Certifiably Alive, December 17-18

It’s 9:23 on Tuesday night. The television is on with a minor football bowl game and a pot of Earl Grey warmed by a cosy on my desk. My intention has always been to write every day, not only to share the stories of parish life but also for the discipline of writing. For the past four days, I have been unable, or unwilling, to carve 30 minutes to reflect on the day and tell the story. If you stay with this blog, I will do my very best to share this journey every day.

Monday, O Sapientia! Morning Prayer and Mass for the Advent Feria. My server was Luke, our Divinity School intern. We normally meet after mass on Monday, but after a long and busy weekend, I needed to spend this day putting together the parish magazine, something I started last month. I worked fairly steady until close to noon when I parishioner called to tell me she was on her way for me to write a letter stating that she is alive. I have no idea why. Something, I believe, to do with her pension. I assured her that nothing on that day would be greater than to certify she is alive and well: “To Whom it may concern: it gives me great pleasure to certify that ___________ is indeed, alive and well.”

At noon I sat at my station ready for penitents and their confessions. Hearing confessions, in my experience, is feast or famine. They either come in waves or they don’t come at all. I am committed to finding more times and better times to make myself available for confession. They know I’m available by appointment, but if one is reluctant to make a confession, having to go through the trouble to schedule it is perhaps one barrier too much.

I had lunch with my in-laws who were in town for the weekend. As the meal ended, the server announced that someone had already paid the bill. What on earth would have moved someone to do that? We will never know. Thank you, to whomever.

In the afternoon I received a call from a person who was homeless with children and needed help.  Like the post from last Friday, I often don’t know the legitimacy of these calls. Please don’t misread the cynicism, but clergy of all stripes have been through this. There is such a fine line between helping and enabling. Since the person mentioned homelessness and children, I put a call in to a parishioner who works in finding help and resources for our homeless brothers and sisters. The two of them got together later and I will follow up to see what came of it.

When the mail came, I discovered a Christmas card from a parishioner who is now serving a life-sentence in prison for murder (the victim was also a parishioner). One day I need to write about burying someone one day and doing pastoral care with the murderer the next.  I have given pastoral care to two parishioners accused of murder in my parish. One was acquitted (self-defense) and one plead guilty. None of this is confidential, it’s all quite out in the open but, being in the South, not talked about.

Momento Mori with flowers from Gaudete.

Momento Mori with flowers from Gaudete.

The day ended with Evening Prayer and the O Sapientia antiphon. I know we often make much ado about the O Antiphons, but does anyone actually pray them in the office? They aren’t slogans, they are aids to prayer and buttresses to the Magnificat.

After Evening Prayer I convened my “Worship Committee.” We call it that ironically. It’s instead a weekly meeting with my liturgical leaders and we go over what happened the day before and what needs to happen in the week ahead. It’s very good to be on the same page and these are some very good people in which to do that.

Before bed I read on social media where another conservative/traditional Episcopal priest is swimming the Tiber. I don’t know this priest personally, but the world of social media makes it seem like everyone is a friend. I wish him well. I know people are wondering when I will do the same. Intellectually, I am certain I would be happier in the Roman Catholic Church. Aesthetically I would be happy as a clam in the Eastern Orthodox Church. But my heart, as conflicted as it often is, remains in Anglicanism. I simply don’t feel called to anywhere else. I don’t know how long the current church will tolerate an anachronism like me, but that my very well be the cross Our Lord has given me.

 Tuesday morning I had every intention of getting up early and making the final push on the parish magazine. It didn’t happen. At church by 7:30, Morning Prayer and Mass for the Advent Feria with a commemoration of William West Skiles, deacon and monk. Deacon Skiles, according to Peter Anson, is the first person in permanent monastic vows in the Anglican Communion since the Reformation and he lived less than two hours from Winston-Salem. I have developed a devotion to him since our youth trips to Valle Crucis, which was once his monastic domain and where he is buried. I was pleased to successfully lobby his inclusion on the diocesan calendar for this day – the day of his burial in its present location. The date of his death is December 8, but there is a very important feast already taking that spot.

Administrative frustrations got the best of me at the start of the day and I did not start off on the right, or calm, foot. I would be a horrible poker player. My neck and ears turn red when I’m agitated. To amplify that ‘tell’, I’m bald! Staff meeting is normally at 10:00 on Tuesdays, but I cancelled it to push through with the magazine, as it needed to print that afternoon. A brief pause at 11am to bless blankets, shawls, and other knitted items from our knitting ministry team.



At noon I was downtown at our Confraternity gathering. We talked about gentleness as used in the Philippians text on Gaudete Sunday. Gentleness is not the same thing as passivity. To be gentle is to recognize the fragility in the other and our own power to crush. The conversation is always lively and the food is always good.

A rush back to the office and final proofs of the magazine and the print button was pressed. No turning back now, even after I discovered I left 2018 on the front of the magazine. I’m livid! More publication work, this time the digital e-news that goes out on Tuesdays. So much of my week is sharing information and telling stories. I love it, but the mechanics can be tedious and time consuming. I am not, by nature, a patient person.

Evening Prayer followed with O Adonai as the antiphon and then Shrine Prayers. Some text messaging, emails, tidying, and this portion of the day was finished.