Friday, February 29, 2008
Tell us about a time you:
1. Leapt before looked:
This is quite challenging because in general I DON'T LEAP. Not me. Risk-averse, in every way.
But I can remember one "leap" that I survived...back in the Year When Everything Fell Apart...I was told at the end of May (in a form letter) that there would be no teaching available for sessional instructors in the coming September--which meant I was out of a job. There was a hand-written PS on the letter from my boss saying, "I think I can find you one section to teach, perhaps." I went straight down the corridor and into his office without feeling the floor anywhere along the way, and said, as follows: "B, don't you tell me that I have no teaching next fall because I HAVE to have teaching next fall, and there's no two ways about that." And he looked at me mildly and said, "Close the door, and sit down, and tell me what's going on." So I did, and we had one of those break-through conversations that took us to "friends" in one fell swoop. (And there WAS enough teaching to keep us afloat, and the biopsies came back negative, and one way and another we got through THAT year...)
2. Leapt to a conclusion:
...actually I do this fairly frequently and it's nearly always the same conclusion: "Woe to Troy! It's all up with us! We're ALL DOOMED! DOOMED, I tell you!!!" Most tedious. The first time I did this, apparently, was when I was reading to myself The Three Little Pigs. My mother came into the room just as I flung the book into the corner, exclaiming, "He's eaten the first little pig, he's eaten the second little pig, he's just about to eat the third little pig, and I'm not reading this EATY BOOK any more!"
3. Took a Leap of Faith:
The year before I was ordained...after a very frustrating conversation about ministry...I betook myself to the local MCC shop "Ten Thousand Villages" and bought myself a set of five stoles from Thailand...at that point I had no date of ordination nor any assurance that there would ever be one. But something inside said, "Put your money where your mouth is, or where your hopes are." It was a happy and memorable encounter with the Mennonite volunteers too; as we concluded our business one of them said to me, "Now you go right up the street to your bishop's office, you walk in and slap these down on his desk and say, 'SEE? I'm ready!!'" THAT was too big a leap for me; but HER confidence was very affirming! And within six months...ordination was on the calendar, after all.
4. Took a literal Leap. Honestly, I cannot remember even one.
5. And finally, what might you be faced with leaping in the coming year?
Well, it's high time I leapt, gently, into an exercise program. And that will probably mean leaping into a swimming pool somewhere nearby. Or, of course, letting myself down into it gradually an inch at a time!
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Rule 1) List three reasons for your blogging.
Rule 2) List the rules.
Rule 3) Tag three others with the thread.
1. Wow, three reasons for blogging:
a) it's a substitute for keeping a journal in a book, which seems to be obscurely difficult of late...
b) It allows me to have a conversation with people whose insights and wisdom and courage and humour have been nourishing me on THEIR blogs for months now.
c) My Daughter Unit is a world-class nag. Can't for the life of me imagine where she acquired that trait....
2. Rules listed, above...
3. Now three tags -- no pressure, folks, I know everybody is scary-busy. But if the folks listed below would like to play, that would be just nifty.
The Lovely Wife
Rev. Dr. Mom
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
1. You have to post the rules before you give your answers.
2. You must list one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. (If you don't have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother's maiden name).
3. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged.)
All right then. Rules are posted. So far so easy.
Middle names? Man, do I have middle names. Middle names are my middle name...oops, sorry!
Going to hedge just a little here. I have five names, and the third of them (also the third of my given or baptismal names) is the one I use, and that is a little uncomfortable; my maiden name is nine letters long, unh unh...so I'll use my second or middle given name -- which was also my mother's given name. A suitably muddle-headed Anglican compromise, I think.
A -- Anglican by the grace of God through two agencies -- the beauties of seventeenth century liturgy and devotional literature; the contrasting formlessness of the tradition I was born into
L -- Literate -- the printed word, the bound book...are my twin refuges, and have been for 60 years
I -- Introvert -- constitutionally! Painfully!
C -- Cautious, Cold, Captious, and Cranky -- too much of the time!
E -- Eldering -- accelerating, gently and gratefully, into an innocuous desuetude...I hope!
And I tag:
A -- Seeking Authentic Voice-- this is the best I can do here!
