Worships on the first day of the week

A gift when traveling on a Sunday is watching for opportunities to worship. For me, even as an introvert, worship always has to have a community piece.

That said, as someone who, even as a nonparochial priest, a Sunday without responsibilities is a rare gift.

So I had a slow morning. Coffee, cinnamon toast, and quiet time in front of the sunflower fireplace. Then off to Coffee Apothecary for public coffee. Okay. And second breakfast.

We met the owners of Coffee Apothecary right when the store first opened. They became among the first of those who received a gift to the charity of their choice for my 24 project—24 gifts of $100 in thankfulness of 24 years of ordained ministry. In talking to them about this gift, I had come out of the closet as a priest. From their response, I’m pretty sure they aren’t part of any worshipping community.

I pray for them every morning I am here (and others times, too). They have a true spiritual gift of hospitality and do such good work serving those who come into their shop.

I’m usually pretty open about saying some word of faith with folks I meet. Something, and I do believe it was the Spirit, gently held me back from telling them I’d prayed for them today. Too churchy. In not a good way. The faith part of our relationship is mainly with actions.

They remind me of so many good and fine people for whom Christianity is not particularly palatable.

We Christians have done this to ourselves.

I’ve been thinking about how much courage it takes to walk into a church for the first time. I’ve been thinking about how insider most churches are. I’ve been thinking about how the only way most folks who don’t have a church will ever have the courage to walk into a church is if someone they trust invites them to accompany them.

It’s why we must seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as Christ loves us.

It’s why we are going to have to reimagine how we are Church and how we do church.

After our visit with our coffee friends, my best friend and I went home to pray some more in our garden at the casa. An invitation had gone out from the Episcopal Church to ring a bell for 5 minutes at 3 PM EDT in remembrance of the arrival of the first slaves in what would become our country 400 years ago today. I knew my friends at St. Mary’s we’re doing so at 2 CDT, and so we joined them in silence (no bell to ring) at 1 MDT after praying prayers for midday.

At 5, we joined our neighbors at the local Episcopal Church for a Healing Service in the style of Taize.

I must say. Yes, I worship in unfamiliar places often, and yet I am always a bit anxious when I go to a new place. Yes. It even takes courage for me to go worship in a place for the first time.

Thankfully parking was clear. The music was lovely, and all the ends and outs of worship were clearly rubriced in the worship booklet. It was a gentle service.

I wondered. Would our coffee shop friends felt welcome? Comfortable? The beauty of the space and the carefully planned liturgy I think would have been holy for them. Still. How would they have even known to be there? It would have taken more relationship than we have for a trusted invite.

I’m wondering.

Oh. This is why people love summer.

For the past twenty five years or so, New Mexico has been a winter destination. Luminarias. Piñon fires. Watching snowflakes dance from the sky. Walks on crunchy snow paths. Cappacinos in front of the fireplace.

I’d forgotten how beautiful New Mexico is in the summer.

Instead of a fire, sunflowers.

A morning spent at the Farmer’s Market loving the sights, conversations, and buying food fresh from farms and bakeries for meals later.

A pleasant walk to visit our neighbors, the llamas.

Meals eaten, inside or outside? Outside, please.

Doors and windows. Open.

And flowers. Ah, the flowers! Everywhere.

A slow trip

The plan had been: a nearly two week return trip to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. In January, sitting at the Coffee Apothecary in Taos, my best friend and I had booked rooms and imagined our itinerary.

Today, when our plan had been to be hiking in west Iceland, my friend and I are sitting once again in the Coffee Apothecary drinking our morning coffee on our way to the Taos Farmer’s Market.

In May, on her way home from a church meeting, my friend’s car was slammed into by a drunk driver. Her car was totaled, and a week later she was unable to walk.

We held on to the trip back to the Faroes as a harbinger of hope. She slowly progressed through the labyrinth of the medical system, and with great courage and persistence, began to move beyond her couch home. A wheelchair. A walker. Then her hiking stick used as a cane.

At the end of July, it became clear that a long trip was not feasible at this time. She and I decided to try an easier trip to a familiar place, back to Taos.

