Monday, July 25, 2005

Where charity abides

Emily of Hazelnut Reflections (hurray for Julian-inspired blogs!) has a wonderful post about an Evensong encounter in Canterbury several years ago.

When I was ten, my family was living in Bucharest for a year, and my mom was pregnant. That was right after the stories of the AIDS babies in Romanian orphanages broke, and our family went to Vienna, Austria to have the baby. This was in February 1991, during the first Gulf War. One afternoon, we went to the Naschmarkt. As we kids were staring wide-eyed at the vast array of stalls (especially after the scarcity and queues in just-post-Revolution Bucharest), a man behind a butcher counter heard us speaking English and asked if we were British.

"No, American," my dad replied. "Ah," the butcher replied. "I'm Iraqi." I remember I froze, preparing to close my ears against an onslaught of insults, to hurry my brother and sisters away as quickly as we could go.

"Well," the butcher said, after a moment. "Our countries may be at war, but we can be friends, no?" And he reached out his hand for my father to shake. Then he wrapped up several kinds of meat and sent them home with us. (We didn't want to spoil the moment by telling him we were vegetarian!)

The whole thing took less than five minutes. The Iraqi butcher probably forgot all about it a week later, when more customers came. But for 10-year-old me, it was a defining moment. The man was only an enemy in my mind. His instinct was for friendship and mine was for distrust.

Emily's post got me thinking about that Iraqi butcher and what a blessing it is when someone sees you as the person you are, not the person they're afraid of.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!

Everything and everyone. Karen over at Kinesis has a lovely post about finding her voice liturgically and personally. And Kathryn has posted about the music for her first Eucharist. She's absolutely right about a lively choir being able to shape teenage faith, as is her commenter that theology sticks with us more through music than through sermons. It's abundantly clear in classrooms that students retain more through participation in their own learning than they do from sitting and listening to lectures, so why wouldn't it be the same in church?

Whenever I think about great services that, if it pleases God, might be lurking in my future-- a wedding, baptism of my children, ordinations, funerals-- I think about the music. At this point, my wedding will be 4 hours long! Do I really have to choose between Byrd's Great Service (or Taverner's Western Wind Mass), Bairstow's "I Sat Down Under His Shadow", "Set Me as a Seal Upon Thy Heart", "O Taste and See", Verdi's "Laudi Alla Vergine Maria", and lots of hymns-- "Be Thou My Vision", "Immortal, Invisible", "Let All Mortal Flesh", "O Day of Peace" ("Jerusalem" for peaceniks)-- and of course, the really long "St. Patrick's Breastplate"? (On a day when two people are binding themselves together, I love the idea that they'd also be binding themselves to God and all creation.)

Nope, I'll just make sure there are cushions on the pews and cupholders for coffee mugs and tell the congregation to park it for a while. (I'm kidding. Or am I??)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hip hip hurray!

The General Synod of the Church of England has voted to begin removing "the legal obstacles to the ordination of women to the episcopate." British women will soon be bishops! So exciting, and so long overdue.

I was talking with an English priest about vocation and seminary and all that craziness, and he suggested that if I do pursue the priesthood, I go train in England. My heart leapt and suddenly, I became convinced that not only did I have a vocation, but I was meant to take off for the UK right then and there. (I may not be blessed/afflicted with a vocation, but I came down with rampant Anglophilia years ago.) But I don't know if I could join a church where I couldn't be a bishop. Not because I'm lusting for positions of power, but the thought of being regarded as secondary/lesser/junior/what have you to male counterparts... Grrr.

I hope my British sisters haven't been made to feel that way. I'm rather in awe of those who've gone ahead and answered the call to priesthood without the way being fully open. That must have taken a great deal of faith, and a great deal of surrendering one's self to God's call.

So many, many congrats today. However difficult the road has been, I'm confident that before long, some of the wonderful women linked on the right will be blogging bishops.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

England, England

Kathryn over at Good in Parts has been making me cry with her last few posts about her ordination. Her language is poetic and yet concrete; her stories so full of God's presence. I often find myself longing for that palpable sense of blessing, longing to know that what I believe in and what I worship is real-- for God to turn up, as she puts it.

And tonight she has me crying again (please, Kathryn, start posting about knitting or casseroles or head colds!) with a passage from Peter Abelard: A Novel that she's offering in light of the attacks in London this morning. Who knew that the pain of the world could be explained so simply, with a dead rabbit and a fallen tree?

God as fellow sufferer doesn't always make sense to me. If God is greater than us, why can't she stop pain and death and evil in their tracks? But a suffering God makes more sense than a God who doesn't suffer, who doesn't stop our suffering because it doesn't touch her.

Just as I have to believe in God, I have to believe God's mourning with the world tonight over all its aches and griefs. Even though she feels so very far away.