Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Face Time

Or, "I'm so blogging this." (T-shirt?Button?)

Karen over at Kinesis posted about the first-ever East Bay Theology on Tap (a project of the Young Adult ministry of the Diocese). The subject? Blogging! I asked if middle-aged faithbloggers were welcome and she said "sure". I had meant to be mostly an observer but I ended up talking a lot (hopefully not out of line).

It was a very enjoyable evening and the questions people asked made me think about why and how I do it. One thing that has struck me recently (partly because I was reviewing my life for my "spiritual autobiography" for EFM) is what a small world a lot of the ECUSA is and how much that reminded me of growing up in the same small town my mother (and previous generations) had grown up in. I tried to more or less behave myself from a fairly early age because people were watching and if I misbehaved, word would get around and I would get in some kind of trouble. They're not likely to tell my mother these days, but there are real people out there whose feelings can get hurt, so I'm still trying to behave myself.

If you're reading for the first time - welcome! Please drop by the comments to say hi. If you'd like some tips to interesting faith blogs, I'd like to point out my cohorts at the Open Thou our Lips project. I was pulled into faithblogging by bls (as well as by Sara of Going Jesus), and met LutheranChik and *Christopher through there. (Actually I think this is how I learned about Karen's blog, too.)

I met Mike (a RC deacon) at a mutual friend's ordination and have been following his regular and travel LJs with great wonder since.

They all have very different styles but they are putting it out there and keeping it real. They are an inspiration. I am glad to know them.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Cat who Came to Church

Long before I attended St. Spike's regularly, I knew of Brigid, one of the Resident Felines. I first encountered her one Ash Wednesday; I dutifully trooped up to the rail to get my ashes, and was boggled when I trooped back down the side aisle to see a large gray tabby perched placidly on the childrens' toy basket in the front of the nave, calmly observing as a church full of people passed by her. On my second trip down after Communion, I stopped and gave her a scritchie. She accepted it as her due. I was utterly charmed when I read the bulletin later and noted that she (and the other cat) were listed under "staff" (Felines Brigid, Julian).

I heard via the fabulous Sara of Going Jesus of a large, well-loved cat who attended early service at a Berkeley church vocalizing if she desired attention and knew the church and the cat instantly.

When I popped into early service myself for the first time, there she was. (I knew she was Brigid, not Julian, because she had allowed me to inspect her collar at the Easter Vigil.) No chance to give her a scritchie, as she was comfortably ensconsced on Dave's lap during the readings and the sermon (although Dave evicted her during the Gospel reading). The chapel felt like a sacred space version of my living room - peaceful, good light, and with a mellow feline in residence. (Usually she would make her rounds and then settle in on one of the chairs for a nap.) I felt, quite literally, at home and decided to stick around. When I started mostly going to 10 am, Brigid was around in the courtyard before and after the services greeting her fan club. (She also usually graced evening classes and committee meetings.)

Anyone who has been around St. Spike's for a while, especially at the early service, has a Brigid story to tell. I heard some of the classics ("When E. dropped the chalice") and was around myself for some of Brigid's continued adventures. One night when I was in the church setting up for a Eucharist the next day, we heard mewing like she was trapped, and we opened every cabinet in the sacristry area to see if we could find her. Turned out she was in the crawl space and we were hearing her well because of the special drain we have in the sacristry for disposing of consecrated liquids which goes "to the ground" (e.g. fewer building layers). And I almost disgraced myself laughing after one of the most solemn services of the year when Brigid brought in a live mouse and started chasing it around Rector's feet in the acolyte's room. It reminded me so much of Maya in her Mighty Huntress days that, even though I managed to not burst out in mad giggle fits, I was no help at all getting the mouse out of the church. (I did get one of those lidded dustpan things for the sacristry Stuff Cabinet, though.)

Brigid was my special pal at the church after Maya died, because her attitude reminded me so much of Maya. So she always got a hello and a special scritch from me, even if I was shooing her out of the sacristry at the time (because we didn't want her to get trapped in the closet). If I didn't see her on Sunday, I missed her.

I swung by the church today to pick up some items I'd left and made some remark about the open sanctuary door to the sexton, to learn that Brigid had died on Thursday after being hit by a car. I hope it was sudden for her and that she did not suffer. In a lot of ways it's like I'm losing Maya all over again, so I've been rather weepy (although remembering the story of the mouse in the sacristry made me laugh). I will miss her, as will the other FoBs (Friends of Brigid). She was a very fine cat indeed.

