Wednesday, May 27, 2009

reflections on teaching, and "Can you spell VOCATION?"

We are rejoicing -- or maybe just exhibiting reprehensible smugness -- at MH & U these days over our NINE, count'em, confirmands. Each provided with a mentor, too; and none of the mentors likely to cause harm of any sort to their charges.

This is all good! The young people are mostly boys, just a couple of girls, ranging in age from a very mature 9 to 16.

This means lots of adult males involved in the mentoring, also good.

I also have a handful of wee ones interested in first-communion instruction and/or baptismal instruction.

The issue here is that we welcome whole families with a range of ages and a range of theological backgrounds including the Anabaptist, so there are anomalies in the ages at which our children do things for the first time.

I thought I might economize on effort and energy by teaching the whole mob (the little ones are 6 or 7 years old) through the most basic "Life in the Eucharist" work and then get stuck into William Willimon's material on "Making Disciples" for the balance of the confirmation instruction.

And so on Sunday I found myself in the nave of the church with about 8 of the confirmands, and mentors according, and two bright-eyed church-oriented little girls, and a small crowd of parents, various.

We had spent some time last Sunday on the ante-communion part of the liturgy.

So I moved a small table to the head of the aisle, set it with my travelling communion kit, including wafers, wine, and water, and called the little girls to me, because I thought that doing the teaching "fishbowl" style might be best -- two participants and the rest observers... this seemed to be OK for the group.

I borrowed the two long white brocade bookmarks from the altar-book and put them on the little girls like stoles...and then encouraged them to see what happens at communion time from where the priest sees it...we counted out wafers, poured water, poured wine, washed little hands with the lavabo bowl...we recalled the story of the Last Supper which we tell every Good Friday as part of the children's Way of the Cross.

and I asked them to wonder how many of the roughly-a-dozen of young people there might find themselves doing this work as their life's work. (Actually, I said, "I'll just bet that at least one of you, someday...")

I had NO IDEA how that thought would go over, at all. But it did seem to me that a way to pull them through their confirmation instruction might be by applying the superior magnetic effect of ordination...I still don't know with any confidence whether that's legitimate, or inspired, or unscrupulously manipulative, or what.

But they were MIGHTY thoughtful. The little girls meanwhile were INTO IT...surreptitiously stroking their stoles, and -- one of them -- extending a very small forefinger to touch the wafers in the paten.

So we wrapped up the lesson with some discussion of ways that communion is shared in different churches and in different situations, and they all went home.

But I had feedback...indirectly, from the parents of the little girl who isn't yet baptized. At home with her parents, she told them, "THAT WAS THE MOST MOST SPECIAL THING THAT I HAVE EVER DONE."

And I think that is, after all, what I wanted them to feel about the Eucharist.

Monday, May 25, 2009

oh the difference...

Yesterday was intense.

Fifteen hours from arrival at MH & U in the morning to pulling out of the parking lot en route home in the evening...

Saturday was spent MOSTLY at the church as well, on the periphery of madly energetic cleaning-up going on indoors and outdoors. Most of it pretty good work, but some of it pretty mindless. "Let's clean up the chancel, and let's start by unplugging everything and leaving it that way." "Let's clean up the narthex, and let's start by gathering up all the little church-front portable easel signs, and HIDING THEM SOMEWHERE." Somewhere remote from the front door, which of course is where they're deployed.

I didn't sleep very well Saturday night, and arriving at church to find these...anomalies...produced something close to a clerical meltdown, I am embarrassed to say. Running about of churchwardens, "It's OK, Rambler. It'll be all right. We'll just ask the congregation at announcement time, where the signs went. Just be calm. You're OK."

The assistant preached in exemplary fashion... it is such a blessing to have the stimulus of another preacher on the premises...especially when his work evokes the "yes-indeed-but-on-the-other-hand" Anglican response. Leading me to reflect on the difference between statements of fact and statements of truth. (not wanting to think about statements of cornmeal mush, which constitute most of the preaching one hears.)

Got through the second service. (Signs were duly produced at announcement time, expressions of injured innocence all 'round.)

Lined up to get invitation/ticket from Ticket Maven. Accosted in line-up by Exemplary Laywoman reminding me that the "youth" were awaiting me for their confirmation class. Came "this close" to biting said laywoman right in the goozle for asking me to be in two places at once...she retreated, prudently.

Got ticket, had confirmation class, worked through prayer of consecration with little children while big children looked on. We have NINE, count'em, NINE confirmands for the service in October, and at least a couple of baptizands, it's all delightful.

