods that does NOT include the Good News. If it was the Good News, than why do so many churches run away from their problems? Why aren't they empowered to deal with all the bad behavior of clergy and laity that has happened over the centuries? Why do so many churches hide from the realities of life? Why do we find ourselves silent? If we really believed that Christ died once for all on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, why does it matter who is Bishop of New Hampshire? Or what color the carpet is in the chancel? If we really believed in the God who yes, winnows and judges us but above all offers us mercy and hope, why would we care about any of this? I think the kerfuffle the church is experiencing reveals, on ALL SIDES, how much we are truly, as a body, functional atheists.
Why is it that every time I attend a Cursillo closing I hear person after person get up and say "this is the first time I have experienced Christian community?" Why is it that more often than not they are people who have grown up in the church?
How is a locksmith or finding a bishop who suits your every taste going to solve these problems?
Sermon for Sunday Evensong
RSCM Course, Tulsa
(thanks to Tom Long's commentary on Matthew for the WJK series for the insight provided to this pericope)
What a perfect Gospel lesson to end this week. Could preaching a sermon be any easier? We have the story of the master who gives talents to his servants—five to one, two to another, one to the last one, and then goes away on a journey. When he gets back he rewards the ones who have made something with their talents, and punishes the one who hides his talent from the world. So there’s not much to say, is there? Our participants have been developing their talents all week, and they should continue to do so! Better sit up straight, hold your book up and sing well, or else!
That’s an ok sermon, but it’s not the one I’m going to preach this evening. Because that’s not what this parable is about. This parable is not about us. Because even though we try, in our selfish human way, to make parables about us, they are really all about God. And since the motto of RSCM is I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also, it is really imperative that we stop to ask, what does this parable tell us about our God? How does this story increase our understanding of the God we have been praising in our lips and in our lives during this week?
So what is the God figure like in this story? How does the final slave, the frightened slave, describe his Master? He describes him as harsh, reaping where he did not sow, and worthy of fearing for his very life. The slave is genuinely frightened of what the Master will do to him upon his return, and hides his money in the ground out of fear and anxiety.
But let’s take a look at who this Master really is. Before he leaves on this extended vacation, he gives his slaves the talents—money—and one talent was equal to the wages one would earn over 15 years. He gives away three lifetimes of earnings to these three slaves—the lowest of the low, the people who didn’t count in the household. They had no status, no power, and according to the laws of the time, he owed them nothing, and yet this Master generously hands out his money to these slaves for them to invest. This is a master who rejoices at the good work of the first two slaves, and receives them into his very family, making a place for them at his table with joy and love.
Is this Master really a harsh and fearful judge? Only through the perceptions of the final slave. And just as the final slave expects punishment and judgment, that is what he receives. It is the slave who has distanced himself from his master. It is he who has judged himself and cast himself into the outer darkness.
We get so hung up over all the little sins that we commit, just as the third slave was worried about failing, that we forget that the greatest sin of all is alienation from God, to make ourselves separate from God and each other. God our Master desires to be with us, to share the abundance of creation with us, and we hide in dark corners, waiting his return with fear and trembling. And when we expect God to treat us in that way, we often find ourselves in darkness.
We get to choose which God we will serve. We get to decide what to do with the abundance of riches God bestows on us every day of our lives. We can choose to believe with our hearts in the love of a God who trusts us with the greatest treasure of all, the Father’s own Son, whenever we gather at the table. We can choose to show that love forth in our lives and look forward to being received with joy by a loving and generous Master, approaching the throne in the final day with hope and confidence.
Which God are you worshipping here tonight?
May all of you gathered here be blessed with a glimpse of that God in the songs of praise offered by these faithful servants, a lifetime of treasure invested in this one week. In the beauty of our music, let us enter together into the joy of our Master.
moments of insight
So here are some things I learned this week, rather randomly:
Even though I was the chaplain for the RSCM course, I came away feeling like I had been on retreat. We lived by such a Benedictine schedule--hard work, play, rest (well, less of that for the staff), reading, praying, singing, communion. We even talked a little bit about that on Tuesday when we celebrated Benedict (I bumped him over a day). Music is so important in my faith formation that I came away more spiritually refreshed than I was before I got there, more so than when David and I went to the monastery (well, I also got to exercise my extrovert, too), more so than at Cursillo (not that I don't think Cursillo is worthwhile). Being the priest means you give up being in the choir, and it was nice to be around the choir for a whole week.
