Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Ordination Accomplished"

Well, leave it to Rowena to get herself ordained on the day of the first big snowfall of the year! And on the day of the burial of Nelson Mandela, the feast day of St. John of the Cross and the anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Ian, our bishop, talked to and prayed with the congregation about Sandy Hook just before the processional. What I could hear from halfway down the steps to the narthex was lovely. And the time of silence was haunting, in a profound way.

But, as I knew it would, things went swimmingly. There were so many people who have loved Row for years there that I felt like a newcomer to the club. Her father, mother and aunt from the Bahamas were there. Row's mother told me she'd never seen snow before yesterday! Well, there was a bit of it to see.

Dean was still plowing the lot an hour before the ceremony. Lots of Cluster folks parked across Rt. 17 in the open lot there to give the visitors a shot at the church parking lot.

My plan--I was the Master of Ceremonies...the Boss of Details...which takes me about as far out of my comfort zone as I can get. I am a 'forest' guy, not a 'tree' guy. But I have done it before and actually enjoyed getting people where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. (One of Jung's theories is that as we age we move toward our less dominant functions. Extroverts become more introverted, feeling types become more thinking--like that. I certainly find that happening to me. I am a big old honking Intuitive type. I mean, I don't score on the S...Sensate--logical, step two after step one scale. So being MC forces me to be more organized. And to tell the truth, I kinda like it....)

My plan (as I was saying) was to take the processional from the parish house outside to the front door. But it was snowing to beat the band and low and behold I realized I had scoped out going through the under croft (Episcopal-speak for basement) and come up the stairs into the narthex (Episcopal-speak for front door hallway). I'd actually planned for the eventuality of inclement weather! I was startled that I had actually thought that through. (When, a half-million years ago, I was the Center Manager for RCEE in New Haven, which took women on welfare to good jobs in 16 weeks, I was also trying to get my father, in a nursing home in Hamden, on Title 9 because his money was running out. I couldn't get anywhere with the Welfare Department and asked RCEE's secretary, who was a graduate of the program, how she negotiated the madness of the Welfare Department when she was on welfare. She told me this: "When you're poor you function best in chaos....")

I actually told Rowena one of the first times we spoke that "I'm good in chaos...." With RCEE's secretary's help, I learned to go to the Welfare Department and start yelling as soon as I came in. I got my father on Title Nine the next time I went by creating chaos and dealing with it.

So the snow was a tad chaotic. Lots of people in the Cluster who would have wanted to be there were either snowed in or too unsure on bad roads. And lots of people from far away, I'm sure, checked the forecasts and stayed home.

In a perverse way, I was thankful for the weather. Had all those folks come there wouldn't have been room in the church for them, even standing room and our dream of closed-circuit TV for the parish house had been dashed. Those who came--150 or so--filled St. Andrew's to the lees and had a good show.

Ray, St. Andrew's musician, is, at heart, a jazz musician, used the piano for the processional--"There's a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place...." It was great even though I was half-way down the steps and dealing with 6 kids from the cluster with banners and a dove. They too were graceful though they were all, I believe 9 or under.

There were about 35 to 40 people in the processional. In a large urban church, that isn't much. But in a small, rural church it was impressive. I can't wait to see the video tape of it. It must have gone on a long time in that short center aisle.

Row had more presenters than anyone I've ever know. She said it was because her journey had been so 'long'--her process to ordination would have ore'whelmed a lesser person--and she wanted all the pieces to be represented. Three priests a RC nun and three or four lay folk presented her to the bishop. It was impressive to see the variety of people whose lives she had touched in some important way and who had touched her life as well.

There were over a dozen visiting priests. Considering that there were Advent Quite Days for priests at 4 or 5 locations that day and it was snowing like crazy, I found that impressive as well.

(Usually I believe Will Rodger's comment about Methodist ministers applies to Episcopal priests as well. Will said, "Methodist ministers are like manure. Spread out, they do a lot of good. But all in one place, they tend to stink a bit....") But the clergy who showed up for Rowena were not smelly at all. I knew most of them and one of them served as a seminarian when I was at St. John's in Waterbury. Another of them was a parishioner 3 decades ago and is a priest now. The Bishop, Ian Douglas, as well was a parishioner of the church I served almost 3 decades ago. Also, the priest whose place Rowena is taking was there. She works at Diocesan House. I love her and love Harlan and love Nancy and love Ian. They are part of my past as well as Rowena's. What a joy that our two river's through life have run through some of the same places and people.

Linda preached. I'm a deft critic of preaching since I think I do it very well. I used to introduce people to Malinda, who worked with me for years, as "the second best preacher in Connecticut". I think she is. And it leaves no doubt as to who 'the best' is. Linda's sermon was very good. And the blessing she shared with Row was amazing.

And Row...well, she was the prize of the day by design. She is a humble and sweet person (not 'sweet' like saccharin, but sweet like honey from the comb, like syrup from the maple tree--a 'sweet' that endures and brings joy) who is so full of integrity I'm a little threatened by her. And she has this smile that lights up, not just a room, but everyone's heart. And she smiled through the whole thing--the sermon, the songs, the interrigation by the bishop, the laying on of hands and everything before that and after. It was 'her day' and she shined. She even had ruby shoes. I kid you not--ruby shoes to die for. And she didn't click her heels once. She wasn't in Kansas anymore and she had no intention of ever going back there...

On a scale of 1-10, Row's ordination, for me, was an 11.8!

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.