A slow trip. For healing.

On the Wednesday before I left, during the Eucharist at the Diocesan Center, we offered the Sacrament of Healing, I was anointed and prayed for. Not as seriously injured as my best friend, I knew the trip would be a healing trip for both us.

In one of the most beautiful places in the world.

……..Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.
It suffices, it is all comfort –
along with human love…..

( from Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond by Mary Oliver)

A person who is also a priest

This is my first Holy Week to not be leading a parish in over twenty five years.

It is another new walk as a person who happens to be a priest.

Holy Week began for me on this past Friday. The Mission Amplification Team does an outreach project once a quarter, and on Friday we served lunch at The Beacon, a ministry of the Diocese of Texas with the people who live on the streets of downtown Houston.

We helped finish the preparations for the lunch which was certainly restaurant worthy, and then filled trays as the men and women walked through the line.  I was the last person in the serving line, and the choices I offered were tomatoes, croutons, thousand island dressing, and ranch dressing.  

I had been reminded in my  morning time of prayer that all we meet we treat as Christ, and so I was intentional as I greeted each person– to look them in the eye and smile.  Sometimes we even had time for a brief conversation.

It was Holy Communion.

This morning I went to Palm Sunday worship at my local church.  In the familiarity of the liturgy, there were portions that were different from my last twenty or so years of Palm Sunday liturgy.

I am in new unfamiliar familiar territory.

I am having lunch with friends today, an event I scheduled because I wasn’t responsible for worship.

I’m planning to end the day with Evensong at another local church.

Not in charge, I am walking with Jesus.

This will be a Holy Week.

Making

I’ve been on vacation in Oregon with my family. It’s their Spring Break and so I went to play with the grandboys while their parents worked.

We started the week by making lists of what we most wanted to do this week. We called our week “anything can happen,” and we knew there would be good surprises in store.

Here’s the list written by the grandboys, a third grader and kindergartener. Number ones had been accomplished before I could copy the list:

Anything can happen wEEK

2.Tell story

3.Cook a lots’o stuff

4.GET NEW 🐱

5.DECORATE EASTER EGGGGGGGGGS

6.SEE DUMBO 🐘

Vanilla cake 🎂 💸

SFPILS

COOKING STUFF

2. 1 INGREDIENT BANNA ICE CREAM🍌🍦

3. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE🍓🎂

4.WAKCY CAKE🤪🎂

5.EVERYDAY PANCAKES🥞

6.MASTER RECIPE FOR BISCUITS AND SCONES

7.CAKE IN A SHOEBOX 🎂👞📦

We’d already made cookies,

slime,

and seen a movie

before I’d had time to make a copy of our list (Austin loved removing items as we checked them off).

The boys not being in a church that observes Lent, we also engaged in some Easter preparations.

Egg dying,

card making,

and decorating.

Later in the week Austin had added “spills” to the week. We had lots of laughter and laundry with our unending clumsiness.

Nighttime was spent sharing a bed. Once again I was a grandma sandwich. This time we had the addition of a new cat, Alley Cat, who enjoyed sleeping on my head and giving love bites and licks throughout the night.

Before sleep, the reading aloud was now done by the boys, both good readers. I made up stories, and we always ended with prayers–an adapted Ignatian Examen followed by Compline. When I asked Austin when he’d felt closest to God, he’d reply, “I always feel close to God.”

Before I left today, Jonas and I were looking at our photos of our anything can happen week, and he titled each of the photos. Most of them he named, “Making.” Yes, we did a lot of making this week, and the best making of all was the relationship kind of making:

Memories and connections with one another that are one of God’s very best gifts to us.

I am so very grateful to have a job with vacation days and the financial resources to see my very far away family at least once a season.

I do not take it for granted.

Beginnings. Endings. Endings. Beginnings.

I’m moving. Again. I’m hoping this move will last longer than the last eight.

My friend, Ginny, came into town to help stage and pack and say goodbye to the Rectory. The Diocese has provided packers, movers, and unpackers.  I am supported, once again.

