Thursday, November 27, 2014

Prayers at the close of a thankfilled day

The Lord almighty grant you a peaceful night and a perfect end. 

Photo taken with iPhone and my brother's telescope!

An abundance of thanksgivings

For God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  
2 Corinthians 9.8

And so I am thankful for God's abundance in my life. 

For more invitations for Thanksgiving meals than I could join in a feast of days. 

For construction workers who will eventually get the roads that lead to my mom's an easier way to come. 

For first responders caring for all those whose holiday has been disrupted by car accidents. 

For fall color to revel in as I sat and waited for accidents to clear on the highway between Houston and Chambersville.  

For my CSA and a bounty of vegetables that I'd most likely never buy on my own, but now can be transformed into delicious sides to share with my family. 

For my daughter's wonderful cookbook which provided the best recipe for collard greens, ever. 

For my children and grandchildren so far away--but with whom I've had good, good conversations this week. 

For a digital age that makes it easy for video chats with my two grandboys. 

For a day to be with my mom and brothers and niece and nephew and whoever else joins us around my mother's family table. 

Now it's time to roast sweet potatoes and prepare mashed potatoes. And to continue to overflow with an abundance of thanks.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Grace: Hospitality, the sequel

Since it never got beyond the 20's and there were snow flurries all day, the labyrinth did not get walked to ponder hospitality yesterday.  God provided another prayer walk of reflection.

When I arrived at my morning session after not attending Eucharist, the two Sisters who were teaching were talking about the inspiring homily given by Sister Mary Luke.  Oh no. 

Sister Mary Luke is the Sister to whom I am closest.  We have much history over the years since she visioned and began Women Touched by Grace of which I have been part since 2003. We women clergy have called her our priest, and she has a stole that is created from fabric given by each of us in the first WTBG class. 

Not only had I missed Holy Communion, I had missed hearing the words of my sister and priest. 

When I saw her later in the day, I told her of my disappointment and of my struggles with being welcome at the Roman Mass. She reminded me what she had been telling us Protestant women clergy since she met us--that we were very welcome at Christ's Table always at Our Lady of Grace.  In fact, I recalled that the very first time I ever experienced a woman (Episcopal) Bishop presiding at Eucharist was in the Chapel of Our Lady of Grace eleven years ago at the first Women Touched by Grace communion service.  

Today after Morning Praise I stayed for Mass.  Before the liturgy again, I heard a whirring sound as a shade descended over a large window above the door. This is the first day this week that we have seen the sun, and the sunlight streaming through the large window over the Chapel's open doors was blinding dear Father Matthias. 

And then we rose for the Gathering Hymn. A hymn which I know by heart because it is in the Episcopal Hymnal. It was written by a member of The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Houston, my home, and the tune is called.....Houston. The hymn was I want to walk as a Child of the Light.  I was welcome. I was home. 

When we sang the Sanctus, the hymn before the Eucharist that connects us with the angels and all who sing praises to God in heaven, it was the same Sanctus, Land of Rest, that we sing at my home at St. Mary's.  I am welcome. I am home. 

As Father Matthias continued the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, he prayed words about unity and communion and for all clergy and for all faithful people. To God I am always welcome. To God I am always home.  

After the dismissal, I sat in silence in the chapel. I heard the whirring sound again. Sister Marie Therese was raising the screen. The sunlight poured in. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pilgrimage to Indiana: Benedictine Hospitalty

Although those following the Rule of St. Benedict keep vows of conversion, stability, and obedience, central to the Rule is hospitality. Over and over the little Rule teaches from one perspective and yet another that we treat all as Christ.  

I've had much to ponder about hospitality. In the parish where I serve, we've been having struggles (or perhaps I've been having struggles as the Rector) with what treating all as Christ means, particularly with those who are a step different from us. Elders with serious issues of aging, folks in emotional distress, people who see the Christian journey from unique perspectives.....hmmm, I suppose that includes almost all of us. What does it truly, truly mean to live my everyday life loving, really and truly loving, my neighbor?

I write that as the Holy Eucharist is being celebrated in the Monastery Chapel. The Prioress, who is the leader of the Monastery, not the priest, has said that we who are not Roman Catholic may come to Christ's Table.  Yet, we Protestants know that this is contrary to the teaching of the Roman Church. So every time there is Mass, I struggle:  do I come or do I stay away?  

Yesterday, I knew that my heart required the feeding of that Holy Bread and Wine, and so I stayed for the meal. This day, pondering Hospitality, I prayed the morning office in community, and then left with most of the other Protestant Oblates. 

I'll walk the labyrinth later today and continue to pray. I know that whatever God reveals, it will start with my own heart loving others as much as I love God. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pilgrimage to Indiana: Oblate Retreat

 I have followed the Rule of St. Benedict for several years. A few years ago I made a formal commitment to keeping the Rule by becoming an Oblate of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana.  I had looked for a Monastery nearer my home with which to be associated, but as God would have it, this place of community, an easy two hour flight from an airport thirty minutes from the Rectory, is the place where I have made vows of stability, conversion, and obedience. 

Each year the Oblates who are unable to come to the monthly meetings are invited to return for a week "intensive". We live in community at the Benedict Inn, worship three to four times each day with the Sisters, and have classes each morning and evening. Evenings are spent in fellowship with the Sisters, the other Oblates, and Inquirers who are discerning if they are called to make vows to follow the Rule. 