Here's a photo of Brigid on the Rector's Chair, taken in late May:

The Lion of St. Mark's

Thursday, September 15, 2005

An old friend, in an unexpected place

Today, for some reason, I poked my nose into the Morning Prayer service published by the fine people at Mission St. Clare. I don't do this often, because I have a Daily Office book now.

But poke I did ... and they were celebrating none other than the Divine Poet, Dante Alighieri. I was delighted. I didn't know Dante had a day on the kalendar; I had been contemplating the "who are your patrons" thread on the Ship and dividing mine into "on" and "off". Sept. 15 makes sense, as he died on Sept. 14, but that's Holy Cross Day, a major feast, so I shall remember it in future. And I've been thinking of him, as I prepare to write my "spiritual autobiography" for my EFM class, in which he figures prominently. I was idly thinking last night (not remembering it was Holy Cross) about re-reading the Commedia. But it was, in any case, lovely to see.

(The MSC writeup is quite extensive. One of my fellow Dantisti must have had a hand in it.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A trip to the East

I've been a stress puppy, as you all know. A friend who is a devotee of Amma suggested that I take the meditation class they offer (no worship of Amma required). A class was coming up at the ashram in San Ramon, and at $15 it was a deal, so up I signed, and at an early hour Saturday morning, I was in my car zooming east into the suburbs.

The class was in the temple, and I smiled to see the decorated dais, with flowers, other decorations, and candles adorning (or near) the ceremonial pictures of Amma. My eyebrows raised a little bit when we started the class out with a puja or worship service, but I was being Ms. Mellow and maintained a respectful silence. (I do regard Amma as a holy woman.) It probably helped that a lot of the ceremonial chanting was in Sanskrit, which I don't understand; I could think how similar it was to certain parts of my own tradition. I imagine someone walking in off the street and hearing us sing/chant in pretty good unison at St. Spike's might think it was bizarre, and more so if English were not their first language (or were we doing it in Latin, which we don't as a congregation). The 108 names of Amma were chanted by a leader, with responses, which made me think of the Litany of the Saints (or even something like the names of Mary ... although that is out of my own tradition).

We burned incense (which smelled sweet, and reminded me of Evensong at my own church), and the rose petals and chocolate kisses that had been present at the worship were consecrated by it and must needs be disposed of properly - the chocolate down the hatch, the rose petals buried. Not only did that sound very, very familiar to Ms. Altar Guild here, I thought that the idea of Holy Chocolate in a modern religion quite a brilliant one. It's not my tradition, and I would be shocked to the core if someone tried it at St. Spike's, but I can respect it.

We kept our shoes off in the temple, and many of the faithful prostrated themselves before the picture of Amma.

There was a bit of a commercial (only to be understood) about the ashram's regular activities - the teacher was quite enthusiastic about "bhajans", which are Hindi hymn sings. It was described as being like black gospel singing, but in a lot of languages singing about God. Now this both amused and annoyed me; amused because "hey, if it's *Eastern* religion, it's ok" and annoyed because, well, I think a lot of white-bread Christianity has dropped the ball on things like meditation and ritual and chanting and incense and singing for a joyful noise that are legitimately part of our own freakin' tradition and got dropped in the name of "modernity" only to send seekers who respond to that sort of thing elsewhere. And I certainly think that Amma, with her constant urging of her followers towards love, service, and compassion, is a much better role model than a lot of very public Christians. (Which distresses me, not because little ol' universalist me thinks Amma and her followers are going to Hell, but because the Christians are bad enough examples that a lot of people think we're all like that.)

National crises like the one we're going through do, in my opinion, show what people are really made of, and it's really shown the ugly side of a lot of people.

I was very happy to be back at St. Spike's for Evensong; we had incense, and flowers, and candles, lots of posture changes, and lots and lots of singing and chanting. And afterwards we had food - not consecrated but a gift of God nonetheless. It was especially meaningful to be there on the anniversary of 9/11 - our celebrant and our guest organist had both Been There in lower Manhattan - and in mourning (in a lot of ways) for events more recent as well. I felt a part of the communion of saints. And, like Warren Zevon said, I enjoyed every sandwich.