L -- Life and Times of a Preacher Mom
I -- I am Chorus
C -- Cheesehead in Paradise
E -- Exile's Return
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The renovations of Small Kitchen adjacent to our offices are all but complete...we are happily hurling our teacups and coffee mugs into the new dishwasher...we have new pale green paint and pale green countertops, fresh painted white cabinets, crisp new white curtains; the microwave has its own little "aerie" -- the fridge has been "reamed out" -- nothing in there now but food and drink, all the "science projects" have gone to the garbage! A great pleasure to use, blessings on the retired men who have done the work.
Book study tonight, on chapter three of Sam Wells's Power & Passion. Good group and good discussion, untroubled by the semiprofessional theatre group practising John Denver repertoire in the adjacent space. The consensus seems to be that Wells was a little too hard on Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. We did identify the position or the habit of mind that he is arguing AGAINST...laudably. But his adjustment of these two figures to his thesis was... Procrustean, if that's the word I want.
I even managed to get out and buy what felt like a ton of cat-litter over the supper hour. It's in Harriet's trunk, improving traction no doubt.
Time to turn out the lights and go home.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I did have my once-a-month turn to celebrate the noonhour Eucharist at the cathedral today. Fourth Monday. There is almost never more than one other person present, but I've never had to settle for the ante-communion alone. And to my great delight, the Hebrew Scripture for today is second Kings, chapter five. Naaman the Leper, one of a small handful of all time favourites. Even though we don't read the part about bowing in the House of Rimmon...let alone Gehazi's peculations. "Fundraising for theological education: how NOT to do it."
So the other soul present, somewhat to his bemusement, got the full-scale armwaving reflection on the career of Naaman the leper... He was very genial about it.
I came back to MHU, and was joined by the Daughter Unit and Best SIL Ever, for a certain amount of elegant conversation -- and blog-assistance. Kindly admire my enhanced blogroll!
I am glad of the "slack" day. The weekend was very stressful. There was the "angel workshop" on my mind, and potentially destructive feedback; there was a party, a birthday party, in our major meeting space on Saturday night, and when I came in on Sunday morning I found that there had been "incursions" into the worship space...the communion silver on the altar was "disarranged," and most frightening of all someone had lit the altar candles and they had burned all night...THEY WEREN'T LIT WHEN I WENT HOME AT EIGHT O'CLOCK... so I have an Awkward Interview with one of the parish families...ASAP.
And it was Scout-Guide parade day with marching to and fro and presenting flags and salutings and recitings of promises. MHU has an ancient affiliation with a scouting group. It is honoured annually. I find it completely...pointless; and disproportionately enervating.
Then we had two, not one but two, mental patients in our midst...one of them Very Cheerful; he sits in the very front pew and coils wire by way of entertainment. However he also listens quite attentively. And when he doesn't take his clothes off, he's really only a minor distraction. I could wish he didn't wave at the musicians and the readers, but still.
The other one was scary. He arrived between the services and strode up and down the centre aisle announcing the imminence of judgement and its kick-off happening at MHU. It is possible he was irritated by something about the angel workshop. Or just diffusely furious. He's been around before...his refrain is "uncleanness in the churches" but I don't think it would help to introduce him to the janitor.
Fortunately a little platoon of large parishioners persuaded him to await the parousia elsewhere.
After our second service, I went straight into an intensive two-hour discernment meeting with committee and candidate and the two ordinals, old and new. It was a lunch meeting as well...then off to the south end of Prairie Metropolis for a reserved communion service with folks in a seniors' residence.
And so home! and the Oscars! I found them a little disappointing -- hoping for more recognition of the merits of Away From Her and the radiant Julie Christie.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
The gospel story—Jesus talks to a woman of Samaria – has to be the focus of our attention this morning. To start with, it’s the longest single conversation that Jesus has with anybody in the Gospel…that alone would make it significant. Something of major importance is happening here.
For one thing, Jesus and this woman are and are NOT strangers to each other. They’ve never met before…this is true; so they are strangers. And they’re very different from each other – they’re even, in a lot of ways, on “opposite sides” – not only strangers but potential enemies, too. But, amazingly, there is a good deal that they share, and part of what they share is STORY. Now sharing a story doesn’t necessarily make people friends. Sometimes it just makes them more dedicated enemies! As so often happens when you read Scripture carefully, you will hear that this morning’s gospel story seems to contain this morning’s reading from the Hebrew scriptures – it’s as if the reading from Exodus was right there in both Jesus’ mind and the mind of the Samaritan woman, all the way through what they say to each other. Of course there are a lot of other stories from Hebrew Scripture just under the surface here as well – we’ll get to them in a moment. Those other stories were shared also. And the conversation is easier to imagine if you keep that in mind.