I missed the first session in order to attend Vestry at St. Mary's Monday night. My plane did arrive in time to pray Noonday Prayers with the Sisters. I've worshipped in that chapel hundreds of times, and it is a place of great joy to sink into their sacred rhythm of prayer, song, the Psalms, a brief reading from Scripture, silence, and blessing. 

At Evening Worship we were invited to renew our vows of Oblation. Signing a brief statement of intent, prayer by the Prioress, an oral declaration, and a blessing from the Sisters--simply, but deeply felt, I promised to make the Rule of St. Benedict part of my personal Rule of Life for the year ahead. 

Of course, in a community that values a balanced life, after a day of work, prayer, and study, it was time for recreation. Tables filled with Sisters and Oblates and Inquirers, we played games, ate pumpkin pie, and drank mulled cider.  No one knows how to laugh and have fun more than the Sisters. 

Our day compete, with a night of rest ahead, we prayed Compline. 

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us asleeping, that awake and asleep we may watch with Christ.   

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pilgrimage to Iona: My pearls of life prayer

I wrote about the Pearls of Life prayer beads in an earlier post and how I've been praying with them as a place to center in prayer.  During my pilgrimage to Iona, the landscape of my travels came to represent those beads of prayer.  I share them with you.

The God Pearl

   You are boundless.  You are near.  You are light, and I am yours.

The Silence Pearl

    In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.

The I Pearl

   I am a drop in God's sea that reflects the sky.

The Baptism Pearl

  I am your child, my God, help me grow, help me mature.

A Silence Pearl

 In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.

The Desert Pearl

 Cleanse me so I will be clean.  Heal me so I will be whole.

A Silence Pearl

 In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.

The Serenity Pearl

Help me really live, not only exist.

The Silence Pearl

 In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing. 

The First Love Pearl

Open me now to the strength of love I long for.

The Second Love Pearl

God, help me love.

The Mystery Pearls (there are three of these)

 Large or small, I entrust the secrets of my heart to your care.

Large or small, I entrust the secrets of my heart to your care.

  Large or small, I entrust the secrets of my heart to your care.
The Night Pearl

 Be close to me in darkness so that I find the light.

Another Silence Pearl  

   In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.

The Resurrection Pearl

Every breath me in you you in me.

A final Silence Pearl

  In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Seventeen Years!

It took me most of the day to figure it out,  but I've now served seventeen years (not sixteen as I thought as the day began) as rector of St. Mary's. Who'd have thought?

When I was called to serve as rector of St. Mary's, I was going through a divorce.  The parish had had three vicar/rectors, and the last one had left under unhappy circumstances.  The parish was deeply in debt, and as with so many churches in the 1990's, there were struggles among parishioners about what worship should be like.  In my perception, we were all broken and we were all hopeful and we all healed together.

I committed to stay three years, never knowing the gift that God would give me of having, what is in the Episcopal Church, a long pastorate.

My first Sunday to serve at St. Mary's was All Saints' Sunday, so that Sunday each year is an even more special anchor in the Church year for me.  A time to reflect and give extra thanks.

All Saints Weekend this year started on Saturday morning and was spent with those who serve in worship at St. Mary's.  Thirty or so of us gathered for a day parenthesized with Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist, with the bonus of an Eucharistic team taking Holy Communion to a parishioner who is unable to drive to Sunday worship.

The afternoon was spent with a family that is new to our parish, preparing the parents and Godparents for the baptism of Jameson the next day.

And then there was All Saints Sunday.  Our Canon for Lifelong Christian Formation, The Rev. John Newton, preached at all three Holy Eucharists about the blessing of being a saint, and did an excellent teaching during Adult Christian Formation. Our youth decided to join the adult class after one of them had heard John's sermon and told the rest they needed to "come and see."  Every chair was taken in a full room of folks listening to John's excellent teaching--lifelong Christian Formation indeed.

Each of our three All Saints Sunday Eucharists was full of gifts from God.  All morning folks who hadn't been around in a while came to worship God.  At 10.30 our choir, our fabulous choir, sang the Gospel, the Beatitudes.  It was so beautiful, it made me weep.

Jameson's baptism during the 10.30 Eucharist.  Renewal of baptismal vows at all three services.

Dedication of the Children's Chapel in memory of our beloved young parishioner, Jamie.

Unexpected guests who showed up before worship needing financial help and praying about how to share God's blessing with them.

Remembering those we love but see no more.  Names written on paper bricks of those saints creating a wall in the nave.

Unexpected personal gifts.  A parishioner whose son died this past year has started a ministry with another parishioner of creating bears from Andy's clothes as a tangible way to hold on and pray.  The ministry expanding as they create more and more bears from the clothes of others who have died.  I was given a second bear yesterday as an unexpected gift

A parishioner with a sister who has been living with her while the sister  recovers from a bout of serious ill health.   The sister, now better, will be returning home, and it was her last Sunday to worship at St. Mary's.  She brought me a plant to thank me for my care.

What care?  A healing blessing at Communion, a smile, a greeting.  So very little in God's Kingdom, and yet, that's what being a rector at St. Mary's for seventeen years has been about for me.  Little acts, blessed by God.

So very little that I have given.  So very, very much I have received.  

Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we ask or imagine.  Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, for ever and ever.