Practice makes things better. Sometimes, being an ENFP, I like to try new things instead of repeating an old thing. But you miss out on things if you don't rehearse them and re-hear them. Even though I wasn't singing it, by the end of the week, the Stanford canticles and other anthems had become old friends, and hearing them in the formal Evensongs on Friday and Sunday was quite moving.
Listening to a boy treble sing a solo for the Magnificat is a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, if they're any good (which our boys were), you get this lovely pure sound soaring to the heights of the church. On the other hand, you also know that what you're hearing is totally ephemeral, that just as the processes are in motion for this boy to grow in understanding, those same processes are driving him towards physical maturity and a new voice.
I've had it easy as far as singing over the past few years. I have a decent voice and a pretty good ear, good enough to do the liturgical singing without being stretched too much. I could probably sing Rite II Evensong out of the Hymnal with eyes closed. The solemn tone for Eucharist is pretty well implanted, and I've got more than a passing familiarity with the Litany sung at ordinations and installations. It's been awhile since I've had to study music carefully to look for my entrances--and being the officiant and not a second alto rumbling around on some Brahms, those were very naked entrances. I hadn't been that nervous in a long time before singing and it was good for me.
Reading, marking and inwardly digesting the lectionary readings from I Samuel in preparation for preaching with the boys opened that story up for me in a whole new way. Last week we were reading about Saul's relationship with David after the defeat of Goliath. And I became aware in a whole new way about the deterioration of Saul, the gradual disintegration of his relationship with his people (David is doing the real work of kingship), with those who are loyal to him (David) and then, finally to his own children (Michal and Jonathan). I could really feel it this time. And it resonates with some experiences I've had, of darkness taking over a person's life, so that they do lose those relationships in roughly that order. The more I read Scripture, the more I think it has to tell us, if we would just get out of the way and let it speak to us with imagination and breath, not rigid rules.
If you read my blog
and you do not already read Wide-Eyed and Laughing
, go check out her open letter to Baskin Robbins employees, an earlier post this week.
so. . .about RSCM
If you ever have the chance to send kids from your church, do it.
If you ever have a chance to be the chaplain, do it.
If you ever have the chance to go to an RSCM Evensong, go for it.
Now, having got those preambles out of the way. . .
Other than the fact that TU wouldn't let me have access to their computer for more than one day (NOT a public u.--three cheers for my Big State U. alma mater), it couldn't have been a more perfect week. I enjoyed my colleagues, I worked hard, I loved the kids, my musical abilities are in better shape, I knit a few more inches on my Fishtail Lace scarf (bravely Knitting in Public, even), I read a few books (including, finally, Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God
, which I loved and will have to post thoughts on later), I walked a lot, I celebrated Eucharist and officiated at Evensong and homilized A TON, I swung the thurible around the altar at our final Evensong on Sunday and didn't spill a bit. And above all I have met some wonderful people who I hope will be friends for a good long time.
The boys' singing, we all agreed, was transcendent. At first we were working just to get through the Evensongs, but as the week went on, and their mastery over the material grew, we found ourselves going places in worship that were spiritually satisfying as well as technically beautiful.
I'm going to make some individual posts with sermons and notes about individual moments or services, but wanted to get this down before crashing into bed tonight.
Thanks to Monk-in-Training
for coming to support our efforts at our final Evensong at Trinity, Tulsa.
not quite home yet
I'm in OKC for a night before I head back to Tulsa after services in OKC in the morning. Whew! What a week. I feel like I've been on retreat. It really has been a mountaintop experience. More later. There's much, much to post about.
but wait, there's more
I forgot to mention that the small church thing is happening again this week. I turned up at the course, and the Director of Music worked with my mother
on a Bishop's Commission on Music in Chicago many years ago, and that there is a whole family from my sponsoring congregation in Champaign attending as students (the Mom is not, but she was on my discernment committee).
You can move to a whole new diocese, in a brand new state (gonna make it great! whoops, sorry, started channelling Oklahoma!
), but if you're an Episcopalian, you're never really a stranger. We might be weird, quirky and preoccupied with our own issues, but we are a living illustration of the connection of the communion of saints.
And we do make pretty noises at Evensong.
another day in the life
So here I am in Tulsa as chaplain for the Royal School of Church Music course. There are a number of these courses held all over the country in the summer. This one is for boys 10-17. It's hot. I thought I had more to say but really I don't. After my last bleak post, hanging around with these kids and musicians is very restorative! One does begin to understand why it's a good thing that no generation is immortal. We need the regeneration of the species with each new age.