The situation is odd. Picture it. A lone woman trudging toward the village water supply…in the middle of the day, the heat of the day, which is odd behaviour. Better to come in the early morning or early evening, when the sun isn’t so punishingly hot. And she’s alone – which is odd behaviour. Other women come together: fetching water is a social occasion. Labour is shared, toil is eased, news is passed along, advice, sympathy, joy may be shared, hard work is leavened by basic community. None of that for this woman. She’s an outsider, and her work is all the harder because of it.
She gets within sight of the well. Oh rats…here’s trouble. There’s somebody there already. And it’s a man, a stranger, and he’s sitting down, not just passing through. Better ease the jar down off her shoulder, in case she has to run for it. There’s nobody to protect her except herself. Does she also remember at this moment – maybe with part of her mind – that the ancestral well is the place, in the old stories, where women meet potential husbands? Abraham’s servant finds Rebekah there; Jacob meets Rachel there…hunh, very romantic, that was then, this is now.
When she’s close enough (because, stranger or no stranger, the household has to have water—and of course that’s women’s work, always has been, don’t look for HELP with this chore)…she sees that the stranger is a Jew. Probably one of those lofty-minded holier than thou Pharisees, to whom she is the scum of the earth. Maybe at least though she’ll get away unscathed…maybe he’s one of the fancy ones who shuts his eyes when a strange woman appears (you can tell them because they have bruised faces from walking into things with their eyes shut)…and then, into her anticipation, he speaks.
But it’s not an insult. It’s not contempt. It’s a request that makes her feel he must have read her mind…right out of the old stories in Genesis. “What does a man have to do to get a drink around here?” She could hardly be more shocked. She stammers …”You don’t want a drink from ME…don’t you REALIZE? I’m a Samaritan?” and he says the most amazing thing in reply… “if you knew the gift of God, if you knew who I was…you’d be asking me” (in that moment we hear the reading from Exodus, the people’s thirst, the people’s demand of water from God, the people’s “not knowing” who is in their midst…all the predicament of the human creature face to face with the Creator). And I would give you such water – running water, living water, water that comes to meet you, that doesn’t have to be hauled up out of the dark, who knows how far… Well, she says, I don’t see how you’re going to manage that with no bucket…who do you think you are, greater than our ancestor who gave us this well?
By now she’s beginning to guess he’s talking about more than just well-water, but when he says that he would give her water that would keep her from every being thirsty again, the weariness of carrying water overcomes her – “THAT, I could go for, she says. Please give me that.”
But Jesus gives her something better than water you can carry in a jar. This too he does in an indirect way. “go fetch your husband,” he says…and this is a challenge…she has asked him for something, she is looking to him for something…and he asks something of her. Not a great feat of courage or faith…just the truth. And the way you can sometimes do with a total stranger and nobody overhearing, she tells him the truth…now THAT ought to make him draw back. But it doesn’t. Instead, he corroborates what she has said and names it, commends it as truth.
This is too much to absorb, she has to make some kind of distance between them, so she tries to run and hide in theological debate…”don’t you remember that we don’t agree? That we are at ODDS with each other?” (Just stop for a minute and think about all the things that can divide one believer from another, one Anglican from another in our time, and then try to hear what Jesus says in that kind of division”… true worshipers are neither the one nor the other but something else entirely…and look at what sneaks by…
THE FATHER SEEKS SUCH…isn’t it the business of worshipers to seek the divine? What kind of world is this where the divine goes and hunts up worshipers? And of course this is exactly what Jesus has been doing ever since she hove into view on the path to the well…and even before.
In case you miss the point…it’s all there summarized in general terms in the reading from Romans… while we were enemies, while we still were sinners…God came looking for us, God SOUGHT US OUT…in spite of all our backing up, our attempts to run and hide in the comfortable certainties of our “religious knowledge” (one of the great puzzles, how do we get from RK to FAITH?!)…as the Samaritan woman does. “Well, she says (make space, make room, give me air, give me a moment) “what we need here is the Messiah, and then he will tell us what’s what, won’t he, and until he comes we just have to remain as we are….” And Jesus says…can you hear the grin? “The Messiah? Actually…that would be me.”
