Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

The First Sunday of Advent: Hope

I went to the local UCC church this morning.  I wasn't impressed, though I had a good Coffee Hour experience. 

I'm getting more tetchy about church being a worship space -- ironic since my primary orientation is academic/intellectual and I have a very ambivalent attitude toward worship (the whole ambivalence about belief thing) but I find myself really annoyed when people are chatting in the sanctuary before service.  (I know I've LJed about this before.)

They had a meditation at the end of the bulletin.  (boo.  I prefer First Churches' Prelude Meditation format.)
The season of Advent is "two-faced": it looks forward to the coming of Christ in great humility, as a baby to be born in all vulnerability, and toward his "coming again with power and great glory" at the end of time.  The first Sunday of Advent emphasizes the latter event: it looks forward to the Second Coming.  But what does it mean to "look forward": to the Second, to the end of life as we have known it, to the Day of Judgment?  Can it be the opportunity to do something other than be scared to death?  What might a Christian's "great expectation" be?
They have the same New Century Hymnal that Clarendon Hill Presby has.  I remain unimpressed.  I didn't recognize any of the hymns ("Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence;" "Watcher, Tell Us of the Night;" "Keep Awake, Be Always Ready"), and they were all boring.  [In writing this up, it occurs to me -- largely because sk8eeyore commented about it re: a recent church experience of hers -- that we definitely didn't do any Doxology or Gloria Patri.]

The Passing of the Peace was actually fairly brief, which was a touch jarring after the nigh interminable ones I've grown used to (not that I'm complaining).

I was literally remembering having written last year about a Lighting of the Advent Wreath at one of the churches I attended being done by a family.  This was much less scripted than I'm used to, though -- both women mentioned their own experience from the past week, whereas UCN hands you (in advance) a pre-printed card.  This was followed by a responsive "The light of God shined in the Darkness." / "And the darkness did not comprehend it" (followed by a song).

Next was Confession, though Communion wasn't until the end of the service.  (I've only recently started paying attention to Confession in the sense of whether it happens every week, if it immediately precedes Communion, etc.  I validate the Orthodox way of doing it, but I prefer weekly Confession unrelated to Communion -- though I also don't miss Confession if I'm somewhere that doesn't do it both because I'm so All About the Sermon and because to me Confession is something you're doing time after time throughout the week, though I appreciate the reminder of accountability.  And it says... something... about my theology and conception of relationship with God that the "Assurance of Grace" -- as it was written in this bulletin; I'm used to "Assurance of Pardon" -- feels entirely superfluous to me, though I understand that it makes sense in the context of this setup.  But it never occurs to me to doubt God's Love, Grace, etc.)

The Bible readings were printed out in a page in the bulletin (Zechariah 14:1-9 and Luke 21:25-31) but I didn't actually see a Bible in my pew, which bothered my Protestant All About the Text self.

Guest pastor, so not the best choice for a church visit (though I can read past sermons on the church's website -- in my copious free time, I know).
The sermon title was: "You have twenty-two days left."  Riffing off a sign he saw at a tollbooth on Thanksgiving ("You have thirty-two days left").  It wasn't particularly bad, but I wasn't impressed.  blah blah blah, lots of exposition about end times (including the current literary boom on the subject), "the apocalypse isn't a UCC thang," how would you live if you knew the end times were coming in a month? practice giving up the things we will have to give up at the Second Coming.

During the Prayers of the People, one woman said she wanted to say a prayer of Thanksgiving for having known her friend [name redacted] who died on Tuesday.  I choked back a sob.

Lord's Prayer was "debts," as per Norwood's Congregational church (and, IIRC, Ari's UCC experience).

This was the first place I'd ever been that does the Sharing of the Elements for Communion and actually writes out an explanation in the bulletin
Our table is open to all who, in faith, wish to share the sacrament.  You will be served the bread first, and then the cup. Please pass the elements to the center of the pew and then return them to the deacons. When you receive the bread or cup, please hold on to it, and we will eat and drink together, at the same time, after all are served. As communion is served we invite you to join in singing:
Ubi caritas et amor, (Where true charity and love abide)
Ubi caritas Deus ibi est. (God is dwelling there, God is dwelling there)
I'd read through the bulletin twice before service, but it wasn't until right before we got to it in the order of worship that I remembered where I recognized it from -- Emmanuel Lutheran evening prayer service.  The tune was exactly the same; this was one of those moments I really felt ecumenical.

Receiving line after service I met the pastoral set.  Checking this against the list on the bulletin, Molly (redhead) is the pastor, Laura (blonde) is the liturgust (listed as "Rev. Laura..." which explains her pastoral stole), and Stephanie (very short hair) is the Student Minister.

I hung out with a plate (possibly the first place I've been that provides paper plates?) of food for only a minute or two before a congregant approached me.  Ian from Vermont (who mentioned "my wife" during conversation), who shares my love for winter (though like everyone else recently who has mentioned in conversation a shared fondness for winter, he focused on cozying up inside, whereas my love is largely rooted in the searing bracing biting cold outside).

Next I met Andrea (who had been sitting in the pew in front of me with another woman -- Althea -- whom I correctly coded as partner; during Coffee Hour she referred to her as "my girlfriend") who made it a mini-mission to socialize me. So I met Tom and Michelle: former Catholics from Baltimore who moved up here for a Montessori job for Michelle. I didn't see any pastoral staff at Coffee Hour, but he mentioned that when they were looking at churches in Baltimore, people would see that they were under 30 and seriously try to recruit them [I thought of my experience at Emmanuel Episcopal], but here there just are a lot of young people.

***

I went to Handel's Messiah at Symphony Hall this afternoon.  I forgot how high second balcony is.  (I've been to Symphony Hall twice, both at ground level, and haven't been anywhere that has a second balcony in a while.)  I was on the righthandside which turned out to mean my view was of the violinists (as opposed to the cellists).  Yay.  (I love cellists, but having been a violinist, that's always the part that pings me.)

I don't like the repetition of sentence fragments, especially drawn out, so that it sounds more like sounds than words, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped to.  (I've also not been sleeping, so I definitely wasn't awake for all of it.)  Hallelujah Chorus, though...  Just before we got to it, there was a palpable shift in the audience, and I thought people were just kinda sitting to attention, but a dozen or so people literally stood up.  If I had done so, I would have been even more tempted to sing along.

Some of the passages I only recognized from that evening at Clarendon Hill Presby (e.g. Malachi 3:2-3) and others still didn't feel familiar, but the traditional Isaiah and Luke... really resonated, like involuntarily.  I have been enculturated.  Though I think that part of it is also that I so love the idea of this story: of light in the darkness on so many levels. 
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. And they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
-Isaiah 9:2

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called: Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace!
-Isaiah 9:6

And the angel said unto them: Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
-Luke 2:10-11

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heav'nly host, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
-Luke 2:13-14


***

I kept having to retype bits of this because my computer kept freaking out, but snow is predicted for tonight into tomorrow, so life is good.

Edit: I would love the Hallelujah chorus on mp3, but I can at least sate myself with wiki's play-in-browser.
Tags: church: ecumenical advent: 2006, church: somerville: first church ucc, music: concerts, music: handel's messiah
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