Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Walking Holy Week

The week is all out of sync. Yes, Holy Week....but also not going to work as usual due to workshops and doctor's appointments. The temperatures are suddenly in the 70's. While that is wonderful, it's a little disconcerting at the same time. After a winter that seemed interminable while it was happening...suddenly it seems almost as if it never was.

Sunday was, as expected, very churchy. It all went off as planned. The nursing home was a little sparser than I had hoped. It seems that my call to the activities director didn't produce the hoped for resulting coriwd after all. I'd heard that her staff was not bringing folks to the chapel for siervice, so I thought maybe a call to say that for sure I'd be there with Palms and Passion in five voices would get something rolling. Oh well. I think the folks that were there mostly did appreciate what was there. They sang and prayed along....and my readers did a great job, as did my piano player on the new electronic piano, with its bank of buttons that looks like something from the Starship Enterprise that produce seemingly random rhythm section selections that could lead a whole marching band across a parade field if she hit the wrong one. But she maintained control of the thing and played a lovely set of Lenten-ish preludes as well as leading us through the hymns.

So here we are in Holy Week. Starting tomorrow, there will be that slow walk to the cross. We do Tenebrae on Wednesday....it isv a slow, almost ponderous chanting of Psalms while light is extinguished. One cannot come away from this without feeling moved, sobered. Then on to the Eucharist and foot washing of Maundy Thursday and Stations of Friday. Watching and waiting. I always feel in Holy Week like I am living in two worlds. Get up, go to work, life as usual by day, and by night, a move to another dimension where things slow and we focus, we watch, we slip into another level. Back and forth, a foot in each world, trying to navigate daily life while not really in it fully again until after Sunday, yet trying to be present because this is, after all the world in which I am called to live.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another Week of Lent Slides By....

Another Monday (and Tuesday!) come and gone. Another week of Lent gone, too. It's winding down (or up) quickly. This week (and next of course) are very churchy ones. I have the Soup and Sermon preaching spot today. Seems I am always in this last spot. What do they call that when you are the batter? Beats me! Anyway, I think this will be my fourth year in the wrap-up position, winding up this little ecumenical tradition in our community. I'm preaching on the Gospel for the day...the grain of wheat that dies, with a bit of a nod to Archbishop Romero. It's his feast in the Lectionary, and I think he deserves some props. Also preaching this week for Palm Sunday and doing the nursing home Sunday afternoon. I'm really rather pleased about that as it will be a chance to give them the whole Palm/Passion deal. We will do the Passion there in several voices as I have recruited some volunteers from my church to come along. And we will do all the good old hymns...Were You There, Old Rugged Cross, and all. I'm hoping we have surplus palms (we always do) to bring along so we have those for the Palms portion of the proceedings as well. I'm going to give the activity director a heads up that we are going all out so she can let her folks know to bring their friends. One of the sweet little ladies there told me one Sunday "Oh we like it when you come, Pastor...it always feels so much like real church." Yep, that would be me, the liturgy geek...real church follows me wherever I go, I guess.

And that will of course be the entree into the week. We do Holy Week at St. J's. Starting on Wednesday with a Tenebrae service and rolling right on through till Sunday. No vigil, we are too small to pull that off, though we have threatened to try. We typically do have a small noon Holy Saturday prayer service, usually attended mainly by the choir who are wrapping up the final rehearsal about that time. This year we are having to forgo that as the choir has vaporized somehow...much to the dismay of Rev. M, maven of liturgy and music. It will be congregational singing for Easter this year...Mrs. C is off to see the lovely grands, RM, the nurse, is pulling a shift at the nursing home. And R and I too will not be at St. J's for Easter. We have made the call that this year we need to gather with the K Clan at his sister's. So my Easter service will be in another Episcopal church, three hours from home with friends I have not yet met. I know the priest slightly from clergy gatherings. It will be strange not to preside at the service...a first since Ordination on a major feast....but...yes, every year is a new one...life moves forward and changes. But I will be around, participating in various ways for the other parts and pieces that do feel like Holy Week at home....the solemn Tenebrae chants, the Maundy Thursday Eucharist with its gradual movement from what starts out feeling more or less like any other service....and ends with that....empty....silent....altar. And Good Friday. We have Stations. And this year we will have our organist back who does things on the organ. Makes it shudder and moan and cry, unearthly sounds really, that make the hair stand up. So that will be the week. Immersion, really. All else kind of slips into second place for those days of Holy Week.