He hasn’t said that before, not to anybody. This is the long, so long deferred answer to that tormenting question in Exodus, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” and the answer, when it comes, is “YUP!”
He tell us who we are. And he does it without projection and without judgement, but with tremendous challenge. And because he tells us who we are, we can believe him when he tell us who he is. And we can know that this is, truly, the Saviour of the world.
Friday, February 22, 2008
What is your idea of a heavenly (i.e. wonderful and perfect):
1. Family get-together... All my brothers and all our families together eating and drinking and laughing and nobody spooked by anybody else, or on edge...with time to walk and time to play touch football and time to watch old movies (but not home movies)...if it were over Christmas, that would be so much the better.
2. Song or musical piece: as Garrison Keillor might say, "the Bach B Minor Mass with a good Anglican choir leaning into it like sled dogs crossing the tundra"...!!! Or the Allegri Miserere...or the "Hallelujah Chorus" with lots of ATTACK, and the trumpets in tune with the organ (and each other). Or Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue or Beethoven's Piano Concerto #5: the Emperor, on a really good piano...
3. Gift...I have no idea... My Dad gave me a red taffeta crinoline for Christmas when I was about 13, and that was pretty heavenly... gave me an instant rapport with Mammy in Gone With the Wind too!
4. You choose whatever you like-food, pair of shoes, vacation, house, or something else. Just tell us what it is and what a heavenly version of it would be.
Well then I would say a heavenly vacation...and it would be "back to Italy" with more time and more energy!
5. And for a serious moment, or what would you like your entrance into the next life to be like?
What, from your vantage point now, would make Heaven "heavenly?"
I would like to be able to look at the people whom I wanted to love me, and know that they did. I think I'll leave it at that. For the fuller version, see Dante Alighieri, passim.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Not surprisingly, then, MHU hears a lot of music. Not just on Sunday morning, not just liturgical music and hymns, but concerts and recitals. Some of them we actually sponsor, as part of our community outreach. Some of them we co-host with other music-loving groups. And some of them we just "house"...making space and instruments available for a nominal donation (and sometimes support "in kind" -- "Yes, you may have your recital here, and would you come next summer a couple of times and provide some music for our services while the choir's on break?")
A nice, cheerful, above board kind of symbiosis between church and musicians.
Now (cue scary minor chords)...some weeks back we got a request to use our sanctuary for a "piano workshop and concert." IN THOSE PRECISE TERMS. Permission granted, although the person making the enquiry was not previously known to us.
A little potential awkwardness as we will have Boy Scouts (and all that that entails) in our Lower Hall, right under the nave, doing-what-they-do in honour of Baden-Powell, until about 3 p.m. But the workshop/concert would take place upstairs, after all, so if the Boy Scouts could keep all the grand-howling within limits, there shouldn't be a problem, right?
Earlier this week, alas, their poster, large, elaborate, expensively produced, appears on our narthex bulletin board. Aha -- this is a piano workshop only in a very limited sense. This is actually an ARCHANGEL WORKSHOP, in which the presenter will give out with the message she personally received from an archangel seen -- by her personally -- in the sky over Prairie Metropolis, and then will choose attendees at random, and her co-conspirator will CHANNEL a special archangel melody for the selected person. While I am still reeling from this, the woman herself arrives with friend to take publicity pics, and I find her posturing about IN THE CHANCEL, wafting her sleeves about in a presumably archangelic fashion. So I roust them from that. But I am still hoping for the best, or the least, or the most poorly attended, for the *&^%$ workshop, when I get the media release, with the details above and more besides.
So I have told them they have a choice -- workshop etc. in the Lower Hall, or ELSEWHERE altogether. They opted, with much whining, for the Lower Hall, protesting that they had been very clear about what their event was all about -- it's the MENDACITY of it that is getting to me. Just on the point of excreting pocket change from various orifices, here.