In the midst of the busyness of the weekend of pre-moving, I had the gift of attending two Eucharists.  It was a good break from packing to clean up, to put my collar on, and go to worship.

As God would have it, in the midst of my own endings and beginnings, one worship was a beginning– the dedication of a new worship space.   The other worship was an ending–the final worship in a parish that was closing.  Both were holy.

Saturday night I attended worship at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church.  Before the Tax Day Flood, they had begun their process of preparing to build a new worship space.  On the eve of the final Sunday after the Epiphany, the church was full of joy and tears as the Bishop set apart one thing after another as holy.  A baby was baptized.  Everything was shiny and new.

Sunday morning, I attended worship at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.  After struggling for a number of years, the parish was no longer viable.  And so another Bishop gathered the people for the final Eucharist.  Although only a handful of people had worshipped in the space the last few years, on this final Sunday, the church was nearly full as all sorts of people gathered to say good bye.  Again there were tears, though this time they were tears of grief.  But there was also joy as old friends reunited one final time.

So the rhythm continues. Ending. Beginning.  Beginning.  Ending.

We move towards the ending of another season of the church year.  Epiphany is drawing to an end.  In two days, we begin Lent.

John O’Donohue says it so well:

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

 

 

 

 

Anything can happen day

Yesterday was an anything can happen day. As we left Taos, my friend and I had a plan for the drive to Albuquerque. With the first surprise of the day, we decided to let the day lead the way.

We started with coffee at Coffee Apothecary, our coffee place in Taos, where the owners feel like friends. They sent us on our way with gifts of freshly roasted coffee beans.

As we drove south, the flag was up at the Rio Grande Gorge Visitors Center in Pilar. My heart had been heavy throughout the trip seeing the consequences of the government shutdown, and the innocent workers who had been effected. We circled back and went in and welcomed the rangers back to work. As we had conversation, we all teared up.

We continued to let the day unfold. We drove to a favorite place on the Rio Grande River and met a woman from California celebrating her birthday. She told us her next stop, after her hike, was at a winery. Departing before her, we made a stop at the winery, left her a birthday note, and paid for a bottle of wine for her when she arrived later. Such fun!

We next drove to another favorite place–Abiqui, where we had a picnic lunch beside the Chama River.

We then took a drive through mountains, calderas,

reservations, before ending the route in Bernalillo as the sun set.

Since today is the day I fly back to Houston, it’s most likely another anything can happen day.

Beginning with coffee then worship at the local Episcopal church, I’ll see what God has in store.

Church. Home.

Finding Church

Since my last Sunday at St. Mary’s, I’ve worshipped four times at New Hope Church in Bend, Oregon, once at the home of dear friends as we blessed their home, a Eucharist at Camp Allen with new clergy, Evening Prayer at Camp Allen with nearly clergy, Eucharist with the Junior Daughters of the King beside the lake at Camp Allen, at St. Helena Convent, Facebook Live Episcopal Worship to Anchor Your Day, in the Agnes Martin Gallery at the Harwood Museum, Morning Mindfulness at the Georgia Museum of Art, and ever so many times from my prayer chair.

Not once in an Episcopal Church.

Except from my prayer chair, all of these were within community. All were full of grace in their own way, and I believe that I was led by the Spirit to each of these holy places to worship God.

As God is teaching me about home, God is also teaching me about church.

One of my favorite descriptions of church is from the second chapter of the book of Acts:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. …..

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.

No longer a layperson who has “joined” a parish, no longer a priest called to serve in a specific parish, now serving in missions and parishes, as invited or sent, I am a peripatetic priest.

Today, as I celebrate twenty-six years of ordination to the priesthood, God is inviting me to reflect on my definition of Church.

From Saddle Blanket by Blanche C. Grant, The Harwood Museum

Church is God’s people gathered, and Jesus gives us an easy bar:

Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst. (Matthew 18.20)

If my home is in God’s heart, and God’s home is in my heart, then perhaps church is when two or three of us gather in the heart of God, and when we know that God is in our gathered hearts.

From Husking Corn by Mary Blumenschein, The Harwood Museum