Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Running Like Mad, then Screeching to a Halt

Most of last week seemed to be spent at church. Preparations were underway for a huge weekend of activities and momentous events. We were gearing up for the ordination of our Assistant Rector and the celebration of our 40th Anniversary as a church. Volunteering for the liturgy planning committee for the 40th Anniversary festivities got me the job of coordinating a fellowship walk to be held on Saturday and a streamers in the garden activity to be done after the celebration service. This was my first time being involved in something like this. It was exciting! It was also stress filled! I gained a lot of awareness of how things work around the church and how much work goes into some things. For all the help I got I'm very thankful!

The idea of streamers came during a planning meeting and it's purpose was to let people share what they found of value and happiness by being a part of our church. They would write a word or phrase on a brightly colored paper ornament and hang it in our prayer garden. Our Sexton, Esther, helped me set up the streamers in the garden activity. We picked out colors of paper, decided on 3 shapes (circle, rectangle, and star), chose decorating materials, and then saw to the printing of some of them. Our Parish Coordinator, Priscilla, got the rest printed. Esther also gathered the ribbons needed for hanging them; our other sexton, Eduardo, hung string between trees so that we had somewhere to hang them (we'd just trimmed the garden trees losing all the lower branches in the process). But the work of assembling them still needed doing. So, on Friday, the wonderful folk of the bulletin folding crew and I, cut out the ornaments, punched holes in them, and attached ribbons. I showed up at the start of bulletin folding and helped with that too. On Sunday the garden was very festive looking with colored paper ornaments fluttering throughout.

Friday afternoon's folding and ornament set up finished at 4:15 PM. Since I am in the choir I needed to be back at 6:00 PM, so I raced home, cleaned up, dressed in celebratory fashion, and headed back to church. The service was at 7:00. We robed for this event and looked pretty good in our red and gold. Extra choir members from other churches who wanted to share in honoring Matt arrived. With the extra voices we sounded better than ever. We sang a huge Handel number, Zadock the Priest, which had lots of vocal challenges to it.

The whole service was so exciting our attention hung on every moment. Matt's best friend from college gave the sermon and it was wonderful. He kidded Matt, and made good points about being a good priest in the process. The point of the sermon was that Matt was called to extra ordinary measures in his service. The camaraderie exhibited by them gave the whole service a warm friendly feel. The attendees got to step out of the normal role of congregation as we were invited forward to join with the priests as they placed their hands on Matt while the Bishop was ordaining and blessing him. When the service was ending Matt's first official function was to say the blessing. Then we went to Brown Hall for a really great reception. When I got home about 10:00 I had no problem falling asleep even though I was keyed up from all the excitement.

Saturday morning I was scheduled to celebrate Morning Prayer, so I got to the church about 6:45 AM. This is a wonderful way to start your day! You get scheduled time alone with God in the place where you worship him and do things that really focus you on Him. I'm thinking I'd like to do that more often.

After Daily Office was finished, I went home and made my sack lunch for the 10:30 events. A Fellowship Walk, picnic lunch, and Remembrance Altar build that had been Paschal's ideas were the events for the day. Those of us who showed up had a good time walking to St. Mary's Hall, which was where we held services before we had any structures on the 5 acres we bought to build our sanctuary on. Janet came along and told us all she could remember of the early days. Our church was started back in the 60's, a decade filled with turbulence, but our founding members had a vision of the future that included everyone that wanted a church home. So we deemed ourselves "reconcilers to the world" and became the Episcopal Church of Reconciliation.

Here we are on the Fellowship Walk, strolling down Starcrest. The day was nice and the company was the best!

This is the sign at the back gate of St. Mary's Hall's campus. We'd hoped to go inside and look around, but that would have needed more planning and coordination than we did.

When we got back we started right in on the altar build. That was a lot of fun, and we now have a lovely arrangement of memories on tables in our South Narthex. There are pictures of past priests and members, things from the children's classrooms, and too many symbols to list. I've only been at the church for 6 years and the only thing personal I'd thought to put on the altar was my Book of Common Prayer which I'd received when I was received into the church in 2003. I didn't because when I looked there were already two very appropriately historical versions already on it. Thinking about what I love about this place I realized that most of all I value the fellowship I've found there, so I went to the kitchen and borrowed a coffee cup and spoon to add to the altar.

Here's the Remembrance Altar in all it's glory. The painting on the side was done by Gordon West, a long time member of our church, for our first rector. The one behind the alter is the work of Tina Karagulian, wife to Paschal.

We ate our picnic lunches in the church library and enjoyed getting acquainted with Tina's family, playing a game with Paschal and Tina's son, and hearing more stories about the church and our newest priest. Both before and after these events I noticed lots of activity in Brown Hall. The dinner/reception committee and many volunteers were setting the tables and making the hall ready for Sunday's dinner. It was absolutely amazing! I headed home mid afternoon, and relaxed as much as I could, knowing that I needed to be back at church early for the choir practice and any additional setup needed for the streamers activity.

Here's what all the activity in Brown Hall created for us, a lovely dining room complete with banners hanging above us, to show off the trappings of our sanctuary through the seasons. We were set to handle 250 people.

This closeup of the place settings may give you an idea of the lengths gone to for this service and dinner. Those table runners were made at the church by a member who brought in her sewing machine for the day. By the time we sat down to eat, pine cones had been added, fresh rosemary stems for fragrance and remembrance, and the candles were all lit.

