Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Hallows' Eve

Late afternoon in Prairie Metropolis, the weather is dry and calm and not too cold, ideal for the Hallowe'en spooks about to descend upon us. I have to stop and get candy on the way home from the Most Holy and Undivided; and some kind of pumpkinitude to put in my front window, thereby "showing willing" at least. I am too old and too tired and too "few" to launch into cutting up an actual pumpkin -- and facing what to do with it in its post-jack-o'lantern reality. At least I think I am.

I have no idea at this point how many children of trick-or-treat age are left in our neighbourhood, which is about 40 years old, and has been through several turn-overs of ownership, most of the houses anyway.

Meetings today -- a very frustrating one this morning and a good one this afternoon to take the taste of the morning away. I'm on a committee planning the city-wide service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (pause for laugh). Things that make me lose my temper early in the morning when I don't feel well anyhow: scandalized insistence on altering the language of the liturgy to avoid any male images or pronouns, "because OUR people would just walk out of the service STUNNED." I diverted myself by reading the Excommunication Service printed in the service-book of our host-church. It seemed to express many of my sentiments on the subject quite succinctly. I think I'm a feminist, I loved Elizabeth Johnson's "She Who Is," but this is mere FUSS-POT-ISHNESS ... and the triumph of ideology over tradition... and I've no patience with it. I did remember, though, that my Official Ecumenical Hat should probably prevent me from offering violence to the brethren from other obediences.

This afternoon, by way of contrast, I took minutes for the Board of Directors of an agency managing seniors' apartment buildings. Most of the Directors are themselves seniors, and they give me great hope and comfort with their acumen and good humour.

The Rummage Sale was a vast success and raised more money than ever in living memory--I'm sure it was all that home-made soup!

We're heading into Marriage Preparation here in the parish this Friday evening and Saturday (more soup!)

Time to get on the road for home...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Something attempted, something done

The weather has turned, temperature falling, wind gusting, rain everywhere; the rummage crew are cruising on their noontime chili-feast, and I am going home to eat a shrimp sandwich, watch the Red Sox, get a grip on the sermon, chase the vacuum cleaner around a bit perhaps, and so to bed!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Soup, glorious soup

Twice a year, after Easter and just before Hallowe'en, the Church of the Most Holy and Undivided has a gigantic Rummage Sale. In the minds of the folks who enjoy it, and do the work, it bulks extremely large--major fundraiser, major community outreach, major fellowship. I think for some it overshadows Christmas and Easter, frankly. Anyhow it certainly overshadows everything else that might happen in the church for those two weeks of the year. Sunday afternoon immediately after the second service, rooms are emptied, tables set up, ordinary furniture hauled hither and yon and stored in strange places (like the nave)-- and (I know from sad experience) everything that isn't nailed down is liable to be whisked away and offered for sale: bits of church bric-a-brac, musical equipment, Sunday school pageant costumes... Receiving and sorting and mending and arranging and pricing occupy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; the sale opens Friday evening, continues Saturday morning, and the crew celebrate their triumph with a catered lunch when the sale is over. Then, exhausted and full of rich food, they try to dispose of everything that didn't sell. This gets harder every year -- the charitable agencies have limited storage space, limited transport, limited volunteer helpers. Tempers get frayed. Hard things are said. Lower lips quiver.
Sometime during my second year here I had a moment of clarity about "the rummage." I looked at the rummage crew and thought -- they're old, they're tired, many of them are sick, (and some in fact are sick unto death), there are fewer of them than there were at the last sale. And for four days they will spend too many hours pawing around in junk and debris, surrounded by stuff that's ugly, dirty, and broken. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon, they will consume strong coffee and stewed tea and cake and donuts. Mid-day, they will consume more coffee, tea, and sweets, and some of them will eat dismal little sandwiches. They will work too hard, and get too tired, and their blood sugar will zing up and down all week, their discourse will be all complaint, and by next Sunday the negative energy in the place will be enough to kill a TREE.
So I went out and bought hamburger and vegetables and some "packet soup mix," came back, hauled out one of the big stock pots and a big knife, and got started. (We have this GREAT old 10-burner gas range!) About eleven o'clock somebody wanted to know "what smells so good?"
And thus was born the tradition that the Rector makes soup for lunch every day during rummage week. This way I know they all get at least one real meal a day with plenty of protein and plenty of fiber! (lots of grated cheese, lots of chopped parsley...) And they don't find it so easy to complain about me when I am standing over them with a two-foot-long ladle (that's my cunning)!
It's become a pattern -- Beef-Tomato-Barley-Etc. on Monday (it's sort of minestrone-ish); Ham and Split Pea on Tuesday; Chicken & Mushroom with White and Wild Rice on Wednesday...and on Thursday, "if you're very good and give me NO GRIEF whatsoever," New England Clam Chowder. Tomorrow for a change they're going to have (very mild) chili con carne. And there's enough of Monday's minestrone left for Thursday lunch for those that can't handle clams......
Chopping fresh vegetables is good for my soul. So is stirring great big pots full of thick, thick soup. And I had the joy of hearing one of the grumpiest of my mothers-in-Zion say to a visitor, "She feeds every way..."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wound and Remedy

I'm gearing up to preach at an ordination to the priesthood, and in my casting about for a starting place found this, that I'd never yet read, from Nicholas Mosley --

