I did so too wake up at 7am and think about going to Mass at 8. However, the mad kitten was purring madly, the coffee was perking and I hadn’t gotten to sleep until 3am so I opted for the 10am Mass. A little weaselly but the universe definitely has a way of getting you back.
I bundled myself off at a reasonable time and had a great time. Mind you, I was back in a church I had left and that would consider me a heretic because of what I do with Grace Independent but…overlooking our differences, it is entirely energizing to sit in a room full of people and sing. Plus I love the ritual and the meditative aspects of it. I am discovering that it is possible to maintain a balance between institution and belief. Not in the sense that one can ever make a corrupt institution acceptable, but that one can only benefit by acknowledging what remains good in the institution and allow it to help and support you while you work to completely undermine and replace it – : )
Then we got to the end of the service and the pastor stood up, announced she was retiring in the spring and then said she needed people who were good on ladders to stay and help take down the garlands and the wreaths. I stayed. So did another fellow. Several other people did to but they were ground-bound, taking the decorations of the pews and guilting people into taking the poinsettias home. The fellow went to the basement to get the taller ladder and I wound up with the rickety special. I would not be surprised if it is as old as the church. As I carried it onto the altar, one of the old duffs said, “Ay watch that one, it’ll close up on you when you are on it.”
Great. I spent all fall sick, finally feel better and now I am going to crack my head open on an altar trying to be nice. But then an even older member of the choir called out “Just climb up on the altar and stand on it, no …you don’t have to remove the cloths.” And suddenly there was this panic. There were three other guys with me and we all looked at each other like “climb up on the altar? Stand on the altar cloth?” It is amazing how deeply the rules about the sanctity of church objects can run. I thought the guy next to me was going to bolt. His wife looked panicked. So I quick quick jumped on the ladder and then onto the altar.
Mind you, this church was built in the early 1900s, even though it technically existed long before that, the original building burnt down. Here I was, standing on the altar, the big one, the original all the way in the back from when they used to have their backs to the congregation and were so far away you couldn’t hear the service. I was face to face with a 3-foot high gilt cross and as I raised my eyes to the top of the 4-foot diameter wreaths to see how they were attached, I noticed that some bright bunny had tied a loop of fishing line around the woodwork above the altar. Year after year they have hung those wreaths with bent cost hangers on the same fishing line. I reached up, lifted the wreaths down and handed them to the guys who literally fled into the hallway with them.
Then we all went for coffee and it was the pastor’s birthday. So we sang. Ate and left.
Grace gets into trouble for several reasons. On the mild side is the insistence on the tenents of Christian Pacificism and the placing of priority on Christ’s two commandments over all else. We believe truly that Christianity is found within the four gospels – end of story. Everything else was written by people trying to organize a group. But the thing that gets me in the most trouble is the part where, in each of the services, I say that you do not have to profess a faith or be baptized to join the communion AND, you don’t need anything more than a cup of water and a piece of bread to participate. “For God so made the world with ease he can surely make of what we have a good and holy thing.”
A heretic on a ladder fishing down wreaths while standing on a consecrated altar.
But we were all there for the same reason. It is a mistake to believe that every member of the congregation believes the same things and in the same way. Every person there has their own private faith. It is the community, the sense of belonging and sharing that draws most people to join in a worship group. It does not matter whether that group is in a church, a mosque, a synagogue or a grove of trees – it is the gathering and sharing of community that makes the worship.
Without a doubt, this has been one of the finest New Year’s I have had in ages.
c.2012 ß—-YAY! Cassandra Tribe. All Rights reserved.