December 7th, 2008

hard at work

On Saturday, my mom said, "If you don't update your LiveJournal I'm going to go into withdrawal."

I couldn't even tell you what I did at work most of this past week, but I really was working most of the day every day.  Friday like 2 or 3pm I had finished everything that really needed to be done and I wanted a nap.  Hopefully there were will be fewer late night comfort sessions this week.  I am really looking forward to that week off between Christmas and New Year's.

Somerville UCC is doing a 15-20min prayer service every weekday morning during Advent at 7am.  I am debating whether this would be good for me or not.

Oh, and I want to go to the Back Bay Chorale's "An 18th-Century Christmas" (Saturday Dec. 20 @ 8pm -- there's also Sun. Dec. 21 @ 3pm); I have friends in it, plus it sounds appealing -- "Enjoy selections from Handel's Messiah, Bach's glorious Mass in B Minor, the gem-like Christmas Concerto of Corelli, and Vivaldi's Gloria.  Then lend your own voice to our traditional carol sing!"  I could just buy my ticket now, but on the off chance that anyone wants to come with...

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Saturday I read [Newsweek] My Turn: Confessions of a Fat Runner.  That night I dreamt I was jogging the Boston Marathon, barefoot (but painless), and I kept getting interrupted -- including by hedy who was telling me about a job she got involving purses.

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The music video for Kanye West's "Love Lockdown" makes me uncomfortable.

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Wednesday SquawkBox: Rick Santelli talked about how markets get conditioned, like Pac-Man where you eat something and that opens up zones and Becky Quick was nodding her head, talking about the ghosts flashing.

They were gonna have bond guy Bill Gross (PIMCO) on later, and asked Rick what he wanted them to ask him.  He said, "The markets give me all the answers I need, so ask him about global warming."

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I saw a blogpost titled Harvard's endowment loses the GDP of a small country in 5 months.  I wasn't sure whether to giggle or feel depressed at that framing -- both, I suppose.

Clicking on Matthew Yglesias' "Harvard" tag,
Out of Town News

Speaking of smoking, the confidence in the economy of America's elite is sure to be shattered by the news that Out of Town News, the newstand smack in the middle of Harvard Square, is shutting down. The internet had basically made its core business model obsolete some time ago. The general idea, as witnessed by the name, was that you could buy all kinds of "out of town" publications there, thus serving the news needs of the university's geographically diverse community. But people still buy other stuff — I used to buy cigarettes there, and sometimes Diet Coke (but soda's cheaper at the university vending machine), but I think cigarette retailing is a declining industry as well.

Note that the closing of Out of Town News is part of the dystopian vision of The Handmaid's Tale.
That last line is of course a bit of a cheat since a big reason places like Out of Town News are shutting down is because there are other, cheaper, more easily accessible, ways for ordinary folks to get lots and lots of information from a variety of sources.
(hidden) wisdom

First Weekend in December

Friday afternoon I finally got around to looking in my email for the confirmation email for my Messiah order to print out -- and was reminded that the Handel and Haydn Society mails you your tickets.  At the box office, however, the woman was like, "Oh, you misplaced your tickets?  I'll write you up new ones," and she checked our names off of some big computer printout list.  I forgot how cheap tickets are until I saw my confirmation email -- $15/ticket (not including service fees) for first balcony, back row, left-ish.  [H  27+28  CENTER  First Balcony]

During the first section I thought I'd try to just listen rather than reading along (since this is my 3rd year going) and yeah, that combined with tiredness meant I mostly slept through the first section -- which is all the Christmas stuff.  :(  Sigh.  The conductor (Paul Daniel) was really energetic and I tried to focus on him but yeah, tired.

One thing I hadn't really registered in the "Hallelujah" Chorus before (the part I bolded):
Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.  The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and his Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.  King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.  Hallelujah.  (Revelation XIX, 6; XI 15; XIX, 16)
    That idea that this world will be transformed -- which is interestingly in tension with Rapture ideas, and can map nicely into ideas of us being called to work to make.

Saturday I got up a little before 9am, went to Keegan's to get my watch battery replaced, showed up at UCN around 10:30.  (Fair -- which I'd agreed to help at -- was 9am-3pm.)  It was SLOW, and I like Carol but I didn't really have anything to talk about.
We got lunch around 11:45, and after my mom went back to relieve Carol I stayed chatting with my grandma, which was actually fairly painless.  When we finally went back the only people in the room were church people, so I decided I was fine to go to the ladies' room and walk around a bit.