By the way, raise your hand if you've heard of the Mixolydian Mode.
Fall afresh on us
There's nothing like being out on the road as a supply clergy to scare the living daylights out of this Episcopal priest. . .
Although I often wondered about and prayed for the smaller churches in my previous diocese, I was insulated in a largish, multi-staff congregation with a reasonable amount of money, multiple generations, and a debt-free plant with only the usual problems.
There's nothing like being on the road in our smaller churches, however, to make me wonder how many of our congregations are going to survive in the next ten years. Week after week I find myself in a congregation that is one crisis or a few funerals away from financial meltdown. Aging congregations with at best a couple of children and a teenager or two. Attendance of 15-40.
I've been in a church with a whole attendance of 45 that completely missed the newcomer family with the two kids because they were preoccupied with their own issues. Coffee hour (as I reported last week, not an Episcopal church but still. . .)with a bag of cookies opened on the table for hands to reach in. Bulletins with information that is opaque at best for a newcomer if not downright hostile.
And sometimes when I look out at the congregation during preaching or the Eucharistic Prayer, I see defeat and sadness in so many eyes.
Yet there is also great dignity in so many congregations, who despite so many obstacles offer worship with care every Sunday, whether there is a priest present or not, who keep up bazaars and ECW fundraisers, who take their turns at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, who paint and mow and polish faithfully.
I've come to have a great love for so many I've met on this part of the journey, but I really wonder where we are headed.
must resist. . .can't stop taking quizzes
What is your Icecream Flavour?
|Your Icecream Flavour is...Neopolitan!|
|You aren't satisfied with just one flavor. They say variety is the spice of life and this shines through in your Ice cream of choice! Just don't eat all the chocolate and leave the strawberry and vanilla behind!|
Find out at Go Quiz
Actually, I think this is pretty accurate, although I would prefer spumoni for the cherries. . .
For the record:
this week I have started planning and collecting all the items I will need to pack for the Royal School of Church Music camp I am the chaplain for next week;
had one emotional meltdown over a misunderstood remark (it's all straightened out, but it happened to hit one of those huge core issues we all carry around);
picked a couple of squash out of the garden;
tried to will the tomatoes to ripen;
found the local Cokesbury bookstore, 10 minutes from our home, and found out that they offer a 20% clergy discount (this could be good or bad, depending on one's perspective);
tried to prepare for preaching at 11 services for same RSCM course;
oh, and--I drove all the way out to the church I was supplying at on Sunday (not Episcopal), 18 miles one way, only to discover the order of service was significantly different than the one I had been sent--significantly different. As in no communion. Coffee hour was a bag of cookies someone retrieved out of the refrigerator and plopped on a table for people to take cookies directly out of. Ah, the glamorous world of supply clergy. . .
new blogging friend
Another Seabury alum, Brooke
, has entered the world of blogging.
I remember Brooke from seminary because he was so very, very smart. Also, I still have the huge box of plastic bags he and his wife gifted me with when they moved away.
Wilbur and Houdini say Hi, Brooke!
What can you say
when there are no words? All one can do is pray.
I have friends who are in London right now, taking one last family vacation before Eldest Daughter is off to an elite high school in the fall, away from family. No matter where they were in London or the countryside today, what was a lovely family time, I'm sure, has been ruptured. And above all, even if all our loved ones are safe, a prayer rises up for those who have lost their beloved.
Knitting Content #2
Perforated Edge scarf from Little Box of Scarves. Berroco Foliage on #10 needles. I liked this yarn, 1/2 wool, 1/2 acrylic. Very soft. Like Lion Brand Landscapes but a little thinner. Frogging was easier than on any other projects because the little loops stayed standing up long enough for me to catch them with the needle! I only had to crochet hook one or two times per frog. Lesson I have learned on this scarf, and on the previous two projects: I am too much of an ENFP to dare setting a project down. I've managed to finish these projects because I didn't take on anything else in that time. All this knitting is helping develop my perseverance and patience but Oh, Lord, it's hard. (Psalm 225, vs.1)
Knitting Content #1
Finished object--mariner's scarf for Seamen's Church Institute's Ministry on the River. TLC Heathers (Blue Moon) on #6 Addi Turbos. Zipped along great. I've learned so much since I attempted this scarf before. I first tried to make one back in October of 2004, but I was much newer to knitting. I also tried to knit it at the diocesan convention of a previous diocese, and the conflict was so intense that I think I knit a lot of bad energy into it. When the pattern completely fell apart in my knitting I finally tossed it out (being Red Heart SS I had no trouble just tossing it into the trash). As I've often told people since, with that much bad juju, the barge would have sunk. (double-clicking on the image gives a better close-up of the texture).
