Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd
Friday, October 20, 2017

2011 Postings

Blog for Pentecost/Trinity Sunday, June 2011

     “Pentecost is our third great holiday.”

     I write it in our emails. I repeat it through the year. The children look at me as if to say what our daughter has said bluntly: “It’s the lame-o holiday, Mom.” We’re Low Church, so they don’t even get into wearing red. And we’re Episcopalian, so they’ve never seen the Spirit whack their parents upside the head like a tornado and make them speak in tongues.
     So, I try to use body worship sometimes. We tell the story of the disciples in the Upper Room and then go outside to let our bodies feel the wind and to invite the spirit into our resistant, fortified minds and hearts. Once, we did that and William looked up and called our attention to the way the wind moved the clouds. The sky was very blue that day and big white clouds scurried across, dragging fast-moving shadows over the children’s upturned faces. We were holding hands, and we felt the presence of the spirit among us as surely as ancient people had done 2,000 years ago.
     This week, I asked the children to do a variation of a Trinity Sunday lesson my friend Richard Johnson shared with me from his parish in Northern England some years ago. On a wide red banner on the floor, we wrote in large letters:
     FATHER                                SON                            HOLY SPIRIT
     How perfect and wonderful, I said, that we different people get to experience the presence of God in different forms. We sang the Doxology. I asked them to walk or sit next to the word that best helped them enter into the mysterious experience of God. We talked about God the Father, the creator, and how creation happens in us, in our own bodies, because God allows us to participate in creation. The Son is often called the Liberator, He who brings mercy. The Holy Spirit was to stay with us after Jesus’ ascension. It blows through us to help us speak to everyone in ways they can understand about the good news of God through Christ.
     I tell the story and ask questions all over the learning curve, hoping to pull them into thought and worship together. Together on this Sunday, we are two toddlers and two young women, two thirteen-year-olds, two approximately 11-year-olds, a six-year-old, and me. It is our usual one-room schoolhouse, with learning levels everywhere. It’s our take on our bulletin’s welcome: Wherever you are on your journey of faith
     “So, here, grab a marker. What color do you like? Is that one dried up? Which of these three feels closest to how you experience God?  Fathers? What do fathers contribute to creating new life?”
     “You mean like in a metaphor?”
     “No, actually, biologically. Tania, do you all know this yet? You know this, yes?”
     She half-grins and looks at the floor. “Ally knows.”
     Ally laughs and looks at the floor, too. William says: “Twenty-one chromosomes.”
     “Exactly! Your bodies make the building blocks and dump them and make more. Whoa. Thanks be to God. So we are to be very careful with this gift.”
     The teens and tweens move away from Father, except for Tania, who begins to color and decorate the word. Our young co-teacher, Parola, has gotten caught up in thinking about the categories. Wendy, mother of Sofia, watches both toddlers, dispenses markers, makes sure they do not suck them or write on themselves or their clothes while Parola moves along the banner. She perches at Son and thinks and writes, then goes to the Holy Spirit. Under Holy Spirit someone, maybe Parola, has written: “What Jesus left for us,” which later a 50-year-old parishioner says finally explains it for him.
     “All this time,” he says smiling, “nobody’s given it to me that clearly.”
     Something about the way he says it—the humor and camaraderie—make me think of another parishioner whose father has just died. I also think of my friend, whose cancer has spread to her liver and whose kidneys have shut down. My friend has had buoyant energy all our adult lives, a big, crazy laugh, and fierce love for her daughter. Once she told me about her daughter’s head lice, maybe upon her return from camp, and about driving to the drug store for the special shampoo and vacuuming upholstery and washing sheets and throwing away pillows in doubled-up plastic bags and contemplating full-household baldness until we cried and choked. Now in the hospital she says: “How do you leave your baby?” and I know she’s not asking me, but asking herself and God and the entire universe full of life and loss.
     Daniel says that he feels God when he gives to others. I ask him to write it somewhere, wherever he feels it. He doesn’t move immediately, and he makes a slightly uncomfortable face that I’ve learned is evidence that he’s grappling with worship’s demands. Then he moves to Holy Spirit. It is Pentecost, after all.
     Six-year-old Elliot, with popcorn energy, has slipped into the hallway and is telling us that he cannot open the door. He has to open the door to say so. We smile and ask him to join us. When he comes, I ask him to write, too. He picks a deep red marker: the hole spert halps us to feel.
L. Cary June 2011

Choosing a Blessing - our Church School class on January 30, 2011 
We read the Beatitudes today in our one-room schoolhouse, seven children from five to thirteen years old, and three adult women, including Parola Chery and, for the first time, Gail Branson, who’s joining us this winter. I took the introduction of the Sermon on the Mount from a Catholic Internet site. It reminded children of the harshness of life in Judea under the Roman empire, that more people were enslaved than free, that their lives were hard and mean and full of suffering, and that Jesus brought to them a radical glimpse into the mind of a God that privileged the poor over the powerful. As each child read one of the Beatitudes, we’d stop, try to understand, first actual words—meek, righteousness, persecute—then figurative language. Tefo’s eyes went wide when she repeated that she loved to think of being “hungry and thirsty” for righteousness. 
After communion, we returned to our loft and to the Beatitudes. They were to choose one to hold in their minds and say at night as they went to sleep. The idea was for them to find the blessing that they loved best, the one where Jesus spoke to them. Their choices suited them. Blessed are the meek; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are you when people insult you…because of me; blessed are the pure in heart.
I hope that these times will be of use for them, like a take-out pack of worship. Maybe something will stay with them and bless them. They make me think as they read of how, when the chiropractor nudges a finger into the muscle right between my shoulder blades, the grief is released and floods through me. It’s the place where my last book came from. I choose my own verse: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

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church photo by Timothy Shepherd