In spite of the snow, Beloved, our choirs will gamely forge ahead with cantata and worship as planned.The flurrying was bigger than yesterday (actual flakes), I think because it was hovering around freezing rather than being down in the teens. My walk to church was fine. As I was tromping, I thought of Jess at group on Thursday saying how she had totally been on a break from exercising while she was on vacation in Cabo, except for walking on the sand, which admittedly is good for your calves.
Remember last year's festivities? We were 60 or more strong, and that was with ice and driving winds in addition to snow. It was a lovely, secret and powerful feeling to be huddled together, hoping, in our little nest of a sanctuary while the storm raged outside. Perhaps you want to do it again.
We promise warmth, good food (cheese strata, black bean soup, fruit salad and cookies), and cheers for everyone who walks through door.
Of course, if it is not safe for you to come, please stay home. We will miss you. Travelling mercies to all those trying to get out of town in the next few days...
(My walk home was fine, too. There were plenty more times the snow was deeper than I anticipated, but my jeans never really got soggy -- even when I tripped into a snowbank crossing a street once. As I neared home, it was getting a little difficult to see out of my glasses, but that was really the biggest problem.)
As usual, we opened by singing two verses of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" ("O Come, Thou Root of Jesse's tree..." and "O come, desire of nations...") but because there's no spoken intro, it was sort of confusing what we were supposed to be doing -- I think this was heightened by the fact that a lot of family/visitors were in town, so many of those present were very unfamiliar with the order of worship to begin with.
Then was the Lighting of the Hope Candle (yes, I know that's not liturgically correct) and then the sung response of the refrain.
In the Welcome, Molly said welcome to altos, sopranos, basses, those who can't carry a tune in a bucket and then said a special welcome to all tenors and please see our music director :) She welcomed those who are already weary of the snow and etc. and "Those who can't wait to shovel out whatever life brings next."
We did the Passing of the Peace, and I still don't know how to do that with a congregation too numerous for me to Peace everyone, especially given that I sit a couple rows back from all the people I already know.
After the Passing of the Peace was "O Come, All You Faithful," but the intro to it played as we made our way back to our seats (it basically was the signal that we should make our way back to our seats) and I thought, "OHMIGOD YOU NEED MORE DIRECTIVE WORSHIP."
The hymn had been rewritten to get rid of all the male language, which I think I was thrown by more than I usually would have been since I had just sung three verses of it last night.
At the opening of the Prayers of the People, Laura Ruth was explaining how the format would go and said that not everyone would be able to hear your prayer concern necessarily, but that you should just say it "so that God hears you and your neighbor hears you," and also that we should feel free to just vocalize prayer concerns overlapping with other people speaking. I dislike this, but I don't know exactly how I would want it done in a church of this size, 'cause folks running around with handheld mics is cumbersome enough at CHPC.
Laura Ruth lifted up "the break of the peace treaty between Hamas and Israel" and I thought, "Didn't they just not renew the peace treaty which expired on Dec. 19 and it had already been broken during its tenure anyway." [This is based off of recall of something I read in the metro.]
When Althea went up to do the Invitation to the Offering, I realized that we hadn't done a Prayer of Confession. Huh.
The Cantata was "Angels and All Children" (Book and lyrics by Walter Wangerin, Jr.; Music by Randy Courts). I was unimpressed.
The woman in front of me in the receiving line was a newbie and Laura Ruth told her that if she filled out the visitor card they would give her a box (mug? I forget what word it was exactly) of chocolate, so when I went to hug Laura Ruth I said, "I didn't know you were bribing people," and she said, "Did we never give you a [thing] of chocolate?" and I said no, said I usually resist filling those things out, and she said something along the lines of, "Well that's what you get for not doing that then," and I said, "But I didn't know you were bribing people," and she said she was gonna go to her office and find me one and I said, "I didn't mean to pull you out of the receiving line," and she said she was trying to scoot out anyway and I said, "Oh, okay, then I encourage you." She did not appear to have chocolate when I saw her at coffee hour, but that's okay. It's not like I lack at the moment anyway, and while I'm sure she'll forget I know I'll remember and I need only mention it some time.