At one point, Bev was in the kitchen sitting down and I went over and have her a back/shoulder massage (when she first saw me, right before we went to lunch, she said, "I DREAM about your backrubs").

Elsa said, "Why does she get a backrub?" and I said, "Uh, because she's sitting down?"  Elsa said, "But she's always sitting down."  After a while GinnyH sat down and I gave her a brief backrub.,  And when I went to say my goodbyes, Elsa was standing in front of one of the tables, so I gave her a brief backrub.  People joked that I should have my own table at the fair.  But just like I'm hesitant around the idea of actually doing it as a career... I like just doing it for people I like when I feel like it.

I left around 2:15 to give myself plenty of time to walk home, finish getting my stuff together, and walk to the train for a 3:05 train home.

I kinda wanted to hang around with people longer, but I wanted to go to UCC-Jenny's party at 7pm [which I found out about at Rest and Bread on Wednesday] and if I stayed in Norwood until the 5:05 train that wouldn't really leave me much turnaround time.

Jenny had guests from Spain, and they made this amazing tortilla -- like a potato quiche.  Also, she explained "tapas" to someone as "bar food," which makes so much more sense to me than the expensive stuff at, for example, Tapeo, that you're supposed to like order a whole bunch of and make like a meal out of.

I actually set a phone alarm so I would leave the party in time to meet Allie at Davis T since I'd never been to Kendall Square Cinema.  I could probably find the cinema on my own now that I've been once, which is nice.  Movie was about as expected.  Audience was initially excessively chatty and giggly, but they got better.  Costume and choreography were AMAZING.
light in the darkness

[Advent 1] Rest and Bread ("Love")

Before service, Tim and Keith were practicing for the call-and-response sung Call to Worship (Tim on piano, Keith as cantor) and I found myself singing along to the, "Show us your face, O promise of dawn."  It was the Call to Worship at CWM ("Advent Gathering") the previous Sunday and apparently already it's familiar to me, even though Tallessyn just taught it to us that Sunday (as a somewhat awkward leader/people setting).

I was folding the bulletins, and there was also "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."  After the opening verse and refrain, each verse is delineated:

Dec. 3, Advent 1, Love
Dec. 10, Advent 2, Peace
Dec. 17, Advent 3, Hope and Joy

I said to Laura Ruth, "Isn't the first Sunday in Advent Hope?"  She said yeah.  I said I wasn't sure if maybe there was some denominational differentiation -- but that Ari was pretty clear that the first Sunday is "Hope" and she grew up UCC.

I also saw in the bulletin that we were doing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."  I made some comment about being excited about that because I love that hymn and neither of my churches had done it the previous Sunday -- and was informed that they're doing it every Sunday during Advent.  I was like, "Really?  Because I would totally go to church here if that's true."  Thom said, "You already go to this church," and I said, "I come here on Wednesday evenings but I'm usually going to church elsewhere on Sunday mornings."

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We did the Call to Worship (that "Advent Gathering" hymn) as cantor/congregation

Cantor: Here in this world where darkness surrounds us
Congregation: Show us your face, O promise of dawn
Cantor: We seek a sign that you are among us
Congregation: Show us your face, O Lord Jesus, come

Refrain: Come, O hope of your people
Come among us and stay
Lead us in mercy, up from the shadows
Shine in our darkness, be here today

We did the opening verse (and refrain) of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" plus the "O come, Thou Day-Spring, from on high" verse, and then Keith did the Sacred Text reading, and then we all sang the refrain.

The Sacred Text was the "Prologue" to the Gospel of John (Chapter 1, Verses 1-5) -- unobtrusively gender-neutral, but with "night" instead of "darkness," which threw me (but I forgot to ask by the time service was over).  When Laura Ruth reiterated the end bit during her Reflection, she said "darkness" and a la Ari I was all, "And the darkness shall not overcome it, and..." following the "And the darkness has not overcome it."

In the Reflection, Laura Ruth talked about the light that we carry inside of us and how that light gets occluded.

For the closing hymn we sang first 3 verses of "Silent Night" (Sleep in heavenly peace / Christ, the Savior is born / Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth).
Afterward, I asked Laura Ruth why were singing "Silent Night" during Advent.
She said it's a really pretty song and she likes it... and it's about night.
I said I figured as much -- though Advent is also eschatalogical and we talk about the Reign of God as being both "already" and "not yet," and Advent is a weird thing because we are anticipating an event that has already happened.