When I walked into the church on Sunday morning I noticed our rector, Robert, sitting on a bench in his street clothes, reading over the service for the day. It sounded like he was rehearsing. That seemed comforting somehow, and I found myself enjoying the idea that he practices like that before every service. I beat the choir director to church, heck, I beat most people in getting there. I had time to look around, find a cup of coffee, and get a hug or two from friends. Hugs seem to help me relax. You put your arms around someone warm and comforting, squeeze them together thus tightening the muscles, and when you let go, your muscles relax further than they had been pre-hug. I grabbed as many as I could.

The service went off beautifully! One of our members, James, had made a multimedia presentation that was awesome! In it, while playing old songs from the 60's, the times were remembered, the mission of our church, and it's history as it has grown. At one point the choir sang, "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry". The visuals finished with pictures of all the priests who'd been our rectors and the young priests they had helped get through seminary and become full priests at our church. One of our concerns when setting up the service was that we wanted the children to be involved. So Robert held a children's sermon. He got them to think about our beginnings as a church and how the founders were thinking of their future. He finished it by asking them to hug the founders in thanks and then stand beside them as he blessed them all. The sermon was by Sam Todd who was our second rector. In it he tied our first service celebrated on our new campus with the Christmas season (it had been on Dec. 24th, 1968) and our name, Reconciliation, with the advent of Christ and how he came into the world to reconcile us to God.

When the service was finished we all processed into the garden and remembered those of our members who had passed on but been remembered for their help in building up our community. Then we did the ornament activity and went in to eat a very nicely catered lunch. The whole meal was set before us by members who had volunteered to act as servers. We had 250 people in attendance and it was a three course meal so this was a lot of love being given out. While we were enjoying the wonderful food, Robert was up on the stage honoring those who helped accomplish all of this. He received a surprise or two himself, as the community had put together some things on its own. One of our members had gotten the artists among us to put together an album, to be added to through the years, of some of their works. There were some beautiful examples of art in it, including a full page of calligraphy complete with illumination. Our body had also commissioned a new hanging for the church in Robert's honor to be hung behind the altar. There was much symbolism in it. It was a cloth replication of a work of art by an artist he greatly admires. The painting it was based on is called "Finger 2". It's green, navy, and purple swirls looked like finger prints. The symbolism in the finger print is that through action and ministry we've all left our mark. Robert has certainly left his mark on our church and we are so blessed to have him as our rector. He's taking a 6 month sabbatical this year, but will come back refreshed and ready to take up the reins again and help us grow even more. And during his absence, our newest priest will be taking the reins in his very creative and capable hands.

After dinner was eaten, everyone who noticed how hard all the servers had worked stuck around and helped clean up. We cleared tables, stacked chairs, gathered in table cloths, and sorted out ornaments that had been used. When I got home just after 2:00 PM I felt a sense of contentment, but also the fading of the high energy that had been needed for the week. When I'd dropped everything and plopped into my chair, I called Mom and gave her a fairly full report. It's amazing that all of that only took 15 minutes to tell. That evening I talked to JSD and retold her as much as I could remember. Guess I needed the retelling to finish winding down.

Now the feeling of controlled chaos is over. The next week is started. The tension is not quite out of my shoulders, but I'm no longer running back and forth to church and calling or emailing people. After all of the activity high, it is sort of a letdown and I look forward to the next spurt, probably in preparation for the Christmas eve services. The picture at the beginning of this post is of the Fellowship walkers being goofy with our new church sign. Guess no one will ever call us serious now.


murat11 said...

Lee: A great "documentary" of the whole weekend. It was a wonderful three days all round.

Lee said...

It certainly was a great weekend, Paschal! And I'd do it all again!


Sandi McBride said...

Lee, thanks so much for sharing your activities of the past couple of weeks! I know you have been enjoying this so much...great post, letting us all join in!

Lee said...

Thank you, Sandi! Nice to know I didn't wear your ear off talking about it all week. LOL Glad you felt a joining in reading this.


jsd said...

wish i could have been there in body - but my thoughts where with y'all

Lee said...

And ours were with you, JS! Got art to send to you showing your spot on the altar!


Shrinky said...

My goodness Lee, I feel exhausted just listening to all the things you've packed into such a short space of time - where on Earth do you find the time to blog as well? I can read the pleasure and excitement you feel being so strongly connectected to those in your church, it certainly does seem a very joyful place.

Lee said...

LOL Thanks Shrinky! It did make for deep sleep a few nights. You're right! I've found a community I can bond with and it makes me happier than words can express.

Thanks for stopping in!


San said...

Wow, Lee, I remember when you posted about these events when they were just loose plans. Everything came together beautifully, thanks to the commitment of people like you!

I loved seeing all of the pictures, especially those of your fellow parishioners. Is that what you call them in the Episcopal Church--parishioners? And I recognized Tina's painting right away. I've gotten a feel for her style from Paschal's blog.

Lee said...

Thank you, San! I was so impressed by how much work everyone put in. It really showed the love we all hold for our church home.

Yes, parishioners is the right term. No surprise that you recognized Tina's work. When ever I see that particular painting, I remember the similar one you have hanging in the gallery. They are lovely images.


david mcmahon said...

Love the idea of the Fellowship Walk, Lee.

Lee said...

Thank you, David. It was a nice way to spend part of the day and I learned so much about the church's history.


myonlyphoto said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2009. Anna :)

Lee said...

Thank you, Anna! What a lovely way to deliver Christmas greetings! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year back!

Peace! Hope! & Joy!