It has been interesting, and indeed, enlightening to see another tradition's "take". Some times I would like to prostrate myself at St. Spike's, but that is one of the things that might Cause Comment, so I leave it for my private prayer. (I guess I could nip into the chapel, which does have the advantage of carpet.) I'm also thinking of doing my altar guild set up shoeless to see if it works as a mind-experiment in recreating sacred space as I bustle about the chancel. (I think the church is beautiful when it's empty, mind, and I really enjoy the peace. It can be quite meditative.)

The grounds of the ashram were beautiful. I really want to go to the next retreat at the Bishop's Ranch to see if they're similar. Orchards, flowers, vegetables, a pond, and all sorts of wonderful wildlife tucked in those lion-colored hills. Gorgeous.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


The Evensong and Organ Recital series starts up at my church again and that makes me happy.

The series starts this Sunday, the eleventh of September. I'm taking a pass on a potluck dinner with the Berkeley EFM "gang" (half of whom I haven't met because they are part of The Other Parish Doing This With Us) to be there. Well, after taking a meditation class for all Saturday and Sunday morning, I appreciate the chance to worship with the community.

NYC readers - we are having the organist from Smoky Mary's as our recital artist, in honor of the date. We will probably not be as smoky as they are, because we have this big light building ... although if Louis Weil celebrates, he can actually fog the place up pretty well.

SF Bay Area readers - if you would like to come, please let me know. (comment should be fine) I will probably be slicing things in the kitchen across the courtyard from the sanctuary before the 5:30 start time. Yes, there will be food after the organ recital; we usually have a pretty good spread.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Law of Love

As Emily, LutheranChik, Susie, and Dylan have pointed out, this past Sunday's Gospel is difficult, especially coming on the heels of such an immense tragedy. (Although there is that incredible promise at the end, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.")

At St. Spike's, the deacon preached on the Epistle instead. The following really resonated in the light of last week:

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

I've seen a lot of love, expressed in good wishes and practical acts of caring, collective towards the shocking number of Katrina victims and far more up close and personal, this last week or so. It's been really profound. Those of you who are in the affected areas (including all those towns that people have landed in), and did NOT have a restful LD weekend, I salute you. If there is something specific I can help out with, let me know.

I've had three days of pretty much doing doodly squat. Well, there were a couple of things I should have done, that I didn't, because I was dinking around in the kitchen and on the computer. But it's been restful, and rejuvenating. This morning, as I was puttering around the place after cooking up my NOLA-themed Paper Chef entry (YESSS! I COOKED!!!) I came up with an idea for My Personal Relief Project. Which also involves food - fund raiser chocolate truffles for the Altar Guild, proceeds to be used to buy some parish Stuff that they lost in the storm. (I have to run this by Madame la Directrice.)

So brain is definitely thinking in normal directions.

I have this week to get through. We'll see how it goes. Baby steps. But like we have heard in the news a lot lately, I think I've turned a corner. And I am thankful I had a smaller corner to turn.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Seeing Daylight

I would like to thank all of you lovely people for your prayers. I got some medical assistance this week that has helped me out of the downward spiral. (I had no idea how much the High Anxiety was messing with my mind.) I am not out of the woods but things are definitely looking up. I am about to run an errand and then chop things for a big pot of Creole stuff for this weekend's NOLA-themed Paper Chef event. The fact that I am thinking about cooking means that my brain is starting to function along its normal lines.

May the prayers which I know you are fervently offering for all in the storm's path bring them as much hope and relief as I am feeling right now.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Blog Aid for Hurricane Victims

I am, even in my debilitated physical and mental state, utterly stunned at the extent of the one-two punch in the Crescent City and in the MS/AL gulf. I think that every city in this land should have a jazz funeral to commemorate the dead and the diaspora, and do Fat Tuesday/crawfish feeds for relief charity.

Via bls over at The Topmost Apple I learned of the Blog for Relief day sponsored by The Truth Laid Bear.

Like bls, I will be sending a contribution to Episcopal Relief and Development, a worthy (and low overhead) organization that is already "on the ground". If you do not have a pet charity that you like giving to, please consider them. They do good work.

At this point I can't do much more than this (and pray). Lord, have mercy.

TTLB roundup

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