"The rules in one sense are that which have been found to give framework, reference, order; that without which there can be no freedom because there could be nothing to be free within or free from, there could be no movement in a vacuum. But in another sense they are that which brings petrifaction and death. In [C]hristian terms it is the church, the institution, that perpetuates (is the manifestation of) the rules -- both as life-giver and destroyer. In a sense the church is opposed to everything a free man stands for: it is that which Christ fought and which fought Christ: the denier of truth, the torturer of the honest, the servant of mammon. All this is too much felt now to go on about it: the concern of the church for power, respectability, vanity, money -- its obsession with sexual morality and disregard for any other -- all this, it is obvious to everyone except [C]hristians, is just what stops other people being [C]hristians and will go on doing so. But still, opposed to this, there is preserved in the framework of the church (how else could it be preserved?) the truth of the story, the history, the art, the secret. The church is that within which the possibilities of the freedom are held; through which is transmitted, beautifully, this experience. (How else could it be preserved except in something so paradoxical?) Within the rigid and self-seeking church have been the things that have given the chance to alter everyone."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wee, sleekit, etc.

Sometime during the past week my office became home to a mouse...only glimpsed a couple of times, a small grey blur...but definitely heard investigating the waste-paper basket. Time for the trap routine, I suppose. The Most Holy and Undivided is a 95+ year old building, about as impermeable as a colander, and we become aware of it in fall, when the little creatures of the out of doors start looking for warm indoor havens for the winter.
On the bright side...he appears NOT to be a Jehovah's Witness, and therefore disinclined for conversation...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Every day a new thrill...

Last Sunday afternoon -- the Sunday next after the feast of St. Francis of Assisi -- we held our annual Blessing of Animals service; and Tuesday this week, as is our wont, we scheduled the annual steam-cleaning of the church carpet, "just in case, you know" as we always say (never had a puddle yet, but the timing still seems auspicious). Now at the moment here in Prairie Metropolis there is a serious shortage of labour -- unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled... and so the carpet cleaners, predictably, sent not a crew, as they've done before, but a lone operator. This in itself would not have been a problem; but the person they sent was a very young and intense Jehovah's Witness. At the sight of a lone clergy-person, female, very evident visions of "bonus conversion points" danced in his head; and he was NOT to be deflected, distracted, or thwarted in his fell purpose. I finally walked him to the front door, where he took his final theological stand amongst coils of vacuum cleaner hose, belabouring me with proof texts and rhetorical questions. Finally when he set about proving that the Sacred Threesome are just derived from "a lot of pagan beliefs"... I threw him out...not incidentally because the church he'd just cleaned is dedicated to the Most Holy and Undivided. Now ... do I call his employer and lay a complaint??? Anybody out there dealt with this one???

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Thanksgiving indeed

Following on yesterday's Whine -- there is corn in Egypt! there is balm in Gilead! and -- thanks be to God and to the anonymous bakers -- there was new altar bread in the freezer when I checked later in the afternoon!!! The church is ankle-deep in crab-apples and zucchini and miscellaneous gourdery... and Indian summer reigns gloriously in the out-of-doors.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Gift of Bi-location

...I think I read it somewhere, is one of the earliest "evidences" of sanctity -- that is, the kind of saintliness that gets recognized with a date in the calendar and maybe even a holy card. It comes just before or just after levitation, I forget which.
It would be a handy charism this weekend -- Thanksgiving celebrations and a statutory holiday on Monday, in these parts. The to-do list looks like one of those three-prong, two-slot blivets; it makes perfect sense, except that it is entirely unworkable.
Today, a baptismal rehearsal at noon, and out to a potluck dinner late afternoon; tomorrow, the two services in the morning, one of them a baptism; the Blessing of Animals in early afternoon; Thanksgiving dinner with offspring, also potluck, late afternoon. And we're out of altar bread. And around these fixed points I have to somehow arrange the following: shopping for ingredients for my potluck contributions, assembling them, finishing tomorrow morning's sermon, assembling a reflection for the Blessing of Animals...and baking a batch of altar bread, which takes two risings. Among the resources at my disposal are three kitchens, variously equipped, one laptop computer (one printer, elsewhere), one car, one sprained ankle...
Never mind! "We can do this" is our cry. Alternatively, "Thy grace is sufficient..."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Eight Miles Up

Back at my Tuesday desk after adventures in the last week. Last Wednesday in the midst of an errand reeking with self-conscious benevolence, I tripped and sprained an ankle (mine, alas); took Thursday off on doctor's (shouted) orders, and Friday flew off to Neighbouring Prairie City for a weekend conference. There were moments en route when I wondered whether this was a pointless exercise in clerical machismo...but the beautiful venue and the friendly folks present and the whole inspiring experience turned out to be just what I most needed.
Flying home Sunday night at twilight, looking out the window and trying to grasp that we were eight... miles... above the farms visible below us. (Neighbouring Prairie City is just far enough away that air-travellers have about five minutes at this altitude between the end of the climb up'n'out and the beginning of the descent into...) and then watching the yard-lights come on...headlights on the roads...the beautiful sense of work being done, life going on, people coming and going about their business under the vast glowing sky.
Time to get about my own business here; a meeting this afternoon, a Bible study group tonight (Matthew, with help from N. T. Wright), and in between a couple of hospital communion visits.