[FirstChurch Mailing List] Rest and Bread tonight at 6:30, then DeaconsAs I said, before service, Laura Ruth asked me to come up to her office. I had a brief moment of, "Are you going to have bad news for me about diaconal decisions about my involvement in this service?" (because she had told me before service in a previous week that because I'm not officially a member of this church or anything, there's diaconal polity stuff -- so that the Deacons can be held accountable for this service that happens under the auspices of this church -- and she said that she wanted me to know how much I was valued; and I kind of shrugged [even though an internal part of me was chafing and calling shenanigans] and said that I knew that the people who mattered -- her and Keith and all -- I knew that they valued me ... and I knew that I would get to continue to be involved in the service the same way I have been for two years; I don't actually need to have it be me and Keith doing everything, even though I'd sort of been assuming that's what would happen after Laura Ruth left) but of course it wasn't that.
Since May 21, 2008, Keith [surname redacted] and I, in combination with lots of folks, especially Elizabeth [misspelled surname redacted], and now with Tara [surname redacted], and with lots of support from our Deacons, have led the weekly Service of Rest and Bread. We began the service because we wanted to have a place to for a small, more intimate experience of each other with God than is possible on Sunday morning. Many people have attended this service and we have been blessed to pray and have communion together.
This service will go on with the capable and caring leadership of Keith and the support of our Deacons. Others like Jason [surname redacted] and Jeff [surname redacted] will help Keith, Elizabeth, and Tara. I praise God for these brother and sister pilgrims who like all of us, long to know God and be known by God, and so offer their gifts to this service.
Tonight will be my last night at Rest and Bread. As usual we will sing, pray, and share Communion. Our service begins at 6:30. Music for meditation begins at 6:15.
We'd be so tickled to see you.
Our Deacons will meet afterward.
She told me about Nancy Richardson, a lesbian who was her boss for some years at HDS, who believed that God's [she didn't say "kingdom," but something along those lines of the New Heaven and the New Earth or whatever] won't come until God's justice is come (I was reminded of CWM's theology), and her passion for justice work was anti-racism work, and Laura Ruth so admired her, and she gave Laura Ruth a copy of Nan Merrill's Psalms for Praying, and Laura Ruth keeps giving her copy away. Merrill uses "Love" instead of "God" or whatever, which Laura Ruth said was "the ultimate inclusive language," and so she thought of me -- "in the lineage of giving this book to women I adore..." I was really surprised that I didn't cry, but I hugged her A LOT. Yeah, my body knew what it needed.
As we were nearing 6:15, I asked if we were going to pray before service, and so Laura Ruth and Keith and Tara and I went out into Fellowship Hall and Laura Ruth prayed, "we two, and three, and now four."
"Abide With Me" has long been our standard closing hymn, but we change the music for liturgical seasons, so now that we're in Eastertide we haven't sung it since before Lent. We brought it back for this service (as the opening song).
So when the music for meditation that Keith put on opened with an instrumental version of "Abide With Me," Laura Ruth laughed. (It also included instrumentals of "It Is Well With My Soul" and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness.")
Laura Ruth did the Welcome. She talked about how this service will continue after she has left -- Keith will lead, and he will call on many people to help -- "especially Elizabeth, who has been helping all along." (My immediate thought was, "Oh, this is the thing you were talking about -- about how I'm not officially a member of this church or anything, so it doesn't get to officially be "Keith and me" leading this ... it's Keith leading it, and my helping.")
The Sacred Text was the Good Samaritan story from Luke (10:25-37).
In her Reflection, Laura Ruth said we spend our first few decades of life differentiating ourselves, and that's good and important, but spiritual maturity is identifying with others so we can identify with God.
We had 13 people present (including Laura Ruth) plus baby Nora. Some people were definitely crying, especially as Laura Ruth talked about the fact that she would be leaving, but I didn't cry at all.
I did find myself a little choked-up in the brain trying to do the Call to Confession (in part because I was a little thrown out of my element -- I had gotten up to get an additional chair for a latecomer as Keith was explaining that we would be doing Prayers a little differently this night -- ending with Blessings rather than Prayers of Thanksgiving). (I apparently can actually do the Assurance of Grace almost from memory -- though I still often feel like I'm getting it wrong, because it's so repetitive. Jesus said, Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads. And I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest; for the yoke I will give you is easy and the load I will put on you is light. We are a forgiven people.)
And during Communion, as we were nearing the end, it occurred to me that this would be the last time I would commune Laura Ruth. And when I told her, "This is the Bread of Life, that you might have life abundant," I could feel myself all choked up.
Before service, as we were going through the bulletin, Keith told me that "Walking With You Is My Prayer" (the closing song) is the first song Laura Ruth taught them at one of her first church things with them -- so it was a nice symmetry. I wasn't there for that original instance, so it didn't have that tearful emotional resonance for me, but as we neared the end, as I started to really sink into the meaning of what I was singing (communion of saints and all that -- about how we do this work together, and we will continue to do this work together even though it's a different kind of "together"), I did start crying a little.
Keith had veggies and cheese and juice for a post-service, pre-deacons refreshment :)
James told Laura Ruth he had a question about Saturday's going-away party, and she said, "There have been emails that say LAURA RUTH DON'T READ THIS. I haven't been reading them." "Good," I said :) It turned out all he needed to know was when the party starts, and that part she knew. (6-8pm: dinner + roasting ["pray for me," Laura Ruth said at that part of the announcement on Sunday :) ], 8-10pm: dancing)
From conversation much later: Jeff V. says he thinks the best book of worship is the Upper Room book of worship. Clearly I need to place another Cokesbury order :)