One of my colleagues found an "angel altar" set up in a parishioner's home when he visited. He knocked it over, without hesitation. I wish I had that kind of reflex!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Yesterday was a good full day: excellent breakfast with a parishioner at her apartment. We manage this four or five times a year--we talk about IDEAS, and wave our arms a certain amount. She is a professor of psychology--our discussions often orbit around her experiences in teaching a course on "self-deception" to undergraduate students! And our own complementary experiences and understandings of what it is, and what it was "aforetime" to be a human person.
Then in the office I cleared a lot of email, later in the morning, and put some processes in motion as follow-up to the Vestry meeting on Monday evening. Then went and made a rather overdue hospital visit...admired my parishioner's "Christmas tree" of IV solutions, including the bright blue chemo. She told me ruefully that her son-in-law was quite disappointed that it didn't turn HER blue...on the analogy of the white-carnation-in-ink experiments that we used to do in grade-school to see plant-circulation. Then a bite of supper near the hospital, because it was shift-change time and no point in even trying to escape the parking garage until the rush cleared away, anyway. So that was peaceful.
Back to the church and preparation for our Lenten book study. It went well; two hours of lively discussion and further arm-waving. The topic, nominally was "Barabbas" -- we went far afield, largely on Sam Wells's discussion of the role of the purity regulations in shaping Jewish response to the Roman occupation...modern analogies... and the thesis that there are NO good guys, but one, in the story of Jesus' passion and death.
Next week, Joseph of Arimathea.
Home eventually, quite late, with a brief stop at the supermarket...son watching Liverpool play Inter Milan...TWO issues of the Times Literary Supplement in the mail. Got most of one of them read between last night and this morning, including Christopher Insole's long review on Charles Taylor's magnum opus A Secular Age.
Cleared the accrued e-mails again this morning; and now for some quiet concentrated reading time in my office rocking-chair.
Not very warm this morning but bright, bright sunshine. It's comforting.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Now some meetings to timetable (NOT my favourite chore), some more writing to do toward tonight's meeting..ensuring that the meeting room is ready with all the materials laid out clearly.
There are plenty of small bean-spooning chores to do between moments of breakthrough as well!
Yesterday was delightful...a very special concert mid-afternoon...Telemann, Bach's Cantata #4 -- "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" -- and finally a sizzling performance of Handel's "Dixit Dominus." It hasn't been easy to come back down to earth!
Friday, February 15, 2008
Do you remember it? Yes, I do... I was almost 11 years old.
Know any interesting tidbits? My father's family were Christian Scientists and my mother's family were Church of Christ (Disciples) so infant baptism wasn't a high priority on either side; but by 1955 we were members of the United Church, and when my mother gave birth to twins in March, our minister suggested all four of us kids be baptized at once. And we were.
2. What's the most unexpected thing you've ever witnessed at a baptism? I can't think of anything too outrageous...although I did once baptize a set of triplets...which was fun.
3. Does your congregation have any special traditions surrounding baptisms? No but we're working on it! I do carry little people down the aisle and back to be greeted by one and all...I lead older kids and adults.
4. Are you a godparent or baptismal sponsor? I am godmother to two nieces and one nephew and the son of a friend.
Have a story to tell? Yes! I first met one of my niece-goddaughters at a family New Year's Day gathering when she was two and a half (there had been a proxy at her actual baptism). Her mom and I noticed that she was making very frequent trips to the bathroom. When her mom enquired, Goddaughter confessed that she was making sure she couldn't possibly have an ACCIDENT in front of her godmother (she was just out of diapers and in training pants). When I got home again I sent her a half-dozen pairs of lacy nylon panties...and I'm told that was "the END" for the training pants. Well, it seemed like a godmotherly thing to do!
5. Do you have a favorite baptismal song or hymn? "O Spirit of the Living God" and "Down Galilee's Slow Roadways" are both good (The Book of Common Praise)
Thursday, February 14, 2008
...which Church Father I am.
You’re St. Justin Martyr!
You have a positive and hopeful attitude toward the world. You think that nature, history, and even the pagan philosophers were often guided by God in preparation for the Advent of the Christ. You find “seeds of the Word” in unexpected places. You’re patient and willing to explain the faith to unbelievers.
I was kind of hoping for Theodore of Mopsuestia, sigh...
Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more.
OK: it's Good News: The Best Religion Writing in North America edited by Debra A. Wagner and published by Seabury in New York.