When I was chatting with UCC-Ian at coffee hour, he asked if I had enjoyed my Advent and First Church and I said, "Yes -- but ohmigod you people need more directive worship," and I said that I had already raised my concerns to Molly who had said that they already do too much talking but that she would pay attention to ways that maybe they could make it more welcoming to new folk, and I told him about how I nearly had a fit today.
Well into coffee hour, the carol sing (complete with booklets, thank you) started and man, I continue to miss Russ May at, oh, every church I am at. If you don't have a parishioner with a booming voice, invest in a portable microphone so you can get people's attention (and, in this case, tell them which song you're going to be singing next).
After a while, Thom opened it up to requests.
Someone requested "Here Comes Santa Claus."
I said, "I'll leave."
Ian: "If what?"
me: "If we sing any songs about Santa."
Ian: "Well we're going to."
me: "Well I guess I'm not actually leaving, but I am not singing."
Ian: "It's a good time to have a conversation."
He told me about ages ago how they used to have an older guy in the church show up during coffee hour dressed up as Santa but then they stopped (we agreed that given that everyone's deluged with Santa all over the place during this season, it's really nice to have church remain a place that doesn't do that) but then one year the guy wanted to do it again "and he must have caught Molly on a bad day or something, because she said yes." And he said it was very weird because they'd done this very nice very religious cantata and then they had Santa Claus. He had been worried that now this guy would want to do it every year again, but whether Molly said no or he didn't ask, they haven't had it since.
When I was saying goodbye to Laura Ruth, she [edit: said it had been lovely to have me here on Sunday mornings] asked if I was coming to their watchnight service, and I said I didn't know they were having one but that sounded lovely. She said it would just be the usual Rest and Bread and I said oh yeah I'd meant to ask if there was Rest and Bread that Wednesday. I asked if she wanted me to come early to help set up and she said that would be lovely but that I should do what I need to do. I said I'd be off from work so I wouldn't have much in the way of commitments and anyway I really do enjoy coming early and spending time with her.
I said I'd be here for Sunday service next Sunday, and she said she wouldn't (she's going to be in Georgia, where she's from), but she'd be back for service on the 4th and I said I'd be at a progressive megachurch in San Francisco where I was gonna be for work, and she said she looked forward to hearing my observations because she knows I'm a good observer.
I was telling Ian that I keep saying I'm going to renegotiate after Epiphany, and that it's not like I mean an active actual negotiation, and he suggested that I could "discern" after Epiphany. I said I spend too much time at work and he said, "You don't have time to discern," and I said, "No, I mean that my vocabulary is 'renegotiate' rather than 'discern.' "
I said goodbye to Keith and Gianna and somehow got talking about how work sent us home early on Friday and it was a much better advance planned thing than last year's storm and I started to tell the story of going to collect coworker-Katie at noon and I said Prof.N.'s first name and Keith said, "Oh, [first name surname]" and I said, "Oh yeah, I forgot you would know these people" [he's a Harvard University econ Ph.D.]. I finished telling Friday's story and said she's gotten a lot better about how she treats her assistant, but she's still a horrible human being and I hope we don't tenure her and yadda yadda and of course I'm not saying any of this officially (though honestly, I think I just said that out of habit of like telling Katie stuff I know unofficially; I really am happy to go on record as to my personal opinions on Prof.N.).
Edit: I forgot that I'd wanted to c&p this bit from the back of the bulletin [full-text found on UCC.org PDF]. I hang out with Methodists, so I was like, "Hey, I know this idea!" and I wanted to show it to Tiffany.
Let the Children Come
The practice of Christmas gift-giving can be life-affirming and spiritually fulfilling or it can be a habit that depletes our souls. Consider this story told by Bishop Kenneth L. Carder of The United Methodist Church about John Wesley, the eighteenth-century Methodist leader.
A poor girl who visited Wesley one winter day looked cold and hungry. “You seem half starved,” he said. “Have you nothing to cover you but that thin linen gown?” When she said that was all she had, Wesley put his hand in his pocket and found he had scarcely any money left, having just purchased some framed pictures for his rooms. He later wrote of this incident with sarcasm:
“It immediately struck me, will not thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward? Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold!’ O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures of the blood of this poor maid?”
This Christmas let us reach out to the children all around us, and especially those living in poverty. “Let the little children come to me... for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:16)
God is still speaking,
[United Church of Christ]