Sunday, August 23, 2009

Waiting with St. Mary

The video is done. Now we wait to have it posted on the Diocesan website.

This is a time of waiting. I had an email from a former diocesan bishop, and he wrote it well: now you begin a waiting period to see whether you are called to go or stay. Either way, it is always an honor to be nominated.

Waiting, of course, while things continue to be very busy in the parish. We transfer our celebration of the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin (August 15) to the Sunday nearest the beginning of public school. Since we are in the middle of four school districts, this can take some doing.

On that Sunday, we have one big Eucharist. We offer Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, respectively, at the times scheduled for our other Sunday Eucharists. With fear and trembling, of course, that someone will come really, really needing Eucharist at 8 or 5.30.

The day is all about Mary, all the time. We use the propers for Mary's feast day. We have a big, big blessing of back packs, students, and school staff at the offertory. We hand out tags for the back packs, a new one each year. On one side is some great art and our childrens' prayer: Good morning, God, this is your day. I am your child; please show me your way. AMEN

I can't remember where I found that prayer, but we've been praying it for several years. Parents tell me that they pray it with their children before they drop them off at school. I know it's the first prayer that comes to my mind when I wake up in the morning.

Another important thing we do on Mary's day is to sing. When Mary went to visit her kinswoman, Elizabeth, soon after finding out that she was pregnant, Scripture has the words of what we call the Magnificat as her response to Elizabeth's prophetic greeting. More scholars than not believe that what Mary said was in fact a familiar hymn. I picture Mary not saying the words, My soul glories in you, O Lord, but singing the words. If they were indeed a familiar hymn, then Elizabeth, I believe, would have joined in, too. To celebrate Mary's Day, we sing everywhere in the liturgy that we can--and then some.

This year to celebrate Mary's Day, we have party favors. Do you see the blue bags on the piano? Those are "bags of grace." The outreach ministry put together lovely blue bags for each of us to take home. In the bags were a book mark, a list of local places to get practical help, a bottle of water, peanut butter crackers, pretzels, fruit cup, Vienna sausages, and other tasty items. Being Mary's Day, when God especially invites us to lift up the lowly, each of us were invited to take our bag and share it with someone who might need a literal lifting up.

Finally, to honor this extraordinary Jewish mother, we have a meal. After the meal of Holy Communion, we leave the nave and walk to the Holy Family Center. The Children's Chapel is filled with good things to eat, and we conclude our celebration with a great feast.

It is a very, very good day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Filming in Farmers Branch

My part of the video is done. Now we wait to have it posted on the Diocesan website.

It was a gift to get to do the video in my brother's studio. I sat literally by the phone as a kind voice from Connecticut asked me the same questions as the other three candidates had responded to back in Connecticut.

I had not been to my brother's new studio, and I was very surprised when I made the exit from 35E on Valley View Road in Farmers Branch. I was in a familiar place. Turns out the studio was less than two miles from that Episcopal Church that a friend had invited my family to attend nearly thirty years ago, and the place where the Right Reverend Terwilliger had laid his hands on my head and asked the Holy Spirit to be more powerful in my life. Little did he know. Even more so, little did I know.

If I'd turned right rather than left (no hidden theological meaning, please), and driven about two miles I'd have ended up at St. Andrew's, Farmers Branch.

What a nice God moment to have a circle of connection; certainly a T.S. Eliot moment:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Don't say pie!

When I began the interviewing process with the Diocese of Connecticut, my one piece of advice was, "Whatever you do, don't say pie." Being a Texan, I do pretty well avoiding the twang until I begin to talk about pie, and then I give myself away. I am definitely not from Connecticut.

Pie is a word easily to avoid in conversation except in my family which is passionate about the perfect blend of salty crust and sweet filling. My mother has the perfect crust recipe--oil, milk, flour, and salt--that requires no skill at all; just mix the four ingredients with a fork and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper.

When I was growing up, report card day was always an occasion for my mother's chocolate pie, unmatched in deliciousness to this day. It was the perfect gift--a bonus for a good report card; a sweet reassurance if the grades were less than good.

