Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In which the Rambler is ambushed...


Attached to our parish ("Most Holy & Undivided"), we have a family of First Nations folks. The Rambler's grandparents would have called them "Indians." The Rambler has some trouble with the term "native," which to her thinking has the smell of moldy pith helmets about it, and also with the term "aboriginal," which will always evoke Australia, sorry about that.

The Rambler has a fairly lengthy acquaintance with these folks, and was asked to celebrate the Eucharist in their midst last week, to mark the first anniversary of the very sad and premature death of a son of the family. He succumbed to the cumulative effects of taxing his physical self with food, drink, and recreational chemicals.

This invitation is a huge honour...especially as the brother of the young man who died is now also an Anglican priest, and fully qualified to preside for his family. So the Rambler goes into this event quite conscious of being the senior "European Settler Person" on site, and an "elder" by courtesy.

There were 85 members of the extended family present. (Parishes who seek growth might like to ramp up their welcome to First Nations families, by the way -- a growing demographic.) The Order of Service was Book of Common Prayerall the way (i.e., "old school"). The hymns were all in Cree, with the assistance and leadership of musician friends. (By the end of the service the Rambler was feeling pretty cocky about her ability to sing from the Cree hymn sheet).

And among the 85 were THE GRANDMOTHERS. Actually they were several-times-great grandmothers (the grandmothers all seem to be about 35). And these "eldresses" line themselves up at the communion rail, behind their quiet faces, and hold out their hands... and they walk right into my heart and break it all up into little tiny pieces, and rearrange them into a better and sweeter order.

Now what is this? I suspect, a lot of it the dreaded "projection" or "transference" (maybe even "counter transference"), or "naive romanticism" or some other version of Not Knowing Any More Than I Think I Do about these people. But I want to get down on the floor and wash their feet. With tears.

Then there was the feast, great jocularity about letting the White Elder (!) serve herself first from the (tongue-in-cheek) "native fare" on offer, featuring cabbage rolls and lasagne.

But my dear brothers and sisters, there was also PIE. Made by the grandmothers. Blueberry pie. From wild blueberries picked on the reservation.

I'm not quite back to normal and I'm not sure I want to be.

6 comments:

cheesehead said...

And these "eldresses" line themselves up at the communion rail, behind their quiet faces, and hold out their hands... and they walk right into my heart and break it all up into little tiny pieces, and rearrange them into a better and sweeter order.

That right there is one of the loveliest sentences I believe I've ever had the pleasure to read, Rambler.

mompriest said...

what a gift...really counters my present "church" experience....for which I keep hoping that some hearts will be broken up and rearranged into sweeter order..sigh...but as I say, what a gift you were given....!

Paul said...

Lovely. Holy. We all need to be broken up and rearranged into a better sweeter order. Wopila (thank you).

SpookyRach said...

dang ol' cheesehead stole my comment. dang cheesehead.

What a cool experience!

The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

Keep it up. It's a blessing to get to serve in Christ's name and an even greater blessing when you get to bring His body and blood with you.
thanks for sharing
unlikely

Stephen Martin said...

This so cool, Rambler, and what an honour! BTW a certain indigenous bishop visited my place of work recently, held up an Ojibway BCP, and said it was one of his most treasured possessions--even though it was complete in all regards except one. There was no ordination rite.