Sunday, January 08, 2006

Whole Lotta Churchin Goin On

I told my pastor friend's teenager today that going to church twice in one day is probably once too much. I sort of went three times today.

My title is Associate Pastor, but really my ROLE is what it was called under the previous guy (Minister of Pastoral Care), which means I mostly do a lot of praying, visiting, and praying. So my role in worship is small. I always lead the pastoral prayer, and really occasionally do other things. I sit in the pews with the congregation, I do not wear a robe.

So today, I had my usual small role, but it felt a lot bigger because we had twice as many people as usual in worship. Some of them were a delightful extended family, there for the baptism of a gentle, mellow baby. Others were...I guess...just showing up at church for their annual renewal of baptismal vows? I don't know, but there were lots of visitors, so I had lots of extra greeting, explaining and directing to do, which was very fun but as I seem to be growing more and more into my introvert, tiring too.

The sr pastor preached on parent imagery for God, saying "imagine all the ways you love a child, and know that God loves you just like that" which actually made me all squirmy with discomfort as I considered the many ways that I have been impatient, angry, frustrated and generally a failure with my own son. I really don't want to imagine God as someone who loves just like me. My love seems so inadequate. So the sermon left me sort of grumpy and unsettled.

After the service, a member of the church showed slides from her tour of duty on post Katrina clean-up, running a shelter for homeless people who had medical needs. Like Songbird's recent post, this talk was a gift from God, an eye-opening reminder of the on-going needs there. Stories that stick out from the talk: working to keep a woman with her dog, the only thing she had left, although the rules of the shelter technically forbade it; working to turn a 400 pound, bedridden man so his narrow, rickety army cot would not give him bed sores; working to figure out the medicines of of a mentally ill patient who remembered that every morning she took "three pink pills, a big white one and a little white one," but not what any of them were called. Working fourteen or fifteen hours a day on no sleep. Working, working, working for every small thing - a new pair of glasses, a driver's lisence, a place to call home. The response can only be, "how can we help?" We've sent money, but how else can we help? The question is singing in my head still - I think it will be my prayer this week. "What can we do next?"

The question still unanswered, still sitting heavily, rushed from there to the installation of the new pastor at the big church in town. Although I'm not really a big church kind of person, I will admit that the ritual spoken words of welcome and covenant, not to mention the humungous choir, heart-stopping music and general air of pomp and circumstance was pretty awesome. The very best part was the guest preacher, this rock star, Lillian Daniel (Here is the only picture I could find of her on-line. Lillian, dude, you totally rock! Tell whoever does your church website to put a big, big photo of you on there somewhere!). She was prophetic and funny and spiritual and smart - in short, everything that a preacher should be. She had THIS great one-liner, for example: "People sometimes tell me, 'that worship didn't do much for me' and I tell 'em, 'good thing it wasn't directed at you, then.'"

But there was something about this service - which was stirring on so many levels - which was well, just more MALE than I'm used to. I've been trying to explain this to myself for almost an hour and I keep typing and then erasing what I typed and trying again. These are good men, maybe even GREAT men, like my all time hero John Thomas, that I'm talking about. They may even call themselves feminists. I am certain that it would never be their intent to exlude women, or oppress them. But (with the notable exception of LIllian and few other very short parts for women) there were just so many of them.

I've been keeping up on-line with the Rev Gal Blog Pals and Rachelle and I've co-convened a women's clergy group locally and at our church both us pastors are women, and I think I've really gotten used to a way that woman lead liturgy and a way women sound. Which is different in such a subtle way, that I can't even put my finger on it, except to say that this morning we sang "I was there to hear your borning cry" and "Spirit, spirit of gentleness" and then at the installation we sang "Beneath the cross of Jesus" and "Lift High the Cross." Does that make any sense?

I am grateful for both ways to worship, and at different times I can be fed by both (when I'm feeling really down with Jesus, for example, I just dont want to hear another thing about Sophia....), but I am aware that there's a certain way of being in worship that feels like home, and another way in which I am a visitor. It makes me wonder who's feeling like a visitor in the pews that feel like home to me, and whether I can do anything about it. Everything that we create, liturgy included, comes out of this lived experience, you know? Seems like the only way to have real inclusive language in worship is to have as many diverse voices as possible in on the planning. Or to accept you can't feed all the sheep and just let them fade away. Both are uncomfortable to me. More questions with no easy answers.

So then it was 4:00 and time for our regular Sunday night dinner potluck with a few good friends that feels like church, espeically when we hold hands and sing before we eat and then the kids don't eat anything because they are way too busy building forts out of the couch cushions.

And now, I've definately had enough church, and enough questions for one day. Time for prayer and then, hopefully, rest.

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