The earth spins and dips and makes out its dance among the stars. I got a contract. It starts tomorrow. I got new shoes and khakis for work and have done my best Buddy the Elf impersonation: "I'm wearing Work Clothes!" I got an appointment to meet with an orthopedic surgeon about my torn rotator cuff. We've planned new daily and weekly rhythms for this new season, and have spent the last week staying up too late, eating junk food, and spending too much money - just to get it all out of our systems before we buckle down to what MM calls The Season of Being Grownups, but the church calls Ordinary Time.
Speaking of which, we tried out a church around the corner. We've driven passed it a zillion times the last three years, but last week they changed their message board out front: "Are you looking for a sign from God? Here it is!" Ha! We cracked up and thought, these people can't be half bad if they joke on their sign.
They aren't half bad.
In fact, this was the warmest welcome I've EVER received. Ever. Everyone was kind, gracious, friendly, and warm to us, and genuinely affectionate with each other. So many people made a point to connect with us, to make sure we knew about the coffee hour, and that there was a BBQ planned for after 2nd service. "You picked a great day to visit!"
It's an old fashioned church with pomp and circumstance and traditions we're not familiar with. They pass the peace - like actually, "Peace be with you." "And also with you." The priest/rector/vicar (?) person stands in the midst of the congregation to read from the gospel. They have a fancy procession and recession, an incredible pipe organ, and a choir of old ladies and one dude singing anthems and leading hymns. Between the hymnal (people still use those?) and the print out of the morning's liturgy, we kept fumbling, turning to the wrong page, getting lost and giggling. But we recognized a lot of it, and the young black woman behind me sang steady and sure with voice so bright and clear, she helped us find our way through. No one seemed to mind that we were clueless.
It was promotion Sunday for the Sunday school and the sweet, young, pregnant-with-her-fourth priest (?) in charge of childrens ministry handed out certificates and accolades and thank yous to a bunch of cute little kids and teachers grinning from ear to ear, unsure of being stared at, but enjoying the applause. The rectors called up all the graduates and folks having birthdays and anniversaries to bless and pray for them. Then the elders/vestry (?) called the rectors up to bless and pray for the rectors as they take their family on its first vacation in seven years. Then they introduced the retired pastor who will fill in for them while they are gone, and blessed and prayed for him. (George and Gladys kept turning around to apologize for the extra long service; we kept assuring them that it was fine. It was fine. More than fine.)
Through it all, this little church shared so much laughter and warmth. The sermon/homily/devotion (?) was a bit rambly (I don't think this guy (an intern) gets to speak often), but heartfelt and sweet and had a power of its own. Everyone encouraged him and thanked him for speaking. We sat next to him at the BBQ and heard a bit of his story. Really neat guy. The man on our other side shared his passion for ice cream making, and advised us on which ice cream maker to get. (This one.) A guy named Doug invited us to join the church members at the ballgame Friday. (We already had plans, but it was fun to be asked.)
It was all wonderful, really. I got my beautiful sanctuary. MM got his Communion. There were tons of old people! We felt instantly connected and welcomed. Our new friend Gladys told us, "we're really small, but we are a family." Yes, ma'am. For the first time in a long time we felt light and happy as we drove off after the service (to a snappy wave and a cheery, "Please come again!")
MM and I joke about how weird all this is, and that if we do end up going here, or some place like it, we'll still be some sort of weird Baplican hybrid. "Give it up for the priesthood of all believers. Hey-o!" But it felt good to be in that place, with those people, singing those songs, and praying those prayers. It felt good to look up during communion to eyes crinkling with joy, "Christ's body... Christ's blood... for you."
We want to stumble our way through another service or two. We want to learn some of the old-fashioned lingo, "rector", "vestry", "supply", "collect"... We want to share a few cups of coffee in the Parish Hall with these warm, welcoming brothers and sisters. And in the week between, we lay down, we rise, we eat and work and rest and play, and if we remember to, we watch the dancing stars.