Co-ordinated perceptions with Ticket Maven Lady and sent her off to phone Chronic Stayers-Away lest they show up the Sunday AFTER the royal hoo-hah, and then the screaming begins, again.

Worked on paperwork all afternoon barring quick dash out for a lunch/supper pizza.

Back to computer at 6:35 and wrote sermon for Evensong (Choral) which happened at 7 pm, attended by members of Prairie Metropolis and Hinterland Council of Churches, and a few parishioners, and, God bless and reward them, a solid phalanx of choir.

There was chanting, Anglican chanting, big time.

Preached on Jeremiah 31:1-13, Ephesians 5, and ecumenism with reflections from John 17 (from the morning services).

Sang lovely Anglican evening hymns too..."O Gracious Light, Lord Jesus Christ" (Tallis), "Light of the World, in Grace and Beauty" (Rendez a Dieu), and "Day is Done, But Love Unfailing" (Ar Hyd Y Nos). MOST satisfying to one and all.

Then convened and chaired AGM of Council of Churches, which went well despite no-shows and no-replies (and no minutes -- my fault)...and wrapped up evening with "whining and cheesiness" supplied by the Very Forgiving Laywoman who had narrowly escaped being Rambler-bitten earlier in the day.

And so, as they say, to bed.

All in all, a good day.

And, I'm happy to say, a good night's sleep, which made all the difference today!

Friday, May 22, 2009

a moment

Friday again...a robin is enjoying the sunshine in a tree out by the sidewalk, and telling the world.
It wasn't QUITE so cold this morning, and hasn't snowed today -- nor yesterday, in which we had enough sun to activate possible "weather lore" about the Feast of the Ascension as a predictor for the rest of the summer...I didn't realize it's in the same list as Groundhog (Lammas) Day and St. Swithun!
Two 'congregation' yesterday for the eucharist, a bit of a chat about the meaning of the Ascension one way and another, then a long, long pastoral conversation with one of the congregants contemplating a shift of membership...annoyed and fed up with clergy in her current parish.
The ethics and etiquette of "parish visiting"...the competing rationales for "the minister calls upon the sick, the shut-in, the elderly"...
Her priest doesn't visit. She has a nonagenarian father in the local veterans' hospital/residence...physically frail but cognitively present. A founding member of the parish (and then the note I dread hearing, "and after all the money he gave"...)...and the priest has not been to visit him.
The priest is heavily involved in a community-organization movement which is sound, practical, effective, strengthens community among those who take part and strengthens the communities they form within the larger political unit. (I know this, because he recruited me...but when I could not find an energy for this work within the parish I serve, I drew back...thinking this would have to be a lay-led endeavour or nothing at all, it couldn't be "another of the rector's Lead Balloons." I still don't know whether that was right or not.
Apparently there is little energy among my colleague's congregation for lay-organized pastoral visiting either...
And it may not matter very much once the expectation has crystallized in the form, "the minister/priest should visit more..."
I don't know how to be clear in my own mind about the standing, moral and theological, of that expectation.
What is the model that is really driving that demand? And what is the model behind the way it is answered?
Ambiguity everywhere.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

in which the Rambler...pulls the pin...

So after considerable cogitation, and even dithering (you know the sequence: "I cogitate, you dither, she is hopeless"), I decided that Sunday last, Sixth of Easter, was The Auspicious Day to tell the congregation here at Most Holy and Undivided that the arithmetic indicates that 2009 is the Rambler's Year to Retire from full-time ministry, and from this parish -- without specifying a precise final date.

The Wardens and Vestry want to make a serious start before we are into Deep Summer (when, as we all know, Nothing Can Be Done in Churchland), on the process of seeking and interviewing the next Rector. And it seem easier to do this, without inciting the MH&U folks to their customary paranoia, if it's out on the table that a new Rector is on the wish list. Less tippy-toe-ing about and whispering behind half-opened doors.

Reactions to the announcement were mixed but nothing spectacularly ungracious. To people who made protesting noises at the door, afterward, I just said I didn't want to become "The Previous Vicar of Dibley" -- the one who expired in his prayer desk during Evensong and nobody noticed.

And from now on I can think, overtly, that much of what I wrestle with is about to become "SEP" -- Somebody Else's Problem. This in itself is good for morale!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

request for input

Dear blogging pals and gals,

It turns out I am supposed to conduct a pre-ordination retreat here in about 3 weeks (48 hours in duration) for three men (two to be priested, one to be made deacon). I know one of them a little, the other two hardly at all.

I remember my own retreats fondly especially the first, in which I was one on one with the director.