Fourth of July
The DH and I had an Authentic Oklahoma Cultural Experience last night.
We were invited by members of his parish to join them on a caravan trip to Yukon, to picnic, listen to the OKC Philarmonic and then watch what they promised were very good fireworks.
Fortified by excellent guacamole and Riesling, off we went. One of our assembly works for the Philharmonic, so we were able to park very close to the event at Chisholm Trail Park. The park had two large fountains and trees in rows down either side of this long park, some of which were hung with festive lights. There were a few vendors and a 70s rock cover band playing when we arrived. Red, white and blue everywhere. Note to self: Oklahomans of all stripes, faiths and political persuasions take the 4th very seriously. We had a nice view of the gazebo where the orchestra was to play, fried chicken (can't have the 4th without fried chicken), yummy corn salad with basil, orange brownies and hummingbird cake. I contributed fruit salad with a touch of pineapple mint out of my own garden. There were Nazarenes offering free watermelon, and there were rumors of free ice cream as well, but I never found it (I'll have to turn in my card, I know). The rain earlier in the day had kept things relatively cool (by OKC standards) and as evening fell a nice breeze picked up.
The orchestra played your standard combination of pops/patriotic music, heavy on the John Williams (two selections from "Superman?") Perhaps in this current politcal environment, playing Star Wars music which included the "Imperial March" wouldn't have been a good choice. They finished with a weird version of the "Star-Spangled Banner" which included extra words. Not written by Francis Scott Key. Not a good choice either.
Still it was well-performed and the fireworks went on for a good 30 minutes. They lived up to advertising. It was, I think, the best display I had ever seen, especially the ones that hung in the air and seemed to rain down upon the oohing and aahing audience. It may have gone on a tad too long (one taped Sousa march too many as far as I was concerned), but that hardly detracted from the overall experience. And unlike fireworks under the Arch in St. Louis, where smoke tends to hang in the humid air over the crowd, the ever-present Oklahoma wind moved these off as fast as they went up.
We straggled home near 11:00, tired, full, smelling of fried chicken and Off! and pineapple (that was me, having chopped it all for the salad). It was a very satisfying
experience of the 4th. Sign me up for next year. I want to find that free ice cream.
So I had the opportunity to hang out overnight at our diocesan camp out at St. Crispin's earlier in the week. I was invited to come out and see what happens and to celebrate Eucharist on Wednesday evening. It was a session of 3rd through 5th graders, and to complete the continuing theme of everybody knows everybody in the Episcopal Church, there was a former parishioner of mine attending the camp. Not to mention a few parishioners from my husband's parish as well. ("Hey, you're our priest's wife!" "Yep, and I'm a priest too." Education about clergy couples continues).
The Wednesday evening communion service is at the pool. In fact, the clergy are in the pool. The kids and staff all sit around the edges, dangling their feet in the water, and the other priest and I were in the pool. They have stoles set aside for just this purpose (light unlined cotton) and a floating altar. It is a measure of how much God's grace is operating that I said yes to standing in my bathing suit at the center of everyone's attention. (I did wear canoeing shorts over the suit and that helped a lot).
So the other priest was doing the readings and I was looking around and I saw this shape at the bottom of the pool. Hmm. One half of my brain kept paying attention to the liturgy (this is a priestly skill that comes with ordination lol) and the other half started this little monologue. "What is that down there? Is that a scorpion? It really looks like a scorpion. It is the perfect shape of a scorpion. I remember scorpions from Arizona. Do we have scorpions in Oklahoma? I bet we have scorpions in Oklahoma..." and so forth. It didn't seem to be moving. A more rational person would have pointed out to herself in said monologue that a scorpion at the very bottom of four feet of water would have to be dead. But the lizard part of my brain was saying "run away! run away!"
At the peace, I pointed this out to my male counterpart. Now I am not the world's most squeamish person, and am usually pretty willing to engage in bug squishing (see earlier posts about smooshing grasshoppers as proof.) But scorpions? I was just as happy when he volunteered to go down and get it (he found it distracting as well) and handed it off to one of the counselors to dispose of (other tasks as assigned).
On a hot day an evening celebration of Eucharist at the pool (followed by the whole community jumping into the pool) was very refreshing and re-creative. Scorpions and all.