Find page 123:
Right, this is in an essay called "'King of Pop' More Like a 'God'" by David W. Reid, reprinted from Vital Theology.
Find the first 5 sentences. OK, done that!
Post the next three sentences. Here we go.
"'For somebody who has no limits, who is unwilling to hear the counsel of others where there ought to be boundaries and limits in life, all kinds of sexual transgressions become possible,' he said.
Indeed, sexual activity was evidence of the power of ancient gods. Such gods were unfaithful to their wives when married, came down to earth to have sex with mortals, crossed over traditional boundaries about available sex partners, and proved their godliness by suffering no consequences."
Tag five people. OK...I tag...
I'm Still Me
Mom said nobody cares...
I hope I haven't tagged anybody who's played already!!! Enjoy!!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
No too bad a day today, in terms of weather...not QUITE warm enough to get the car washed, but we're working toward it. A fair amount scratched off the to-do list already. Made a hospital visit last night on my way home...a parishioner about to move from subsidized housing into assisted living...another parishioner came in this morning and brought me a most gorgeous hand-knit scarf, just to say thank you.
I've done my prep for tonight's book-study meeting on Samuel Wells's Power & Passion. It seems to be nice and accessible and there are good discussion tools, starters, at the end of each chapter. I am pleased at what he says about power...and the "wrongness" of pretending we don't have any. Is there anything QUITE so satisfying as finding, in print, something one already has thought and said?
As soon as the knitters begin to arrive, I'll slide out and find some lunch. No secretary today, her little girl is still under the weather.
Went to the kitchen to cook breakfast this morning and got all set up with my Special Cereal Pot, water, salt, cranberries, cinnamon...and then found I was out of oatmeal. Drat. So I cooked rice instead. Perfectly acceptable.
My "Fabric Committee" (i.e., that's the Building Committee, in other dialects) has had a Come-to-Jesus meeting with the supervisor of our cleaning service this morning. They seem well satisfied with the results... Back to the agenda for the Corporation meeting, which has to include some consideration of building issues.
And I can see the top of my desk! It's amazing!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
The regular routine prevailed at the early service (it's only twenty below and the new snow isn't all THAT deep); and then at 10:30 we had Morning Prayer and Litany, old style. The big trap in that liturgy is that the sermon comes just before the closing prayers, separated from the Gospel by the length--and it is length--of the Great Litany.
So I am in my usual liturgical fugue at the end of the Gospel; muscle memory is a wonderful thing; I approach chancel steps and automatically wheel smartly to the left and into the pulpit. Fortunately My Daughter the Alto was right on my heels to pluck me out of there and re-insert me in my prayer desk. ON with the Great Litany...round and round the church in a series of right-hand turns. And we managed not to turn the whole thing into a goat-sacrifice. No thanks to the Rector...
And we bade farewell to our young doctor who is away to Kandahar next weekend with the Canadian Army, part of the deployment from this garrison. Please keep him...and his lovely wife (she truly is) and their two great lanky beautiful teen-aged sons...in your prayers.
I need to find some lunch -- back mid-afternoon for a real tonsil-rattling Hymn Festival, here, with the local Lutheran college (Missouri Synod) and friends'n'relations.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Yes, we did -- Mardi Gras is Shrove Tuesday in this community, the sidespeople (ushers) are the team in charge of producing pancakes and sausages and syrup (and coffee and tea and juice) at supper time. Good turn-out this year, and good food. Folks get out and collect some of the house-bound and fetch them in. And one of our Junior Mothers-in-Zion undertook to provide a children's activity. I love, love, love, volunteers who say, "Why don't we..." and then take FULL responsibility for what they're suggesting. So the kids, about a dozen, made half-masks, Mardi Gras style, and had a ball doing it. Big Props to our Mask Lady.
Then on Ash Wednesday -- ashes at 7:30 a.m. and p.m. Seven of us at the early service, dark when we came in, dawn when we came out. The seven included a Mom and three kids, kids bearing juice-boxes and half-eaten toast (I intuited an "Oh, go get in the car! now!" moment). They came up for ashes, very decorously, and the little boy solemnly and intently watched what I was doing with the result that when I touched his forehead his big blue eyes were completely crossed...
About 35 in the evening, including choir. Nice hymns, nice anthem, and a minimal homily.
2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent?