But for today I need to get myself focused to go preach to the Soup and Sermon crowd. Strangers for the most part. My folks are all at work or school or otherwise engaged. A midday activity is not their thing. But for some folks this is an important Lenten tradition. So it's a good thing to step up and provide this nourishment for body and soul in the middle of the workday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Another Monday as I Wander Thru Lent

My goodness we would like to see the sun. I know that on Wednesday it will be two weeks. It may be that already, but as of then I will be sure. It is warm (well by our definition anyway) and the snow is fading amazingly quickly, but it's just so unrelentingly (yes, indeed) gray! Despite this, we are courting Spring and had a nice weekend. We will grill every chance we get these days...of late on the little charcoal-er that we bought because it takes the gas grill way too long to heat up in the winter. And I have to admit, there is something about the taste of that charcoal! Last night it was steak, with some wonderful early asparagus. Spring, indeed.

And Lent, in all it's moderate gray Lentedness poddles on as well. Yes, I know, I have euphoric recall about that one wonderful, show-stopping Lent....the one where the Spiritual disciplines and my readiness to be "Lenty" somehow all came together in the perfect holy storm and it just was....right and good, and nothing will ever be its equal. All it needed to be in the way of preparation and readiness...never known before and alas I am coming to believe, never to be again. Yes, I know....all things are their own things and in their own time. You can't go back and recreate something because you are never the exact same being in the exact same frame of mind or spirit again. And my saner rational self also has a guess that it really probably wasn't quite as wonderfully spiritually uplifting as in memory, because things just never are, are they? This one, containing very reality of of life and death and the whole point of all in before us in the life again brings me to a bit of somewhere that I think is probably very authentically Lenten...the problem is I am just not able to articulate as well as I'd like just exactly where it is it does bring me!

I teared up in church on Sunday as I consecrated. I haven't done that in a very long while, nor have I had that sense of the Communion of Saints around, beyond, and amidst me in quite some time as I did on Sunday....that sense that stops time and tends to make me lose my place in the proceedings. Bad enough in the familiar words of Rite II....it could be fatal as I falter my way through the thees and thous and hasts of the Rite I we adopt for Lenten Sundays. But there it was (they were?) none the less, and there was not a blessed thing I could do about it--nor wanted to!

St. Patrick will be celebrated in fine style by us on Wednesday night. We are having a Celtic Eucharist....singing some beautiful music and using a lovely setting of the liturgy to take us back and away and quiet us down a bit. There will be a drum too if mine comes in the air in time. Me in an alb with a drum....yeah, I can't help thinking about some of the good sisters of my childhood. "What has become of that girl?" For some I'm sure it's tantamount to no good end. But you know, I think that my lovely Irish Catholic mother will be having a great giggle over all of it.

So there we are. Monday winds down. It's off to yoga now....a spiritual thing in my day (thinking still about that Friday Five) that was far too full of things that were maybe religious and maybe simply things. But in this there will be quiet, and I will pipe down and find a space for God to settle in me for a time and we will dance a bit as we play with Spirit and breath and asana in the space created there.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Passages and Connections

It's hard to believe it's been over a week already. Time has just kind of slipped away. Thursday was spent with the family planning services and such. Friday I went back to work, I think, though I sort of don't remember. Last Saturday was a very long day as I recall. R and I kept trying to think of things to do to fill time. We ran some errands, played with the dog...urging time to move, both dreading Sunday and wanting it to come, waiting and not for things to move on. Sunday was his dad's wake...the harder day in some ways of the two days of saying goodbye. So many people came to be part of this. Big families are so different for me. R is the "baby" of nine in his family, and his dad's own birth family was large as well, so there are just a lot of people in this clan of his. And I guess when you live in the same area for a big part of a ninety-six year life, you get to know a few folks as well! Sunday there was a rosary at three and a prayer service at seven. Almost every chair in the funeral home was full for both of them. And there was a steady stream of people in between. The funeral was last Monday. It was sad and lovely as only a big Catholic funeral in a very old church can be. The entire front half of the church on both sides was full of his family. The rest of the pews were pretty full, too, of friends of L’s as well as friends of all of his kids. The priest did well with the sermon. He knew L a bit, and it was obvious that he listened well as the kids talked about their dad as they planned the service. The hymns were some those that L chose…Amazing Grace, The Old Rugged Cross, Here I Am. Hard ones, good ones. We all cried as we sang, of course.

