Monday, May 23, 2016

2nd Sunday at Bruton - Gifts and Superpowers

Yesterday was my second Sunday as the Associate Rector for Outreach and Women's Ministries at Bruton Parish Church.  It was my first Sunday at the 7:30 service.  Jan was the preacher, and I was the celebrant.  Sunday services at Bruton begin with announcements, so after entering from the sacristy with Jan and the two Eucharistic Ministers, reverencing the altar, and moving to the crossing, I introduced myself to the congregation.  They clapped.  I was surprised and pleased.  I'm going to have fun when I get to be at that service.  After highlighting a few announcements from the bulletin, I began celebrating the first Eucharist of my time on the staff at Bruton.  Of course I've celebrated the recovery Eucharist once a month at Bruton for the past three years on the first Friday of each month.  But this was my first time for a Sunday morning. 

For the next two services, I was what they call "2nd paten."  This person processes in, sits in the middle chair of the rector's box during the Ministry of the Word, and then distributes the wafers during Communion.  Serving Christ's body to the people of God is something I could do all day long.  Seeing each face, knowing that each is a beloved child of God, smiling at them if they make eye contact, blessing them, being a channel for God's love - it just doesn't get any better than that.

Second paten was also a good role for me yesterday because the services were a little more complicated with the choirs singing a Haydn Mass at both the 9:15 and the 11:15.  It was lovely.  Beautiful, soaring music made Trinity Sunday especially festive.  And, I was glad that I didn't have the responsibility for knowing when we were to stand and sit.

Yesterday we also dedicated new kneelers that go around the altar rail.  Stitchers have been working for a long time needlepointing the cushions to help celebrate Bruton's 300th anniversary.  Many of the stitchers were present yesterday at the 9:15 service for the dedication.  I have done some cross-stitch in my time, but nothing like these kneelers.  They are stunning.  I remember seeing one of them in progress when visiting my colleague, Mollie Douglas Turner.  They will be a blessing to both people associated with Bruton and the many visitors who tour the church each year.

Here are a couple more:

Bruton is also developing a flower guild to do the flowers each Sunday.  I have often been blessed to be at churches where people have the gift of arranging flowers in creative ways.  Because of my connection with nature, I am grateful that flowers are a part of the way we glorify God.  And I am so thankful that there are people with the gift for arranging them!  Craftiness is a gift I did not receive, and I so appreciate and admire it in others.  The same person who sang the soprano solos during the Haydn Mass also helped arrange yesterday's flowers.  Every time I hear her sing, I tell her that she sounds like an angel - I could listen to her forever.  It's clear that she has other gifts as well.  So many people contributing in so many ways to make the service beautiful. 

As for me, I learned again what my best gift (or superpower) is.  My smile.  So many people commented on it.  No matter how many times people tell me that they appreciate my smile, I am always surprised.  It's not something I work at.  It truly is a gift.  It comes naturally and easily to me.  What a wonderful world God has created in which we all get to use our gifts to bless others. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016


In the 1990's I spent five summers as a stage manager at the Interlochen Center for the Arts near Traverse City, Michigan.  Northwest Michigan is a lovely place to spend the summer - low humidity, breezes off the lakes, long days where it seems like the sun will never set.  Each summer as I walked around campus, I enjoyed listening to the music from orchestras rehearsing in outdoor concert spaces and individuals practicing in the tiny wooden cabins scattered through the trees.  On Sunday nights I usually attended the World Youth Symphony Orchestra concerts in Kresge Auditorium, a covered space with open sides and glass windows behind the stage that allowed us to see the movement of the lake while listening to the strains of a famous composer's symphony. 

Working with student actors and professional directors and designers brought me joy.  Each summer I stage managed the Shakespeare play and the 10-day show.  We rehearsed morning and evening with time for paper work and meetings in the afternoon.  We had Monday afternoons off - time for naps or canoe trips or trips to Grand Traverse Bay.  One summer we even drove out to Lake Michigan at night for the spectacular Perseid meteor shower.

I loved my summers at Interlochen.

Except.  Each year I had to acclimate.  The staff arrived a week ahead of the campers in order to get everything ready.  I was the stage manager of the 10-day play.  This meant that the day the students arrived we held auditions.  We had ten days to cast, block, rehearse, and tech the show before we opened.  It never seemed possible, though we always made it work.  My first summer we did The Rimers of Eldritch, and another year was To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday.  I can't remember the other years, though I'm sure I have records somewhere.

During a phone call to my mother in my 3rd or 4th summer, I guess I was complaining about the stress of the opening production when she said, "You get like this at this time every summer.  You hate transitions."  I was shocked to hear her say it.  At first I was even a bit offended.  Whatever problem that I was discussing felt unique to that time and place.  I didn't have the same complaints every year! 

As I thought about her comment longer, I realized that she was right.  The 10-day play was always stressful, and then we got through it and the rest of the summer unfolded more gently, at least until tech for the Shakespeare and Musical shows.  Once those first two weeks were over, I had more time for walks and chats by the lake and bonfires on the bluff and getting to know campers and staff and enjoying northwestern Michigan.  But at the beginning, in addition to that quick start with the play, I also had to adjust to new living quarters, food, schedule, weather (sometimes freezing, even in June!), roommates, directors, leadership, rules, etc.  Plus there was the uniform - light blue shirts with navy shorts, or navy corduroy knickers or skirts for cooler temperatures. 

I agreed with my mom - I did not like transitions.

I'm in one now. 

On May 1 I had a glorious send-off from St. Stephen's, complete with a beautiful cake, cards, presents, kind words and hugs, prayers, and even an azalea for me to take home.  It was hard to say good-bye, even though I'm just moving a little bit up the road.  Jan and I spent the next week in Colorado, hanging out with my niece and nephew for the weekend while my brother and sister-in-law celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary at the Kentucky Derby.  We also had the opportunity to meet with the Bishop of Colorado, attend the Wilderness service at St. John's Cathedral in Denver, explore the red rocks of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, discover and walk the labyrinth at the Sanctuary Center in Castle Rock, and spend two days in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.  As much as I may dislike transition, I sure do like vacation!!

Actually, I'm not sure I hate transition anymore, it just leaves me feeling uncomfortable.  So many unknowns.  So much to be learned and figured out.  The struggle to remain authentic in the midst of new expectations.  Adjusting self-care to fit new schedules.  And as happy as I am not to be driving down I-64 three times a week anymore, Costco is no longer on may way home.

When I was in Denver I spend some time watching my nephew play one of his superheroes games on the big screen TV.  He was explaining the various characters to me ahead of us going to see Captain America.  I'm not a video game fan, and I haven't followed the Avengers movies, but I found myself thinking about my nephew as he guided a character through the game.  I never understood the point of the game, but he seemed to be having a grand time making the characters use their different powers and change into various forms.  When an obstacle came - he just adapted to it. 

I spend a lot of time saying, "Why is this problem happening to me?  How come this obstacle is interfering with my day?  Why can't everything just go smoothly?"  Well that's not life.  Instead of being irritated, why not use a superpower to deal with it and see it as a challenge?  My superpowers may be different from the ones in my nephew's game, but I've learned a thing or two in life.  I can do hard things.  I can adapt when something new comes my way.

In a recent conversation with my colleague and friend, Sven, he suggested that I change my mantra from "I'm bad at transitions" to "I used to be bad at transitions.  Now I'm embracing them."  Yeah.  That.