Thursday, April 19, 2007

A new parish home!

Okay, so I did move quickly. :-) I'd very much missed having a parish home, a parish family, and that contributed to the unsettled feeling I described in my last post. Today, I met with the rector of Old Donation, and after we talked I filled out the parish information form to request my transfer from my former parish.

Below is an account I wrote for friends back in January describing the sense of alienation I'd been feeling in my former parish, and why it no longer felt like home to me:

I'm feeling rather like I'm being pushed out of my parish family. Some of that is me, and a lot of it is my perception of things that probably have nothing to do with me, but the feeling persists. I taught middle school Sunday school for a couple years, from 2003-05. I loved being with "my kids," but we all felt stifled by the curriculum. I know that J2A and Rite 13 are great curricula, but they responded so much better when we just came in with a general topic, and let the discussion go where it wanted to, rather than trying to stick to prescribed lessons. (And I'm usually someone who prefers things like prescribed lessons - I'm generally out of my comfort zone when I'm winging it into the uncharted wilderness. But the willingness to suspend my control over the lessons resulted in some pretty cool fruits for the kids and for me.) So in the spring of 2005, I "retired" from my class, but I asked our assistant rector, who was acting as our Christian Ed director at the time, to keep me on the substitute list. We talked about how I would probably be better suited to leading an adult discussion group, but nothing came of that. Nobody asked me to substitute once.

A big changeover happened when the lady who had managed the schedule for lectors, intercessors (who lead the Prayers of the People), lay healers, and chalice-bearers moved away, and someone new took over the schedule. Since that changeover happened, I was scheduled exactly twice, even though I served in all four of those capacities, and frequently had months where I served all four Sundays in the past. The second time I was scheduled, I never received a copy of the schedule, and I didn't know I was "on" until we got home from a weekend road trip and found a message on the answering machine wondering where I was. I did not get scheduled once after that. These ministries meant a lot to me, even though they took such a small portion of time. Standing at the lectern and proclaiming God's word, in the tradition of centuries upon centuries - that was an incredible experience. It was not about the attention or about being recognized, but being part of the worship for everyone there, being a vessel for the Holy Spirit in those specific and very traditional ways.

The strangest experience, though, was Palm Sunday last year. Our interim rector designed our procession into the nave to start outside, but it was unseasonably cold in Virginia Beach that day, so we all huddled in the narthex keeping warm until she called us to come outside, bless the palms, and process into the church singing All Glory Laud and Honor. I said hello and good morning to several people, but nobody spoke a word to me. I made eye contact - at least, I thought I did - but not a single person acknowledged that I was there. The only indication I got that anyone realized I was present that morning was that the priest passed me the Peace. Other than that, I might as well have been invisible. It was completely, one hundred percent bizarre, in fact, surreal, and I had no idea what to make of it.

Now, when I went to Old Donation today, I felt very much at home. I'd worshipped there several times in the past, and knew it to be a good place. Now I will be part of the family, and that feels great.