Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Very Holy Week

I know it's a little late, but I've been intentionally away from the computer, recovering from what was for me a very powerful and draining Holy Week.
We made the decision to "do" all of HW in the gym where we have our Sunday services - and which also serves as living quarters for the volunteers who come to help our community. We convert their dining area into church every Sunday. We could have used some other local churches, as we did at Christmas and for our Bishop's visit, but there was no where we could go consistently all week, and I thought it too confusing to mix things up. So, with the great help of the Camp Coast Care folks, and with lots of hard work, we declared the gym as holy and sacred in time and space for HW. I think it worked wonderfully well.
We had Eucharist Mon and Tue, then on Wed we did Holy Eucharist with Healing. Formerlly this service was a huge part of who we were at St Patricks, very well attended on Wed evenings, gospel music, healing, Eucharist, then a shared meal. We have missed it terribly (me, especially, for I could truly relax and worship during that service). So we brought it back. Unfortunately, all the HW services were lightly attended by our folks, it was spring break for all the public schools so many were traveling, but also folks here are just plain worn out - and perhaps not really ready to walk to the cross this year. The service, though, was great and we will figure out ways to continue it.
Maundy Thursday was powerful and draining and spiritual. Most of the volunteers joined us (as they would the rest of HW) and washing their feet had special significance to me. We managed to dim lights and strip the altar and hold a watch at the altar of repose in the school building next door.
Two Good Friday services (I used the GF liturgy at noon and at 6) were very powerful to me, although again very lightly attended. I think I do my best preaching on Good Friday. But again, that service was probably too much for our folks to handle right now.
The Easter Vigil was glorious. We rearranged the chairs on the gym floor to focus on the center, where we placed the font. We lit the new fire and processed in with candles. We did 4 lessons, all presented by story tellers, instead of just reading them - they acted them out and put them in their own words. This was a major hit! I preached without a text, not knowing what I would say until I got up. Then we baptized 4 - one infant and 3 others from 15 to 7 years old. That was fantastic! Then it was time for the Alleluia's, we had stage spot lights that once the 3rd Alleluia rang out, came on and illuminated the altar, which was beautifully decorated. We even have a new "reredos", a cloth to match the seasonal color hanging on piping behind the altar. Folks - it looked like CHURCH in there! Bells rang and the lights came on and we welcomed the Easter season.
Easter Sunday was great, lots of faces I haven't seen in a while, wonderful music, an Easter egg hunt afterwards.
Then it was time to collapse! This was HARD to pull off. I have a brand new secretary, so creating bulletins for all these services was a chore. Working with the camp folks and trying to get my own setup folks a vision for each service was challenging. I moved lots of chairs, etc. Yet it proved to be a HW to remember......
If you care to hear the sermons, they are all posted here - just click the Sermons link.

Soon I will post on a most interesting travel week - and remind me to tell you about a couple of dreams. My friend Larry, see post below, was prominent in both of them.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ode to Larry

I suppose it was just as it should have been. Palm Sunday. Hosanna.....Crucify.....a phone call that my good friend and seminary classmate, The Rev. Larry Motz, had died after a valiant struggle with cancer.
We waved palms outside the gym. Paraded around to All Glory Laud and Honor, led by our talented organist playing her flute. The gym was pretty full, and a couple of new families joined us. Yet, Larry was on my mind.
I could fill this blog up with stories about my friend. We visited Seabury on the same day, and ended up living one floor apart on our end of the apartment complex on campus. He was class president, I was vice president (after a hotly contested runoff!). We were as different as you can be. Larry, the GQ model, single, impeccably attired at all times. Me with the wife and 3 kids, almost always in a t-shirt and shorts, rarely shaven, loving escaping from the banker attire I had worn for 20 years.
Larry taught me much.....way more than I can express here. I loved him. I learned from him. I worshipped with him. He started a Caritas group on campus to do pastoral care, and my family was their 1st customer (my son was quite ill our 1st year of seminary).
Larry was very funny, saving his expressions and comments for the right time ("you may be seated" - inside joke).
Lord, there is so much more to say.

Yesterday while presiding at Holy Eucharist, I had one of those moments. This will sound weird. It happened to me the very 1st time I celebrated Eucharist after my priest ordination, and on occasions since. While celebrating, sometimes, I am able to observe....well.....myself. It's like I am watching this amazing and risky act while I am doing it. The "awesome-ness" of being the celebrant, at times, speaks to me. Yesterday it happened again, but in a different way. As I was saying the words, I could see Larry. He was in a purple chasuble and stole, a very pretty set, it was one he bought while we were in seminary. I could hear his voice, see him doing the manual acts, holding the elements, breaking the bread. For a brief moment, I thought I would break down, but instead I was strengthened by his presense, I knew he was giving me "that look", and that I needed to carry on. In a sense, we con-celebrated, although no one else knew it. It was a blessing and powerful and...yes...weird. But there was such a sweetness and goodness about it, above all else it was just RIGHT.

I told those classmates of mine that I have spoken to since getting the news, that it is just like Larry to influence us once again - to give us a living example of Holy Week in its fullest, to help us one more time, this week. For Larry has made it through his Good Friday. He had told his Bishop that he feared he would not make it to Easter, when in fact that is exactly what he has done - made it to Easter. So for us that knew him, he has made our Holy Week and Easter a time deeper and richer and sadder and ..... RIGHT.

My brother, may you go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in God's heavenly kingdom. I will miss you. I will see you again. God bless.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Almost here......

HOLY WEEK that better time to be a Priest! I live for this stuff.
I became an Episcopalian a few years after I was confirmed, the 1st time I did the "full meal deal" for Holy Week. WOW....I had been missing SO much as a Baptist! Then seminary taught me the wonder and glory of the Easter Vigil and I have been hooked ever since.
We have an ongoing debate down here, and at my Frest Start group, about the Vigil. Most are not in to it too much. Waste of one comes....what's the use? Me, I gotta have it! I have been doing a TON of teaching since I arrived here about the Vigil, and folks are really supporting it.
This year, Holy Week of course takes on a whole new flavor. Doing all the services in a school gym that is the "home" to 125 volunteers makes Lots of time management, moving of chairs and tables, decorating, thinking WAY outside the box - it's a LOT and it's a blast!
My poor new secretary is feeling a little overwhelmed as I keep producing bulletins for all these services. But...I have Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday done AND I have done sermons already for the first two. I suspect I will finish the other three tomorrow - it all has to flow together in my book, so might as well write them together.
We will gather outside the gym and parade around with palms on Sunday....Eucharist on Mon, Tue, and Wed (with healing on Wed). MT, two GF, THE VIGIL, and Easter Sunday followed by a fun egg hunt (eggs provided by the Resurrection Rabbit).
The Vigil will include story telling and 5 baptisms by candelight around a font set in the middle of the gym floor, with chairs encircling the font. I still got to figure out how to "instantly" light the place, the gym lights take forever to warm up.
When our Bishop visited last week, he commented how Bishops from all over the country have told him consistently how our Sunday morning worship in the gym had really been a blessing to the volunteers from their respective dioceses. It was wonderful to hear and really great for our people to hear!
So....come on down...there's work to do and HOLY WEEK TOO!