This Pilgrim's Progress...maybe
When I woke up this morning, the snow had not begun falling, but by the time I got to St. J's, parked the car and donned my choir vestments, the snow had started in earnest. So we went ahead and had the 9 a.m. service, but everything after 11 a.m. was canceled. The snow has really had an impact on people. A number of us left as soon as we could, but after clearing off the car, I got my toochas home. (Yes, I said toochas. I'm allowed. I'm from Lawn Guy Land and I have enough Jewish relatives to qualify.)
Anyway, when last I left you, dear reader, I was on my way to a drop-in all day choir "clinic" to help those of us who are musically challenged. When I got there, only Nancy, our music director/organist/choirmaster and a member of the altar guild were present, so we went over some of the tympani pieces. A good thing because (1) I hadn't seen a couple of the pieces before, (2) needed to be sure I could tune fast enough and (3) I sure as *&^% cannot practice the part at home! When we were done, a couple of singers arrived and I got to practice some choral music too. So it was a productive day musically anyway. Afterwards, Nancy and I had dinner at nearby Japanese/Korean restaurant and got caught up. John was sleeping, having done a bunch of graveyard shifts in a row. It was a quiet, but fun Saturday.
Church this morning was really nice. The Narthex - the front vestibule one enters before going into the sanctuary proper - is usually abuzz with those gathering or organizing the processionall (including the choir). There are a lot of wonderful friendships at St. J's, people with whom I have experienced some great conversations, laughter, and even tears. The brief bits of recognition, smiles, and greetings happen in rapid succession and invariably, a member of clergy has to hush us. Not that we stay hushed for long;)! I often think of this as a foretaste of Heaven. At least I hope it is. Are we a bunch of hypocrites who make mistakes all week long? We sure are. Why else do you think we come here? At least I know I need all the help I can get.
In the midst of yesterday's rehearsals, our seminarian, Bernard, came in. We talked for a little bit about his upcoming wedding and then two days later, his ordination - both in July. I think I'll be playing flute for the wedding. Fingers crossed I keep my nerve and don't muck it up. In the course of our conversation, Bernard shared a bit - almost without really meaning to - about what it is like having gone through the discernment process, i.e. figuring out if you have been "called" to ordained ministry. That's always been sort of an odd thing to me. I find myself avoiding the conversation, maybe because I am actively running from something that seems to be calling me (and no it isn't always the dinner bell or drunken illusions, LOL!). It may also be that I am delusional. I mean really, I am the last person - or one of the last people - who should be thinking of such things. I have a career and that's not going anywhere, (at least I hope not!). I enjoy the musical end of things, and besides, service can happen in a number of different ways, right? I'm really really open to both possibilities. I suppose I should phone a friend, LOL. Actually, come to think of it, I did!
It all started a couple of years ago. I had always felt that it was sort of weird to make a living on things of the spirit. I still sorta kinda do feel that way. Then I realized there's this other ordained ministry called the deaconate, something that is not a paid position. Fine with me - I have a job. But remember, I'm that last person they should be calling. I mean, what good does one really do after an ordination that you can't do before one? So that was my state of mind one Sunday when I heard a sermon (remember I was in the choir loft, so I tend to hear one or two of them) by Bishop John Raab, one of our clergy. He was discussing his work as a young priest in a hospital burn ward in Baltimore. There was this one specialist - a doc who was particularly demanding. He gave John a hard time about not writing enough notes on the chart about his visit with a patient. I don't know if I'm remembering all of this correctly, but the gist of the sermon was, "You know these guys go through all sorts of pain and hell, with treatments, skin grafts, dealing with how they look, and wondering if they will ever have any kind of normal life, or even survive their injuries. You guys give them hope, peace, a bit of focus on something other than what they are going through. I need to know if you've been to see these patients and how it went. It makes a difference in their outlook and often how they are going to do."
It was a truth I had always known on some level, but that morning it hit me like a thunderbolt. The work John was doing in that hospital wasn't fluff or theology or even psychology. It was about hope, about living in the real world and being responsible for our fellow human beings and being with them as they take responsibility for their own lives. And it suddenly meant so much more to me. It was like I had just gotten this invitation to a really cool party and I really really wanted to go, but wondered if I was cool enough to enjoy being there. (OK I never said I was normal, did I?)
Anyway, I had to check in with someone I trusted to make sure I was dealing in reality and not some bunch of silliness. So I called two friends (John was asleep and already knew I was delusional) - one who has known me since 1972 and another I had only just gotten to know but with whom I had had many theological discussions - and debates. I also knew both of these people would tell me the truth. In the interests of full disclosure, the longer term friend is a priest - a priest I had told just two years earlier that, yes, I had followed her into the Catholic Church, yes, thirty-one years after that I had followed her into the Episcopal Church, but I was GD'd if I was going to follow her into the priesthood. I called her on a Sunday morning. She, a brand new priest with duties up the yin yang and busiest time ever is Sunday, called me back in five minutes! As I picked up the phone, all I could hear on the other end was HAHAHAHAHA. And then we talked for a bit and she gave me some good advice on some books to read and resources to consult. The other friend I emailed. His response was, "I have no idea whatsoever if any of this makes sense." This friend has never spoken anything but the truth to me and strangely enough, those words made incredible sense and were comforting in their own way.
I made some half-hearted attempts to see if I could do this, even to the extent of having lunch with two of my favoritest deacons ever. It's a challenge, to be sure, but every so often, I keep getting that spiritual tap on the shoulder.
Well from the sublime to the knitting - if I haven't lost you knitters out there by now(!!), it's just been about progress. I've gone a few more inches on the first sleeve of the Melissa Leapman sweater and a few more inches on the second sleeve of the Ommegang. Not the most exciting of things, but progress is progress.
Speaking of which, I have to email the progeny and let them know dinner at the grands is off. The driveway is pure ice and it is raining ice here in this part of Merlin. And don't even talk about parking! OY! (yes, I can say "Oy" don't even...).
Hope you all are warm and safe and have someone to love and be loved by. Back soon. Until then, God be with you 'til we meet again.+