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.
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
3.Cook a lots’o stuff
4.GET NEW 🐱
5.DECORATE EASTER EGGGGGGGGGS
6.SEE DUMBO 🐘
Vanilla cake 🎂 💸
2. 1 INGREDIENT BANNA ICE CREAM🍌🍦
3. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE🍓🎂
6.MASTER RECIPE FOR BISCUITS AND SCONES
7.CAKE IN A SHOEBOX 🎂👞📦
We’d already made cookies,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Act
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.
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.
For the past three years, I have been pushed, not always gently, into learning what home means.
Nearly three years ago, rising waters pushed me from my house of nearly twenty years into guest bed rooms and then into a parishioner’s vacant house. I returned to my newly rebuilt house until even higher rising waters floated me into other guest bedrooms and another rental property. I rebuilt the house again and planned to stay there awhile. Until a new call from God sent me looking for another house closer into town
I’ve been looking for that next house for two months. I put a bid on one place that seemed perfect, but I was outbid. I put a bid on another house and had to withdraw that bid because of too many issues revealed during the inspection.
I’ve spent a lot of time these past two months thinking about the next place I’ll live. Lots of conversation with others and myself, and, oh yes, God.
Before I left Oregon Christmas, departing a day early because I was still searching for my next living space, my grandson, Austin, prayed a beautiful prayer for me. I usually don’t remember the specifics of most prayers, but in this prayer Austin ended asking that God would give me wisdom, especially as I looked for my new home.
As I’ve asked God for guidance, I’ve thought about Austin’s request for wisdom.
I think I have an answer: In my searching and frustration and longing and ever hoping, I’ve finally realized: I have a home. Always. I may not know where my next house will be, but wherever I am, that is my home.
Home is where we are. Whether we like it or not. Whether we want to be there or not. Whether or not we long for another type of home are not. Home is the place we are standing or sitting now.
When I was in my first post-flood rental, the Spirit gave me a verse to repeat during Centering Prayer:
My heart is your home.
I understand this prayer in two ways:
God’s home is in my heart.
My home is in God’s heart.
I always have a home. All of us do. It is in the heart of God, and it is God dwelling within our hearts.
I’m still looking for that next house, but meanwhile, in the Casa de las Abuelas here in Taos, I am home.
I’m working this month. Some.
I am now officially on the Diocese of Texas payroll, and they have graciously given me some time to transition. It’s a time for me to find a new home–physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I’m spending the month reading in preparation for my new call, taking my annual Epiphany retreat in New Mexico, and doing ministry with the curates and the Iona School for Ministry.
And being the chaplain for the Diocese of Texas Junior Daughters of the King annual retreat. I realized last summer on the mission trip to the Dominican Republic how much I love chaplain ministry, and add serving children and youth, and I am over the moon.
On the Junior DOK retreat last weekend, with. the awesome music leader, Lee, I led worship in the morning, noonday, and at the close of day. I celebrated a very cold Holy Eucharist by the lake. I led the labyrinth prayer station. I hung out with wonderful girls and women.
We used plastic coffee cups and a plastic tray from the campsite for the paten and chalice.
Two Junior Daughters of the King served as Eucharistic Ministers.
There was time to talk and listen and laugh and be. With women and girls by the lake, it was community. It is something that I’m learning how to do now that my ministry is no longer in the parish.
As I reimagine Home–in body, mind and Spirit.
In years past, it’s made my heart sad to not have family around at Christmas. When I knew that I would have this time of Sabbath before beginning my new job, at the top of my list was to be with my grandboys at Christmas. It has been beyond wonderful.
Worship was lovely on Christmas Eve, and it was wonderful going to bed at a sensible hour snuggled with a grandson. However, I have been blindsighted by how I have felt not having a church family near.
I missed walking into the empty nave before worship began and feeling the fullness of a silent night. I missed my face aching at the end of Christmas Eve from smiling and greeting endlessly friends old and new. I even missed awakening with a Christmas morning worship hangover, and then driving to lead one more service and being greeted by holy quiet and the smell of incense in the nave.
What I’ve found myself missing the most was the accountability of being part of a faith community. It has been a challenge to keep the rhythm of offices and holy days.
In retrospect, I realized how much I need those faith relationships to keep myself centered in spiritual practices.
For example, it has been the custom of St. Mary’s to read the Gospel appointed for the coming year aloud in community in its entirety on an evening early in Advent. I committed to do this on my own this year but never made it through the whole of Luke. I need the encouragement of others to do what I know it is best for me to do.
Yesterday was my last day to be paid by St. Mary’s. Today I am officially Missioner of Congregational Vitality and an employee of the Diocese of Texas.
I ended my Christmas trip one day early in order to spend tomorrow looking for my new house. I’ll be working the rest of the week and needed to take advantage of the free day.
As important as it is for me to find a home with an address, this past month has shown me how important it is for me to find a home with a church community. As much as I crave my personal spiritual practices, this past month has clearly shown me how that is not enough for my relationship with Christ.
Good to know.