Pie continues to be a tangible sign of love for me--sacramental, incarnational, if you will.

When my son got married on Holy Cross Day last year in Portland, Oregon (I safe in Portland while Hurricane Ike blew and destroyed in Houston), the addition my family made to the wedding feast was groom's pie, that is pies. My two brothers and my sister-in-law rolled and stirred and baked eight pies in my son's tiny apartment kitchen the night before the wedding. A chocolate, a pecan, two sweet potato, a marionberry, two peanut butter, and a blueberry with the bonus of two big pans of Leslie's "mountain mama" for the eighty or so guests who would also be having dinner and wedding cake, too.

I carried a piece of marionberry home to Houston on the plane the next day, and it was manna as I sat in a house without electricity or water and cleaned up the damage left behind at the rectory.

Tomorrow I am making the five or so hour drive from Houston to Dallas to make my video for the Bishop Election website. My brother is a film maker, and he is graciously doing the shoot (with call in questions from Connecticut) to save the cost of a Connecticut trip.

After we post the footage at the airport and go out to dinner to celebrate, I'll drive another hour north to visit my mother in Chambersville for a couple of days. I'm not sure if we'll have pie or not, but I know my mother will make me one if I only ask. Pie is sacramental, incarnational after all. No matter how you say it.

My mom's pie crust (makes enough for two):
2 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup milk

Mix flour and salt. Mix oil and milk. Pour oil and milk into flour and salt and stir until combined into a dough. Can add more milk if dry. Separate into two balls (save one ball for another pie). Roll crust out between two sheets of wax paper and line a pie pan with crust.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A week away

I'm back from my summer trip to the mountains of Georgia to visit my best friend and her husband. I go every year around her birthday in July--especially good timing because it's always at least twenty degrees cooler at her ridge top home than Houston, and there are no mosquitoes.

I like to be gone over a weekend (or it's not really a vacation, is it?), and there is always conversation about where we'll worship. My friend is an active member of her local Episcopal Church, but it's an opportunity for her to go on a worship road trip. She only lives about ten miles from South Carolina, so we decided to travel and worship in another state.

Last Sunday we drove through the mountains to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and to the parish of Ascension in Seneca. Ascension has some of the best signage of any church I've visited. We had no trouble finding the parish off the main road and then where on the property to go for worship. Four folks were at the door to greet us and make sure we had everything we needed. In the pew backs, in addition to the usual Book of Common Prayer and Hymnal, the parish had laminated worship guides with everything except music and Scripture printed for those who were unfamiliar with the Episcopal book shuffle. The grounds were beautifully kept, and the buildings were clean and tidy. Ascension had received the memo about being a welcoming parish and followed through on each hospitality tip.

In these days when the Episcopal Church gets more negative press than positive, at least here in Texas, it's a delight to see one little parish being The Church. Too many times on my travels I've found Episcopal churches with locked doors--understandable, it's true, but with no hint about how to contact someone so one could get inside. Too many times on my travels I've attended churches that say they are welcoming (don't we all?), but are really only welcoming to those people who are familiar to them. Too many times on my travels Episcopal churches rush through worship with not a clue for those new to our style of worship of how to run and catch up.

In the parish where I've served for nearly twelve years, when I arrived they described themselves as a welcoming parish. However on the Sunday my daughter visited for the first time, not one person spoke to this young single woman....not one. When I said something to the parish afterwards about the oversight, the response was, "But if we'd known she was your daughter we would have welcomed her." This was not a good response. I hasten to add that today we strive not only to be welcoming, but inviting, too.

There's a line in a familiar hymn that my former bishop quoted frequently: We horde as precious treasure that which you so freely give. We in the Episcopal Church have been given extraordinary, precious treasure, particularly in our worship, particularly in the words of the liturgy and in our open table. I believe that there are many people who are starving for the treasure we have been given so abundantly. I am passionate about figuring out ways to share that treasure especially with those who don't even know that it's what they are searching for.

Where have you worshipped that you felt especially welcomed? What did they do that made you feel welcome?