It's a bright cold morning. The church is empty and quiet when I arrive. I like to get there before anyone else does on the Sunday I have service. It helps me stay focused if I can get a lot of the little details out of the way before the rush of questions and conversations starts to build. This morning I notice the poinsettias are looking pretty grim. They have left some leaves in front of the altar, so I clean those up and generally do my little tidy up and get ready thing, making sure the prayer books and the hymnals are spiffed up in the pews and choir stalls, folding the bulletins and stuffing the inserts, getting the lector's book out and having the new page ready to write in the prayer requests, updating the hymn board. The first people to arrive are a couple who serve many roles in my church. She is administrator of our ministry team and the head of the altar guild, he is acolyte master and outgoing junior warden. This morning he wants to talk about the bells we have just started using at the consecration and how that's going and she wants to talk about some team business. Next the organist arrives simultaneously with this morning's altar guild person. Both professors at the college, they chat about a department scandal as the organist warms up and the guild person changes the fair linen. The acolyte slides in and the acolyte director brings him up to speed on the bell discussion. About this time, I realize there is no lector or chalice bearer on the list again and go recruiting among the early arrivals. A few minutes of coaching for one them and it's off to organize my prayer book, vest and have a few minutes of prayer and quiet before service. Then before I know it, it is that moment...that one that always comes that I am always and never ready for. That moment of profound gratitude for the grace of being here, doing this, mixed with the disbelief that I really AM! People tell me I smile a lot when I celebrate. Well, why not? It is a celebration isn't it?
I realize that I love every minute of this tending and prepping and fussing. Of welcoming people in and making sure all the little bits of things are handled. From the minute I put my key in the lock of those very old red doors, I feel a sense of being at home in the very best sense. I have said this before, being the celebrant feels to me like being the hostess at the very best party in the world. I want to do everything possible to see to everyone's comfort. To make it so easy to be here that there would be nowhere else they could possibly want to be, to make all of this so accessible and inviting that to at least "come and see" is easy.
I realized something else this morning. Whatever else is going on with us as a community, in this place and time, it really can all be well. The priest who was our mentor when I was in formation told me something about that....that you can bring it here, to the altar, make it part of this sacrament, and leave it here. It happened for me today with the with the person with whom I have been having the biggest struggle. The one I have been feeling hurt and betrayed by. Today when I gave her the bread and the cup, I truly felt love and compassion for her and an openness in my heart. It is seriously grace!
The only little bump in my road this morning was that L was not with us after all. I'm not sure why. Perhaps the CH staff was unable to transport him. Perhaps it felt overwhelming to him to face a church full of strangers. I'll see him Tuesday and we'll have a chance to talk. It has also occurred to me that he may not want to come to church. He may not be ready for that step. Not now. And maybe not even later. We haven't really had the "church" conversation. We have been taking things one step at a time. And it really hasn't been about that, getting him to church. That was, in fact, until about Friday, kind of the last thing on my list! Having him out of jail, getting him to CH, getting his clothes, having a chance to see his mom, those things were a whole lot more important. Now that those are accomplished....now we can think about church. If he is ready. If he is interested. And if not...well, there are other places where L and I have already encountered God together. I'm guessing we could again if need be.
So that's been my Sunday. Just a typical day full of life's little blessings. How about you?