Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I just took an hour away from my desk to participate in an Ash Wednesday liturgy at a lovely Episcopal Church down the road. It was moving and healing and wonderful.

The short version of the story is: I've been to my parish church maybe twice since I had a really bizarre experience there last year on Palm Sunday. That experience was the when I realized how strongly I felt that I was being pushed out of the parish family, and it stung. I didn't understand why - I still don't - and I'm finally able to begin talking about it after about 10 months. But the ministries that I participated in began to fall away from me, and other people were scheduled to perform those ministries rather than me. When I offered help, it was politely brushed off. This may all have been coincidence, or not. I don't know. I am prepared to give my brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt, but it all still stings a bit. It doesn't help that the parish is in search for a new priest right now, and I've given much thought and prayer to the idea that maybe I was setting up these feelings in myself because I didn't want to let go of our former rector. But that thought and prayer led me to the conclusion that this wasn't the issue.

I have been craving worship, though. I've been hungering for liturgy, for standing and kneeling with my fellow Christians to praise God, to give thanks to God, to ask God's forgiveness, and to break the bread and drink the wine together. So today, I got to the church about 15 minutes before the service, and I sat with eyes closed and soaked up the silence.

This particular building is an older one, and a real gem. It has several creaks and groans that give it character. Silence is different, at every place, and at every time. Sometimes it's pure, absolute silence, with no sound at all. Sometimes you hear insects and birds. Sometimes there's a dog that barks right outside. Sometimes you hear the traffic on a busy road. And sometimes, in a lovely gem of a church, you hear the kneelers creak and the pews groan. And then you smile widely when a young mother bustles in two minutes before service time, her four-year-old daughter behind her, stage-whispering, "Momma, wait up!"

The service began, and we listened to the readings and prayed the psalms and received the cross of ashes and then... celebrated the Eucharist. I so needed a celebration of the Eucharist in my life. I needed to hear and to say some of those words -

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
And even better
By him and with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever. AMEN.

The priest was very welcoming - in fact, had recognized me from diocesan events in prior years - and a good friend is a member of the parish as well. He gave me big hugs and smiles and said it was great to see me. And it was great to see him, too. Almost everyone in the congregation there smiled and gave me The Peace, which was a little surprising to me since I was a first-time visitor and this was a somewhat different service from your ordinary Sunday morning. But it felt good, and I may go back again on a Sunday morning.

And I will share with you the traditional formula for the blessing after Eucharist, as this is my wish for you:
May the peace of God that passes all understanding
keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of Jesus,
and the blessing of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -
be upon you and remain with you always.

(Note: I am not an ordained priest, so I am not authorized to pronounce a blessing. That is why I said very carefully - this is my wish for you. And it is. Go in peace.)