I suppose -- it was my first Shrove Tuesday here and in the middle of an afternoon meeting upstairs there was a bang like the clap of creation...it felt as though Most Holy and Undivided had risen up off the base plates and then sat down again. For a moment I thought, "Oh...something fell over downstairs..." and then I thought, "THAT was an EXPLOSION...and I'm the Rector...and I have to go downstairs and see what blew up." When I got down to the big kitchen I found two of the ushers who had come in to begin the cooking for supper. One had his face under the cold tap. The other was standing looking stunned. I discovered they had turned on the gas in one of the ovens without lighting it immediately...and when they opened the oven door, the accumulated gas met the pilot lights atop the stove. Kaboom, as it were. The man who opened the oven door lost his eyebrows and was a bit pink in the face but that was all the harm.
There was a tail-piece, though. The next morning at the early service his wife appeared to read Scripture, having volunteered to do so. When it was clear that we two were the entire congregation, she berated me for having the service at all. Trying to be pastoral DESPITE EVERYTHING, I asked after her husband. "He's fine, why wouldn't he be?" And then I knew he hadn't told her. So I was in trouble again, for blowing his cover.
Memorable, I guess, would cover it pretty well.
3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it?
No, we didn't mark Lent and I remember expressing great scorn for Roman Catholic schoolmates who did. Came to Lent when I came to Anglicanism in my university years.
4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between?
Somewhere in between. Or rather, in both. The Via Media oscillates between being the white line down the middle, and being both ditches at once, as we know.
5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year?
This year I am working on IRL. Talking to people LIVE every day. Looking people in the eyes. And following the "Love Life Live Lent" guidelines and suggestions -- I've accessed them on Facebook.
I'd like to give up falling asleep on the couch with the TV on every evening...pray for me!
Thursday, February 7, 2008
And here he is, bless his little rodentious heart. I am working into the early evening here, and I hear "scrabbling." And further scrabbling. And I see nothing.
Then I realize that the scrabbling is coming from INSIDE my desk...in fact, the bottom right-hand drawer...and I open the drawer...and some little grey somebody has been having a hey-day with the left-over Sinter Klaas gelt (chocolate) in the bottom of my drawer. Little wretch.
I guess, mindful of health considerations, hanta viruses, etc. -- I have to set a trap also.
I wish I could pretend to have taken his picture, but this is uploaded from Wikipedia.
Now I have to go clean out my drawer. Somewhere out there is a mouse with chocolate on his breath.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
But this will be remembered as the AGM of the Pew Cushions. One of our laywomen has thought, not without reason, that we might do well to provide some cushions for those who cannot bear 90 minutes of our pews (which are highly varnished ancient oaken mediaeval torture-engines, handsome but agonizing). We are not proposing to UPHOLSTER the pews. Just provide some modest seat cushions. Not even enough cushions to fill ALL the pews. Just, "some."
So Cushionwoman was determined that the AGM should consider the question, or questions, of pew cushions (pause to coax eye to stop twitching). And on the whole this is not essentially a bad idea, we weren't going to pass any binding motions, just get a sense of the thinking of the parish, "for" or "against," perhaps take a show-of-hands straw vote. And I'm sure in her mind's eye she was picturing a forest of waving hands, and murmurs of pleasure and appreciation, and cheery voices calling out, "I'll help you with that, call me."
Signal for emergence of cobras from baskets. "Well I'm completely against it"...on the grounds that if we had seat cushions (we HAVE, in fact, a few already) there would be nowhere to store them (um, on the pews, possibly?) and people wouldn't use them, because people didn't need them, because people don't use the ones we've got (um, well, they DO, that is when YOU personally haven't secreted them on an inaccessibly high shelf) and... I confess I was entirely poised at that moment, listening intently for the magic cadenza, "and if we have seat cushions I'M LEAVING THE CHURCH"... but no such luck, not THAT easy. Then there were the other comments of the "why don't we do something entirely different" kind..."we should just bring our own cushions from home" and "why don't we have lumbar support cushions instead" and so on and so forth, until we were mercifully released from the maelstrom of stupid by the parishioner who raised what amounted to "Point of BOOOOOOORING, Madam Chair" -- and if it's not in Roberts' Rules of Order, or Bourinot, it jolly well ought to be.
