Not long after the service had started, a couple young women came in and I gave them programs and told them where there were likely to still be open seats. When I sat back down, MikeF was all impressed at how on top of things I was. I said, "My job is running people's lives."
In his intro welcome, JoeF said, "Merry Christmas." I said (not that anyone heard), "Happy Advent." He said something about how we don't say "Happy Holidays" here, and I kinda eyerolled. At one point he said something about "Jesus is the reason for the season" and I said, "Actually, pagans are the reason for the season."
After the first singing bit, when he was back in the pulpit, he said, "Is my microphone on?" I was standing up (I'm not sure if I just hadn't sat down yet from singing or what) and said sweetly, "We could turn it off if you'd like." He didn't hear me, so he asked me to repeat it, and then after he heard me he was like, "Some people might like that, but I've gotta do something while I'm up here."
Basil sang "Rise and Be Healed." I still found it problematic like whoa, just like last time. [Not gonna lie, it's catchy. The title line was stuck in my head for much of Friday night and Saturday morning.]
When Basil talked about being healed "as faith rises up in you." I was like, "IT'S NOT ABOUT FAITH!" -- yes, I really did capslocky whisper to MikeF, who was sitting next to me.
At one point during Basil's singing, a woman stood up, and I looked down at my program 'cause I couldn't stand to watch that.
Afterward, JoeF said something about how during the song he'd "looked over at my friend" -- and I expected him to say Pastor Bill, who never fully recovered from some spinal injury or something -- but it was about Stan or someone, who had recently had a mild stroke or something and recovered well.
In his preface to the song, Basil talked about how earlier today he was at the wake for his friend and mentor Alex Donovan who fought cancer for 2 years and after the cancer had left his body... got an infection and went to be with the Lord. I thought later, "What about him? Did he not have enough faith?" It just seems like horrendously bad theology to me.
Almost the first hymn someone requested was "In the Garden." I was like, "Where are the effing Christmas hymns? Yes it's Advent and so technically it's liturgically inappropriate to be singing Christmas hymns, but that's never stopped us before."
I looked up "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," but reading it while sitting in UCN I kept thinking of the metaphorical Israel as the literal current-day Israel and Jews and the idea of needing Jesus to be saved and I just couldn't do it. On the opposite page was, "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus," which I really liked. I was also noticing how the Christmas hymns are about light coming into the world and stuff -- rather than blood atonement and accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.
I realized at one point that, oh yeah, the Christmas-themed portion of the hymn sing is later on. At the beginning of the program I'd heard JeffC say something like, "So you can request hymns from anywhere in the hymnal right now," but I didn't hear the beginning of the sentence where he said we'd do Christmas hymns later. I missed part of the Christmas segment because MikeF and I were out counting the money (about 11% short of covering expenses -- what's that about "God's work done in God's way never lacks God's supply"? /snark).
On the train ride home I'd been reading Diana Butler Bass' Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith and being really struck by the section on hospitality -- I was thinking about my time with Laurel and of that space you create by being with someone and how that can be a safe and comforting space, can be hospitality.
So I felt hypocritical or disingenuous or whatever for being so negative at people. Around mid-day the sun had come out, but also around that time the fact that I hadn't gotten enough sleep kicked in. And then I kind of pissed off Ian near the end of the day (not anything worth dwelling on, but I was feeling out of sorts about it; Saturday morning I had a really friendly dream, which was possibly my subconscious compensating). But it's not like I get to excuse away my lack of graciousness/hospitableness/whatever. We are called to love everyone all the time, and to act with love all the time, even (especially) when it's hard.
During Fellowship afterward, I went to look for JoeF to apologize and saw JeffC who unprompted said thank you or something. He said it "put Joe in his place" and there was lots of laughter, it was a light moment and was said in good spirit. So that made me feel better.
Before we left I managed to grab JoeF briefly and say, "I'm sorry about the joke about 'we could turn your microphone off'; I felt bad about it afterward" and he was all, "Oh, it was fine," and said, "A lot of people feel that way -- 'If only Joe would shut up, this whole thing would go a lot faster.'"
Saturday, as I got in to Norwood Central to wait for my train, I was like, "Is that Jackie?" And indeed it was Jackie and Terry [different person, obv., from the Terry I'm usually talking about], who were heading in to the city to do Christmas shopping (the weather having thwarted their plans to do so in Portsmouth). I totally didn't know that Terry's teaching 8th grade social studies at the junior high. It was nice to catch up with them, and in theory we'll make actual plans someday. They said to say hi to my family for them.
GinnyC sent me a Christmas card:
It's good to get a chance to chat with you every once in a while.[We went to Nova Scotia when I was 9.]
You've changed a lot since the trip to N. S. in the motor home. Life goes by much to fast.
Excerpt from Diana Butler Bass' Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith:
Although hospitality at Cornerstone is free, it is not without cost. Indeed, Christians who enter into the practice of welcoming the stranger know that it is risky---and sometimes dangerous. Hospitality is not a tame practice, an option to offer only to those who are likeable. As the ancient Christian theologian Gregory of Nyssa reminded his flock, "The stranger, those who are naked, without food, infirm and imprisoned are the ones the Gospel intends for you."36 Hospitality can be frightening at times.
The people at Cornerstone know this. One man shared a story about Rick, a man who challenged the congregation's hospitality. "He comes with tattoos, addiction problems, and even long braids of different colors all over his head." But, he insisted, the congregation accepted Rick as a human being in need of God's love: "People still saw HIM." Still, it is risky welcoming Rick because "he continues to struggle with life issues and is in and out of jail because of his addictions and inappropriate behavior." Yet the people at Cornerstorne know and accept him, holding him accountable for his faith journey and actions. "This is not the kind of miracle story people like to hear," the Cornerstone member admitted, "but it is a part of the real world."
At Cornerstone, they speak of living out the "apostolic core" of Christianity, a reference to a brief sentence in the Book of Acts: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers." An essential part of that early Christian teaching and fellowship was hospitality, a practice that awed even the Roman opponents of Jesus' first followers.
A few centuries later, as the Roman Empire broke down amid social chaos and violence, Saint Benedict charged monastic communities to "receive guests as Christ" and to embrace the poor, outcast, strangers, and pilgrims. The heart of Benedictine spirituality is hospitality: a Christian community is not a closed community but extends welcome and shelter to all, regardless of class, status, or respectability. Joan Chittister, a contemporary Catholic writer says, "Hospitality means we take people into the space that is our lives and our minds and our hearts and our work and our efforts. Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves."37 Or, as two Roman Catholic writers put it, "Guests are crucial to the making of any heart."38
-p. 83-84 [Chapter 5: Hospitality]
36. Gregory of Nyssa, "As You Did It to One of These" (homily), in And You Welcomed Me, ed. Amy G. Oden (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 59.
37. Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990), 130.
38. Father Daniel Homan, OSB, and Lonni Collins Pratt, Radical Hospitality: Benedict's Way of Love (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2002).