After the service we were well-fed by the ladies of the church while we gathered to talk and remember L and honor his life as we slipped gently back towards our own. Funeral hotdish, more salads made with whipped cream than you could count and lots and lots of cake to sweeten our memories.

So, we are moving back into life as usual. Back to work, back to planning this next big event of ours which now assumes a bittersweet edge. R is writing lots of funeral thank you notes as I am collecting RSVPs from wedding invitations. Again, the circle of life, beginnings and endings. I am so glad I got to know L, even for a little while. We are who we are at least in part because of who we come from, because of those who pass before us and those who are connected to us. For both of us now the generation before is gone on and we stand in the front of the line. But we’ll stand there together, he and I, remembering those we are connected to…and it will be ok.

"Friday Five: Spiritual or Religious?"

Mompriest says: "Yesterday I attended a led conference by Diana Butler Bass. She is presenting new ideas on the state of the church and why there is hope for Christianity. One of her premises is a Newsweek/Washington Post poll from 2005 that states that 55% of the people in this country describe themselves as religious AND spiritual.Without going into detail about her understandings of religious and spiritual (you may want to attend one of her conferences, if you can) share with us five thoughts ideas or practices that you consider to be "religious." Then share with us five thoughts, ideas, or practices that you consider to be "spiritual." For example one thought about religion might be that it is "salvation" Or an idea about religion might be that it it is an "institution" and a religious practice might be "going to church." An example of spiritual thought might be a phrase from a poem, a spiritual idea might be the inspiration for a piece of art and a spiritual practice might be meditation. So, five thoughts, ideas, or practices that are religious....and then five thoughts, ideas or practices that are spiritual. OR are they the same thing to you?"

Five religious thoughts, ideas, or practices
  • God
  • Sin
  • Ritual
  • Heaven/Hell
  • Church
Five spiritual thoughts, ideas or practices
  • God
  • Compassion
  • Relationship
  • Love
  • Grace

I just did a very quick "stream of consciousness" thing here. I am not at all sure that ten minutes from now I would have the same exact answers, though I think they would be close. Spiritual is bigger, broader, wider and deeper. Religion, to me, seems to be what we as humans try to do to contain the numinous. Although I do think it's a good sign that God made it to the top of both lists.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Circle of Life

R's dad has found peace and is with his Lord. He died last night. He was ready. As always, those left behind are more or less so. We will grieve and miss him, but we know, that without a doubt, he has found a more abundant and joyous life. Go with God. Rest in peace and rise in glory.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010

Best Laid Plans

Well we know about them don't we? Saturday's changed to include a visit to R's Dad. The good news was that I got to meet a couple more nieces, and it was a much nicer day for the hour drive than the last time we made it with blowing snow and finger drifts on the highway. The bad news of course is that Dad is continuing to not do so well, and that is hard to see. By the time we got back neither of us felt much like zany comedy so we decided to skip the play. It was a take and bake pizza and fall asleep in front of the Olympics night instead.

Sunday went a little more according to plan. The sermon did take Spirit wings and manage to fly. Always a grateful moment when that happens. Our discernment meeting went off well, too. Two more people will enter into formation to become part of our ministry team, one for youth work and the other to work with young adults with the idea that he may have a call to the diaconate. R and I did get to meet with the organist to pick our wedding music, so that is one more thing to check of that list. After church I finished off the invitations and they will go in the mail today. Check, check, check....off they go, those things on that list! We spent time on line last night looking for a bagpiper. It is one of my fondest wishes to have one playing us out after the ceremony...and it turns out that our little corner of the world is short on them! They apparently congregate in big cities, too. We may have a lead from a pipe and drum corps over in SD (2 hours away)...so we will see. I may have to forgo this little wish...sigh. But everything else is moving along. R's job today is to rattle the cage of the DJ...we still haven't heard from him about a time to meet. Mine is to mail the invites. Tomorrow I'm going to talk to the florist. Check, check, check. My goal is that pretty much everything is done a month ahead so I can stop worrying and enjoy the last month in peace (or so I say). We shall see!

For now, it's back to work and winter and Lent. Life where it is lived every day, plans made and kept and plans gone astray. Off to them.