Today (May 15) was the 40th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood!
I didn't even know until I got home from church to an email from Louie Crew--a remarkable guy from New Jersey who is a big deal in the Episcopal Church as a lay person. Louie sends me a birthday greeting and an ordination anniversary greeting every year. I'm sure he sends them to every priest in the church and has a computer programmed to send them out, but even so, I profoundly appreciate his greetings.
So, why didn't I remember it was my anniversary?
Other priests I know are always sure of their anniversary of ordination. Bryan Spinks, who works with me in the Cluster, is having a special mass for his 40th next month, when I'll be in Italy. Bill, who comes to my Tuesday group is also having a celebration of his 50th while I'm gone.
Why don't I remember?
It can't be because it doesn't matter to me. Much of my identity--along with husband, father, grandfather, is tied up in being a priest. It's what I've been for 40 years, for goodness sake--about60% of my life. I think of myself as a 'priest' most of my waking life and dream about horrible mess ups of being a priest from time to time.
(I may have told you, I have a recurring dream of being in a huge theater with an altar, with famous people in the seats--Hillary Clinton, Julie Andrews, Andrew Young--people like that...and I come out with a 10 year old Black acolyte and open my Book of Common Prayer and it only has pictures and I can't remember how the service begins and eventually everyone but the acolyte leaves and he and I clean up. Pretty anxiety producing, huh?)
I remember my wedding Anniversary (June 5) and my children's and Bern's birthdays flawlessly. So why not when I was ordained?
In my mind it was June, not the middle of May, for some reason.
So I dug out my framed invitation to my ordination. Sure enough, May 15, 1986. St. James Church in Charleston, WV. Bern's cousin, Tony, did a drawing of a figure sitting on the ground hosting up a chalice and the words "Oh, taste and see how sweet the Lord is." The inside was the date and time and notice that the first of many 'dance eucharists' at St. James would be on the day of my first celebration of the eucharist. A wonderful member of St. James named Rimitha Spurlock had gotten the dozen or so teenage girls together and taught them liturgical dance--mostly to spirituals. They were great. Rimitha had danced with Cab Calloway before coming back to WV to care for her aging parents.
On the back of the invitation I had written these words:
My Good Friends,
You have been a part of me.
Your love and prayers and dreams, you encouragement, honesty and strength, your guidance, your hope and your faith in me have enriched me so. You have shared yourselves with me.
Now I invite you to share in one of the most important days of my life. Please join with me, with Bern and Josh (Mimi wasn't born then) and with the whole family of St. James Church in celebration, you and thanksgiving on the day of my ordination to the priesthood.
Seems like I should remember "one of the most important days of my life", doesn't it.
And every year I don't. I need to ponder that, why I don't remember.
Maybe it's this simple. Every day of 'being a priest' has been more important to me than the day I 'became a priest'. Maybe that's it. As simple as it sounds.
Anyway, remembered or not, happy anniversary to me. 40 years and counting....
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