Sunday, July 29, 2012

Last rites

Today was the final service at the church where I grew up, the Cathedral Church of Saint John, in Wilmington, Delaware. As of July 31, the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware will no longer have a cathedral. I know this has happened for lack of funds; in my current diocese, quite a few churches have merged or closed in the last decade or more, and out cathedral is always in need of money. 

At the altar to the left, I was baptized, confirmed, and married.  On July 8, I attended the 10:30 service and said goodbye. What will happen to the cathedral building is anyone's guess. The pipe organ has already been sold. I guess that's a good thing. At least something has been saved.

Change happens. However, it often takes a good bit of us with it when it does.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It is well with her soul

Recently I attended my friend Anne's funeral. It was a moving and uplifting service, as the funerals for long lives well lived should always be. Anne was 102 1/2 at the time of her death, and had had no serious health troubles until last fall. This is certainly what we each hope for at the end of our earthly lives.

In my former parish, Anne was our "choir mother" for many, many years. She maintained the choral library, mended our robes, kept attendance records (noting, on the appropriate dates, "Judy's little boy born" and, later on, "Judy's little girl born"). She taught me to sing alto, patiently correcting me and setting an example with her lovely voice. She was the choir's rock of ages and our resting place. She saw us through at least 4 choir directors (that I know of!), and multiple priests.

Anne was widowed in 1969, after 34 years of marriage and two daughters. She never remarried, claiming that she'd had one good husband but might not be so lucky again. Despite her loss, I never saw her without a smile on her face. Well into old age, Anne walked a mile every morning around the lake at the end of her street. I'm sure this habit contributed to her good mood and her cheerful outlook.

What can we learn from such a life lived to its fullness? I am still discovering the lessons.

At Anne's funeral, most of the mourners were members of her large, extended family. Let's face it, at her age, who has that many friends left alive?  But the service was lovely, and the homily was given by a priest who knew Anne well.  The hymns were, I think, just what Anne would have picked: How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, Alleluia, Alleluia, and one of my favorites, It Is Well With My Soul:

               When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
               When sorrows like sea billows roll;
               Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say,
               It is well, it is well with my soul.

Rest in peace, Anne, and rise in glory! We'll miss you, and we'll try to learn from your example.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Going to ground....

We've recently had, at our house, a rerun of that old series I like to call Family Drama.  It's not my favorite.  The characters are all grown up now, not that you'd always know it.  The "situations" are no longer cute, nor are they easily resolved.  They can be frustrating, anger-evoking, and heartbreaking.

Whenever we have an episode of Family Drama, I have two strong impulses. One is retail therapy, at which I have become very skilled! With a potential job change in the household, however, retail therapy would be unwise.

The other impulse is withdrawal, or as my mom used to call it, "going to ground"  -- perfect for me as an Enneagram type 9. If I can't make peace, solve the conflict, find the solution, or even get anyone to listen, I want to get the hell out of the way. Dive deep and let the wave break way, way over my head, so to speak. This is the cowardly way, and sometimes, I think, also the only sane response.

With the Serenity Prayer in mind, I was sitting in Starbucks this morning, imagining myself as a beaver, deep in his dam, or as a woodchuck in his burrow ... you get the idea. The Midget of Walden Pond. A creature of the deep woods. Actually the seashore would do as well. I could take a leave from my job, rent a little cottage (with indoor plumbing and electricity, thanks very much but I'll skip the primitive stuff), pack up the two hounds, and beat a full and inglorious retreat from the (occasional) heartbreak of family life.

What would I need? Some money. Dog food. Human food. Candles. Books (a carload). My craft projects.  My journal, Prayer Book, and Bible. Oh, and clothes! Insect repellent. My camera.

A wifi connection? My iPad? My cell phone? OK, I see my tenuous resemblance to Thoreau going down the drain.  But what to do when the peace of home has escaped, even only temporarily?

Maybe I can manage a (one-day) retreat ..... with the cell off.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Still don't believe in global warming?

Let's see. In the last week, the U.S. has experienced: an early-season tropical storm with severe flooding; raging wildfires; a crippling heat wave; and a lethal wave of thunderstorms accompanied by highly destructive winds. "Well, it's summer," you say. OK. But we had basically a non-winter last year on the east coast, and now we have the summer from hell. Hmmm ...

My husband recently attended his college reunion, in Middlebury, Vermont. While he was there , he passed up a talk by Bill McKibben, Middlebury College's writer in residence, who has done more than any other single individual (I think) to get out the word about global warming. J. doesn't often do things that make me squawk, but this did.

"You can't be serious!" I squawked. "You passed up Bill McKibben to play tennis?" I was flabbergasted. "Who does that?"

Let me explain. I used to write a book review for the newsletter in a former parish. In this capacity, I read McKibben's The End of Nature, which was my real introduction to the climate change phenomenon, and which kept me up nights. So I wrote several paragraphs about the book, and when the parish newsletter came out I eagerly anticipated a run on the bookstores. Not because of me, but because I had tried to fully convey the alarm I felt upon reading the book, which made the point that nature, in the late twentieth century, no longer functioned independently of man, so badly had humans encroached upon it.

What happened? Nothing. In response to my review, there was a crashing silence. A torrent of non-sound. Not a peep. Someone did mention to me that I was a good writer, and he enjoyed my book reviews. He suggested that some mysteries might be a nice choice.

Stunned, I simply went underground, becoming a closet climate geek. During the same period, I was also becoming a theology geek. I have now reached a level of geekdom in which the theology books and the climate science books cohabit on the "theology" shelf in my study, and I really can't tell the difference anymore. Yes, I am crazed about climate change. There may be a twelve-step program for this, but I have yet to seek it out. In fact ... no.

Recently, in the post-non-winter blahs, I read Eaarth (not a typo, despite the best attempts of spellcheck to fix it), which McKibben published a year or two ago. The premise of this book is that we have so changed the face of the earth and the functioning of her natural systems that we need to find a new name for the planet. If we don't reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, we are basically screwed. In fact, we may be screwed already. The earth we are living on is no longer Earth.  It is Eaarth.

Well, if I was nuts before, you can just imagine how I am now. And I think, though I've been wrong before, that perhaps I'm not the only person I know who is taking the warnings seriously, and voting accordingly.

But don't believe me, because I'm just the local theology/climate change geek. Check it out here: