Monday, February 24, 2014

Donut holes with the enemy

As winter fades into spring, I am attempting to do some (more) inner work on myself. It's actually a plan without an end. Once I get a bit of control over one fault, another bubbles up to laugh at me. Haha! Yes, you're sober now, but you're still a bitch at home! Tee hee! And hypercritical? Yeah, that's you! Also, did I mention lazy? 

What's bubbling right now is that ol' tendency I have to be judgmental, when I encounter something, or someone, that I don't like. This falls within a wide range, and covers everything from bemoaning others' right-wing political opinions to laughing at those Walmart pictures of chubby women in stretch pants and skinny tops. Equal-opportunity condemnation! And it takes place mostly in my head, which is undoubtedly a bad thing. It means that I avoid situations I don't like, but I condemn them secretly.

A few posts ago, I recounted my speechless, liberal shock-and-horror when a relatively new person in our congregation, offered a suggestion that we should all support Chick-Fil-A in its corporate dislike of LGBT people. As a "progressive," I was way out of my comfort zone, and didn't even try to deal with her on a personal level. I certainly had enough to say out of her earshot, however. And none of it was nice.

Anyway, she has turned up again in church. Another choir member spotted her yesterday, and pointed her out to me. This is apparently not the first time she has returned.

"Love your enemies" was one theme of yesterday's Gospel reading.  This made me profoundly uncomfortable, which is probably the point, since the Gospel is intended to burn before it soothes. And burned I was. I got to coffee hour, and there she was, at a table by herself. No one had bothered to sit with her. This is something that never happens at our church -- we are a really loving bunch of people, and we make inclusiveness our goal. But no one approached her. The problem was, as my mother would have phrased it, that people "didn't know whether to shit or go blind."

I miss my mother. She called it like she saw it. She never bothered with secret condemnation. She would tell you right off.

So down I sat , after having cranked up my flagging courage and gathered a few donut holes on a plate. The woman  (whom I will call "Molly") was pleasant enough as I reintroduced myself , and we passed the time of day.  We vigorously approved the coffee-hour treat selection, and the large group of adorable kids in the first-communion class. We talked about good thrift-shops we had discovered in the area. Then I asked her if she had found a job yet, referring back to a conversation we had had a few weeks ago, and the waters closed over my head.

"Of course not," she exclaimed. "Those immigrants are taking all our jobs! I won't find a job until they close the borders!"

Well, I hope they don't do that, I thought. That would be a bad, bad thing. I think I made a sympathetic, noncommittal croaking noise, however.

"Let me ask you," Molly continued, "Do you read the Bible?"

"Of course," I said. I probably should have been more specific: I read the sections of the Bible that are called for in the Daily Office (and usually only the Gospel, since I read Evening Prayer from an app on my phone). It's not what I think of as "Bible-reading." But never mind.).

"So you know what it says about homosexuality?" she persisted.

Oh, here we go, I thought. Is this where I get up and start screaming? "You mean the Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis? " I asked mildly. "Everybody likes to use that as an anti-gay proof-text. "

She looked at me expectantly.

"Well ... um ..." I mumbled. "Don't you think Genesis is a little .. um .. late-bronze-agey for us?" You know, a little outdated, like the Nicene Creed,  said the howling voice in my head, written by 4th-century dead guys. It could use a tweak here and there, too. Along with a lot of other doctrine. I could go on ...

She looked at me reproachfully. Before she could reply, God took mercy on me, and we were joined at the table by another parishioner, a dear friend who happens to be gay. The talk turned very general at that point (a very good thing), and it soon became time for me to leave to help with a home communion. We all departed together and went our separate ways. "See you next week," I said to the woman.

Will she come back next week? I hope so. Despite our being so liberal, there is obviously something here in our church that she needs.  I hope she finds it, or it finds her. And I hope to stay out of the way of that, and to allow her her own opinion, whether I like it or not.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Resting phase

It's been a very long winter. The hymn, "In the Bleak Midwinter" says it well. We've had "snow on snow" here in the middle-Atlantic states.

I feel as if we have had snow on the ground most of the time since the second Sunday in Advent, when our first snow fell. That first snow was just a tease. We were thrilled -- it's relatively unusual for us to have snow before Christmas. This was light snow, fluffy and beautiful. Newly-installed Christmas lights looked even more brilliant and twinkly than usual. Travel was not much affected. Light snow is the best possible harbinger of the Christmas quickly approaching. It's a seasonal enhancement.

After Christmas, however, the snows kept coming, accompanied by some of the coldest air we have had here in decades. The "Polar Vortex" settled over us, freezing the earth "hard as iron" (more hymn lyrics). My hardy fern on the porch shriveled up in mute protest. The heat pump could barely cope. We built fires to make ourselves feel better, though we both realize that fireplaces suck out the heat produced by the furnace.

A friend remarked the other day that he finally realizes why suicide and alcoholism are such social problems in Scandinavia. "I look out the window," he exclaimed, "and everything is dead. The bare trees seem barer than usual. The landscape seems tragic. It's as if permanent winter has settled on us."

I, too, am more tempted than usual by the pathetic fallacy. The trees are skeletal, the piles of snow, by this time, are filthy and repellent. In my head, however, I know the trees and plants are only dormant, storing up in their roots the nourishment they will need for the growing season ahead. The winter is their "resting phase."

I hope this is my "resting phase," too -- that I can somehow store my cabin-fever-induced energies for a warmer season. When Lent and spring finally arrive, I hope I am ready.

Meanwhile, more snow will arrive tonight. When will spring arrive? We are more than ready.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Ars longa, vita brevis

Every year, our local ministerium celebrates the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with an ecumenical service featuring separate musical offerings by four local church choirs, followed by two anthems performed as a massed choir.

This year, St. John's choir dedicated our performance to Mr. Rodger Maro, who had been our organist and choir director for the last 15 years, until his death on June 23, 2013. We love and miss Rodger, and our last year with him was a time of great sadness but also of great closeness. Our wonderful new organist and choir director, Trish Fronczek, was key in helping us to prepare this musical tribute.

The MP3 file that Trish recorded is at the link below. The first anthem is entitled, "Simple Song of Peace," and the second is "Night of Silence," which we sang a cappella. Preceding the performance, you will hear Phyllis Sowers, head of the choir, announcing the dedication.

Click here! You might also have to click "Download" to actually hear anything.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Monday sing-along

I can't promise a sing-along every week, but I've been listening to a lot of Peter Mayer's music lately, so here's a sample (see YouTube at end of post).  This is one of my favorite songs, "Church of the Earth," and it's a rehearsal tape. The singing stops at about 4 minutes. Lyrics are below, video follows. Enjoy!

The ceiling is high
To let your soul rise
Up to the angels who teach you to fly
And when you're weary of clouds
It helps you back down
And welcomes you home
To this hallowed ground

It's gilded in gold, gilded in rust
For heaven below and heaven above
The heaven we know here in this world
Here in our holy church of the earth

The windows are wide
So darkness and light
Mystery and Beauty meet you inside
And there's room enough
To hold all of us
Who gather in friendship
Gather in love


Church of life
Ancient and bright
Life that inside us shines
Life that we share
This is our prayer
That we may always find
The heaven we seek
Here at our feet
Here in this sunrise
In this heartbeat