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According to the front lawn board, last Sunday's sermon was "Room in the Inn: Closets."
I came home to the newsletter (yes, I am on their mailing list).

Sun. Dec. 7 -- Sermon: "Making Room in the Inn: Relationships and Grudges"
And Sun. Dec. 14, Laura Ruth is preaching ("Making Room in the Inn: Spiritual Purpose").

And from the announcements in the bulletin:

They're doing Advent Outreach tables ("Volunteers are needed to help with set-up, clean-up, passing out cider and ornaments, and singing/playing Christmas carols.") Thurs. Dec. 4 & 11 from 5-7pm.  I was all excited about this (and recalled being excited about it last year, though I never actually went -- possibly because I didn't walk home that way? or maybe it was a different day and I had class?) and yet managed to totally not notice the actual dates and thus while walking up College Ave. talking on my cell phone was surprised to see them across the street from me in front of the church.
light in the darkness

Advent 2: Peace

The First Congregational Church of Somerville

UCC service opened with us singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" --  "O come thou Rod of Jesse" and "O come, thou Dayspring" verses (complete with refrain) and then the Lighting of the Peace Candle and then singing the refrain.

The Call to Worship was:
    One: God is good!
    All: All the time!
In my head I did the complementary "All the time" / "God is good"

I love Molly's really creative and interesting Welcomes.  I think she always opens with welcoming long-time members and visitors and yadda yadda.  Today the welcome included: "Christmas and Easter folks .... good pagans and bad Christians ... those of you who are eager for Christmas Future and those who are eager for Christmas to pass."

In the Invitation to Confession, Keith talked about the "We replace holy days with holidays" line and how we are replacing one good thing with another good thing and invited us to think about the valuable things standing in the way of other valuable things.

Unison Prayer of Confession
O God, we offer you our repentance.
We replace holy days with holidays.
We hurry past opportunities to give the gifts of kindness and honesty,
We do not prepare the place for your birth in our lives.
We do not listen to angels in our dreams,
forgive those dearest to us,
or welcome into hearts and homes the poor, the stranger.
Accept our humility and guide us to your grace.
    [Maren Tirabassi]

In the Assurance of Grace, he said: "God loves us ... whether we are ready or not, God is coming ... God may come humble as a shepherd or unforgettable as angels singing Hallelujah."

The Scripture Readings were Mark 1:1-3 ["Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" - Isaiah] and Matthew 5:21-24 ["if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift"].

Sermon: "Room In the Inn: Relationships and Grudges"
I had some quibbles with pieces of the sermon, but I really liked Molly's idea about us needing to "make the paths straight," to clear away the disarray, so that the Lord can come.
She talked a lot about about reconciling relationships (and made sure to say that that does NOT mean taking more abuse) and said the one piece of advice she had was one some clergyperson(?) had once told her: "Don't try to do it all on the first visit" and then said (echoing the story she had opened her sermon with -- about newborns) "You know what to do -- a little patience, a little trust, a lot of will, laughter if you can manage it."

Offertory Response [Tune: MENDELSSOHN]
Hail the Bearer of God's peace!  Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life our Savior brings, ris'n with radiant, healing wings.
Mildly laying glory by, born that we may no more may die,
Born to raise us all from earth, born to give us second birth.
Ever in our hearts to dwell, come, O come Emmanuel!

From the bulletin:
Sharing the Elements
Our table is open to all who, in faith, wish to share in the sacraments.  At First Church we hold with the Congregational tradition of taking communion in two elements, bread and grape juice (as a sign of support for our brothers and sisters who are in recovery from alcoholism).  You are invited to come forward in either aisle.  When you receive the bread you may dip it into the cup of juice, and eat it immediately.  If you would prefer not to receive communion at this time, you may cross you arms over your chest and receive a blessing.

And the Sung Response was "Ubi caritas et amor," which meant I could sing it while walking around the sanctuary, unlike sometimes at CWM when I don't know enough of the words.

During Coffee Hour, various people I know from Rest and Bread said how nice it was to see me on a Sunday morning (not in a guliting or pressuring way at all).  I said to Keith and Ian that I was here through Advent because they're doing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," and "We can renegotiate after Epiphany."  One of them joked that we could do that hymn every week to keep me attending :)

When I left, I told Laura Ruth how I'd been joking about how I'm here through Advent and "We can renegotiate after Epiphany."  She said, "You're free to do what you need to do.  We know that about you."

