I never know who will come to mass each day. There are a handful of folks who try to come everyday, the schedule allowing. I have four servers who take turns, again, depending on their availability. On Wednesday I can usually expect the most diverse congregation of the week, and today was no exception. I don’t make overtures to any particular demographic. I am of the conviction that if the church is indeed catholic, then all sorts and conditions will be drawn into her fold. Not to oversimplify things, but I think that if we keep the power of the Gospel and the Sacramental Life of the Church central, the demographics will take care of themselves. I took this picture after mass this morning (Clement of Alexandria, commemoration of the Advent Feria). The parish as a whole isn’t this diverse, but we are moving toward it by moving always deeper into the life of Jesus.
As soon as mass was over I had a meeting to plan a funeral. The deceased is not a member of the parish, but the extended family is. Unless there is some extraordinary reason, I do not turn down funerals, as it is a corporal work of mercy.
Next was my weekly Bible Study at 10:30am. I wish I could do more of them and I wish I could do them at times when more working folks can come. I enjoy my weekly group. We look at the lectionary texts for the coming week. This helps them prepare for Sunday, but maybe even more importantly, it helps me. I enjoy seeing where people go with the texts when they first hear them, their intuition, and their questions. Some times I can anticipate where they will go, but oftentimes, I am way off the mark.
On Wednesdays, we have another mass at noon. This mass is in the original church and has a dedicated, consistent congregation. At lunch I sat in a corner and watched recorded portions of President George H. W. Bush’s funeral. When I watched the end of President George W. Bush’s tribute, I failed to keep it together. I don’t know what the folks at the restaurant thought; grown man in a dress (cassock), crying in the corner while staring at his phone. I’ve heard stories from colleagues “in the know” about President Bush’s faith and his activity as a churchman. From all accounts, he’s very sincere with real devotion. I’ve always liked the Bush family and today we prayed for the President’s repose. From what I could see, the funeral was very well done, straight Book of Common Prayer, Rite II. I’m not big on Episcopal Church tribalism and I’m not a fan of the slogan “Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.” I know what Bishop Curry is getting at but I think it unintentionally creates theological problems. That being said, the funeral did show what the Episcopal Church, as English Catholicism, does well and I hope the beauty and the intimate solemnity will warm the heart of the cynic.
In the afternoon, I met with a retired bishop from the Anglican Province of America. He asked if I would help him raise money for Vacation Bible Schools in Cuba, something I’m very pleased to do. I’ve known this bishop for a couple of years and he frequently worships with us. I know, on some levels, the relationship between the Episcopal Church and Continuing Anglican jurisdictions is complicated, but a real source of irritation for me is how the governing bodies seem to have no desire for reconciliation. We have more in common with them than any other American Christian body but there is no desire to work together, pray together, and hopefully, be together once again. We’ll do what we can on the ground in this portion of God’s vineyard.
After Evening Prayer and Shrine Prayers, we prayed the rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham (Joyful Mysteries). I love praying the rosary. I’m always distracted when we start. I’m always thinking of what has to be done next and the first decade seems like it takes forever. But then the mind quiets and the prayers do their work and, every single time, I’m sad it ended so soon.
Then it was time for my most favorite event of the year – the Installation of the Boy Bishop. I jokingly told the congregation that I love this night because I get to vest people as bishops and then tell them what to do! This is our seventh year keeping the Boy Bishop tradition. The kids take it so seriously and one really gets the feeling that the tradition teaches – the birth of Jesus Christ turned power upside down. The lowly have been lifted up and the mighty have been scattered. Our Boy Bishop is chosen from the 5th grade boys. Not to leave the girls out, a 5th grade girl is chosen to carry in the Bambino in the church on Christmas Eve.
Our Christmas Eve pageant rehearsal followed the St Nicholas Festival and Boy Bishop Installation. My role in the pageant is to be the narrator. The hard work, and the due credit, goes elsewhere. It’s going to be an old fashioned Christmas Pageant which, in my opinion, is the best kind.
After the rehearsal I went to the overflow shelter to greet the volunteers. While I was there, the bus pulled up with the night’s guests, so I went out to greet them too. Six blessed souls walked through the door and the day ended the way it began and the way it unfolded - with diversity.