On the good news side...we seem to have surrounded a pair of altar candlesticks of dignified dimensions. Used, and in great need of polish...but! We approach their introduction into the worship space much more slyly...we'll sort of SLIDE them in, while the wrangle over pew cushions has everybody distracted.
There were seven congregants this morning at 7:30, still dark but much milder than a week ago, for the imposition of ashes...
and may you all have a most holy and blessed Lent, too.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Speaking of poetry, one of the high points of the last couple of weeks for me was reading the January 11th issue of the Times Literary Supplement, a lifeline -- it's very pricey but it's lightweight, so I can fold it up small and read it in bed and if I fall asleep and drop it on my face, it's unlikely to hurt me...these are considerations! This issue included a short essay by Vikram Seth, and three of six poems he wrote "after the manner of" George Herbert, since moving into Herbert's former Rectory at Bemerton, near Salisbury. I knew 'of' Seth only as a contemporary South Asian writer of Very Fat Novels (not in-bed reading, i.e.), but not at all as a poet. As it's largely owing to exposure to George Herbert et al., when I was 19, that I'm an Anglican...anything about his poetry interests me. And Seth's poems are the most reverent and proficient imitations I've read in a very long time. Apparently they've also been set to music, all six, as a song cycle. I don't have access to the music. Not yet!
NB: you can look at these poems right here if you like!
After a quiet day yesterday (recuperating from the AGM on Sunday), I went to the Roman Catholic basilica for a service of "Consecration to the Ordo Virginum"--the "consecrated" being a young professor of Biblical studies. Most interesting service, and the church was jammed to the rafters. The congregation included more elderly women religious than one would have believed were still extant.
And so, like Pepys, home and to bed.
Monday, February 4, 2008
The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday.
An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout
breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps.
Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and
hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them:
shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if the Star Market
had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in
with the rest of them--sour milk, bad meat--
looking for cereal and spring water.
Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car
in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have
been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept
out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands
and knees begging for mercy.
If I only touch the hem of his garment, one woman thought,
could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?
Friday, February 1, 2008
1. Do you celebrate one or more of these?
By and large, NO; although we remember St. Brigid's Day in our parish calendar on the website, and it's fairly usual to have some reference to the groundhog in a sermon. I used to be curate in a parish where I sat facing the stained glass window depicting the Presentation in the Temple (Candlemas) -- and twice a year, on the equinoxes, the rising sun came through that window and hit me in the eye. ("Liturgical East" was actually "North" in that church.) That doesn't count, I don't suppose.
When a Saint's Day falls on a Thursday, when we have our midweek Eucharist, I normally devote the homily to the saint, with a reading from For All the Saints and sometimes special "Propers" (Collect and Scripture, with Introit and Gradual for major-major celebrations). These are collectively referred to by my Thursday congregation as "her shenanigans."
3. Is this a bit of fun or deeply significant?
Mainly it's fun, I wish it carried more significance.
4. Are festivals/ Saints days important to you?
They are; because I think we need lots of company on the journey of faith...and I find the saints good company.
5.Name your favourite Saints day/ celebration.
I have a fondness for the Marian days -- December 8th, September 8th, August 15th, March 25th. And I do like Mothering Sunday in the middle of Lent, largely because nobody else celebrates that one, and it makes people go "Huh?"
I should tell another story, though. In my early days at Most Holy and Undivided, a new sound system was installed, complete with bulky multi-directional loudspeaker hung from the peak of the arch between nave and chancel. The installation was completed midweek between Advent One and Advent Two. My then-secretary confirmed my apprehension that I was going to get "Hail, Columbia" from the congregation for the ugliness of this new piece of equipment. So on Advent Two, at the end of the service, I called the children up for a "Special Story," about a long ago, faraway place called Myra, and its wonderful bishop...and just at the Most Dramatic Moment, there was a thunderous knocking on the inner doors at the church entrance, and there on the frosted glass was a mitred silhouette, bearing a crook, and in came Saint Nicholas his own self, and he bestowed chocolate coins hither and yon, exchanged banter with the Rector, and exited stage left, to the slackjawed astonishment of one and all. So the congregants were distracted and forgot to chew me out about the loudspeaker, and by the next week, well, it seemed kind of SILLY to do it THEN... Number Two Son refers to this and like manoeuvres as "Watch This Hand" ministry.