But I have no assurance that what we did will be in any way suitable to these candidates.

If a pre-ordination retreat has been part of your experience, please, please tell me what went well, what worked, what was helpful -- and what WASN'T.

And you will greatly oblige...
the somewhat distraite Rambler.

just in case you're not glad you live where you do...

it's snowing again this morning in Prairie Metropolis...

I am extirpating stale e-mails from the inbox and setting up for the eucharist in fifteen minutes and answering hard questions about the clean-up and refurbishment and repair and renovation going on all around me. Making a fuss about the Royal Visit, you ask me? Oh pshaw no, why would we do that...

Nefertiti the Wonder Cat has a new mission in life. Her relationship with my little table-top fountain (water jet at the top of what looks sort of ziggurat-ish, like a Maya temple perhaps) has been complex. First she drank out of it; then she peered down the central outlet while it was unplugged (naturally inciting us to plug it in and squirt her in the nose); and now, when it's running, it's her Sole Purpose to DEFEAT IT, which she does by scooping flowing water off the sides, flinging it behind her, and standing up with both front paws pressed down on the main outlet: "I got it! I got it! it can't get out!" -- except, of course, sideways under increased pressure, until she, and the living-room, and we are all sufficiently sodden.

Anybody else out there have a water-play kitteh?

Monday, May 11, 2009

the state of affairs...

The only way I can describe how the last week has felt... is to say that I think I have been rolled out like phyllo pastry, beaten out like gold leaf, or maybe just pounded and stretched out in all directions like schnitzel.

-- the royal person's visit plans continue growing ever more elaborate. Fortunately externally generated funds are available to underwrite the more extravagant proposals (hanging baskets? what do you think this is, Aunt Granny's Ye Olde Tea-House? hanging baskets?)

-- annual general meeting for the local Ecumenical Gaggle HASTENING upon me, ready or not (and it's "not").

-- annual general meeting of MH & U, come to think of it -- this will tell you how fraught everything is, that the parish's annual general meeting, Part II, Parish Officers, the election of, is a matter of "meh" at this point.

-- timing of the first demi-official announcement of the Rambler's pending departure from active full-time ministry, also on the front burner.

-- baptismal and confirmation prep "oh yeah" -- there's a baptismal service on Pentecost...marshalling the candidates and trying to tell them something coherent.

-- a curate, rushing down upon us like the wolf on the fold, and requiring some sharp and salutary lessons in authority (mine) and obedience (his) before he's a month older.

-- oh yes and on the EVENING of Trinity Sunday, also the day of the royal person's visit... there's an ordination: two priests, one deacon, the deacon a product of MH & U. And the one in the purple hat, upon whom be peace, has tapped the Rambler to conduct the pre-ordination retreat ... three days in sequestration away from the parish, in the week before the arrival of the royal person.

-- and I am dealing with three different police forces, and the army. "BRING'EM ON," I say. "Qu'ils y viennent, un a la fois ou tous ensemble..."

The Rambler is feeling the strain just ever so slightly.

But it was a great Mother's Day with all the young'uns and nice supper and wild games with Nefertiti, and a laser pointer. During which we proved conclusively that cats DO get dizzy. And when they do, they fall over. Hilarity ensued.

Monday, May 4, 2009

home again

back at my desk late in the morning after a tiring but very happy weekend elsewhere.

word is that the Honorable Assistant held the fort in exemplary fashion on Sunday.

good times among the ladies of the diocese of Up-Yonder...including two long drives from and back to the closest by-air arrival point...coming back to the airport yesterday, a very special stretch of roadway alongside Major Northern River...

beautiful country with big rounded velvety hills and great tracts of plough-land -- farmers out "on it" already doing preliminary disc'ing.

Saw some deer in the distance -- also elk, but that was cheating because they were on an elk ranch.

The ladies were most receptive to discussion of Julian of Norwich, mysticism generally...

And it was a happy time!

Back to 55 unopened emails, also phone messages, 'space-hook' messages...plenty on the plate and a very long and mostly futile meeting this afternoon.

Home now. Maybe a little work in the yard before dark.

Friday, May 1, 2009

In which the Rambler...rambles

Just about to hoist suitcase into vehicle and make tracks for the airport, bound for the next See City to the north of us in Prairie Province.

Carrying Big Suitcase (boo) to accommodate VESTMENTS, as part of this trip includes presence and preaching at Wee Cathedral on Sunday morning.

The rest is leading a group of 50 Mothers in Zion through some of the lesser intricacies of the Shewings of Julian of Norwich, blessed be she.