I felt really good about and engaged in so much of the service that I am actually seriously considering staying come the new year, because I just don't feel nourished and energized and engaged in that way at CHPC most of the time.

[Am I being too demanding to want the worship leaders to vocalize something like "And now we will all join in singing hymn number such-and such, {title}" though it's in the bulletin and the organist does a full verse intro before we sing?]

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Cambridge Welcoming Ministries

The Opening Hymn at CWM was "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" (all verses).  Yay!

The Scripture readings were Isaiah 40:1-9 and Genesis 1:1-13.

The Special Music was the song Trelawney wrote last November using Isaiah 40.  It opens "Comfort, o comfort, my people..." and I really like it.  She played piano and sang and also singing were her twin sister Tallessyn, their half-sister Trevanna, Tallessyn's husband Dan, and Trelawney's husband Eric.  The music was so energetic and like just the right notes to feel like, I dunno, a blanket or a hug or something... it was really filling and comforting and inspiring -- like really good church music is supposed to be I imagine.

I didn't Pass the Peace to Trelawney, because she was at the back with baby Endelyn (and while the chapel is a lovely space, the single center aisle makes Passing of the Peace cumbersome), but during Prayers of the People Eric mentioned that they suspect she has post-partum depression, so after I took communion I walked back up a side aisle all the way up to the back where she was sitting with Endelyn and hugged her until Eric and Michele came to serve her communion.

During dinner, Susan-from-Danvers was talking about how at CWM the whole community participates in the blessing of the elements at communion and how Annie Britton's Extraordinary Ordination [see Church Within a Church] has been questioned, in terms of whether she's allowed to preside over sacraments, because CWAC is a "movement" rather than a "denomination," so they [edited to clarify: "they" = the United Methodist Church] don't recognize her ordination.  Later I asked Tiffany about the rules for presiding over communion 'cause I'd been thrown when Laura Ruth, so used had I gotten to CWM's literal "priesthood of all believers."  She talked about the ecumenical document the BEM [Baptist, Eucharist, and Ministry], explaining that when ecumenicism made a resurgence, you ran into sticky issues of, you want to have church together, but you have different theologies...  She said that Methodist rules are that an elder has to be present (though the elder can bless the bread in advance -- which then gets you into discussions about how long the blessing "lasts") but she said that in Methodism that's not about "hocus pocus" (her term) but about order -- a safeguard against bad theology... and that personally she trusts that this community has a strong understanding of communion and she doesn't need to worry about that when she does away on vacation.  (She also said that in Latin America, they don't believe in the priest blessing the bread in advance, so in places where there is no priest they developed a radical laity system because you have to have eucharist to have a church service and if there are no priests...) [edit: the "they" in this Latin America scenario are the Catholic laity, and I imagine that the Catholic hierarchy would disapprove]

I somehow got talking about going to class right after Rest and Bread and how I'm not going to take any classes next semester because I just don't have enough time and how much work Recruiting is and how I'm going to San Francisco in January for work and she said I should go to Glide United Methodist.  She said Karen Oliveto's there (I remember her preaching at CWM once) and that it was this dying church and Cecil Williams came and said they were going to minister to the people outside in the community (the Tenderloin District!) and now it's this huge vibrant church that does work with homelessness and addictions and the congregation is multi-racial/multi-ethnic and you have people who come in off the streets and you have rich people who fly great distances to come to the worship services because they're like rockstar.  I was reading the website and omg, it's a radically lefty MEGACHURCH.  "Glide Celebrations take place every Sunday at 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM. Celebrations usually last from an hour-and-fifteen-minutes to an hour-and-a-half. [...]  The sanctuary fills up every Celebration, and so we recommend that you arrive at least 30 minutes early to ensure seating. Additional overflow seating is available in Freedom Hall with a live video feed."  I was assuming I would go to Sarah and Kevin's church when I was in SF, but I have GOT to check this out.  And OMG, it's like one and a half city blocks from our fancypants hotel.  I still don't know quite how much I'm gonna be obligated to be at the hotel working, but I think I should be able to make it.

Talking with Tiffany, I was actually feeling like maybe I should join this church, because when I'm not thinking about all the specific details of this church and its broader denomination and what the implications are of explicitly identifying myself with that in a more solid sense than I already do... this feels so much like "my church home."