Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

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Liturgy Recharge

shieldSix days a week I report to the local church at 8am. Five of those days are for work; Sundays are for choir and worship, though often members of the congregation ask me work-related questions because, hey, I’m there and I have answers. But that doesn’t mean I like it.

I also really miss liturgical worship. For forty years I’ve been an active member of the Episcopal Church, from a college church to a cathedral to a very high church and a huge historic church in Boston. I’ve sung in choirs, run stewardship programs, studied the Bible and church history, served on vestries, visited the sick, polished brass on altar guilds, been part of small groups, organized libraries, cleaned up kitchens after parish suppers, and served on search committees.

But no matter where we were, our worship followed The Book of Common Prayer. My godmother wrote when I was confirmed many years ago that the BCP “is still a tremendous source of strength, its prayers for quiet confidence, for raising of children, for those we love, for those in mental darkness, have been invaluable to me and I have never been without comfort and support.” She was a woman of great faith with a solid core foundation that shone through her life and relationships. I learned from her that the prayers of the BCP, said automatically so many Sundays, provide the needed words when the heart is full or hurting, beyond words but wanting to cry out.

Most of my churches celebrated communion every Sunday, but the Order for Morning Prayer is also beautiful. I found comfort in the ritual of the liturgy, of an order of service with well-chosen words for celebrant and congregants, with responsive readings and a lectionary that led us through the Bible on a 3-year cycle. With structure and symbolism, kneeling and music. I’ve missed it.

So today I took a needed day off from my own church to recharge at a local Episcopal church. It was a more contemporary service than I was used to, but the words of the liturgy were the same and I found I had forgotten none of them. We celebrated Eucharist, with bread instead of wafers and wine instead of grape juice, gathering around the altar. And we were sent forth with these words, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”  I always liked being sent out to do the work of Christ.

Mostly, though, I could simply worship and not have to lead anything. I will not be leaving my current church but I will definitely be back. For I may not belong to an Episcopal church, but I am and will be an Episcopalian.


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Back Again After a Blogging Break

Big Happy BuddhaI haven’t been a model Weight Watcher for a long time now. Nothing wrong with that, but it also means that I’m not exactly losing weight, either. When I do follow the program for a string of days, I always see and feel a change but I’m not sticking with it, and I don’t completely know why.

My friend P asked me why I was continuing to go to meetings and count points when I’m not paying that much attention to doing things the “right” way. My only answer is that going and doing even the minimal bit that I’m doing has kept me from gaining back all of my weight. Since my history is to lose big and gain back even more, this is a bit of a miracle.

But I’m not happy where I am with my body. I don’t like the way it looks in clothes or the way it looks naked either, for that matter. Not that anyone else is seeing it that way, but I do and it’s pretty lumpy. My knee has been catching today and hurting more than usual, which means that I’m less interested in moving because it hurts – joint pain, not muscle pain. So some of it’s physical and some of it is social.

I don’t know what would make me happy. I was talking to Jen tonight about ideal jobs and where we thought we would be in retirement, and half-listening to a story on 60 Minutes about being happy. One thing I heard in passing was that some of the happy people interviewed said that they had scaled down expectations which were reachable. Somehow that stuck in my head.

I scaled down my life when I moved to CT and stepped down from a senior management position. And I couldn’t be happier about that. I still supervise people but everything is scaled down – and I’m loving being able to leave at what seems to be an early time but still gets in my scheduled hours. I have time to have a long evening and yes, there’s time for exercise if I was inspired to do it.

It’s lonely, though. I do well on my own and am completely comfortable with my own company. But sometimes it feels achingly alone rather than comfortable, so this morning I went to church for only the second time since I moved. Choir and church have provided instant community anywhere I’ve ever lived and it felt like coming home to slip into the pew this morning. The hymns were old favorites and so were the anthems, which I sang quietly from the pew.

I felt welcomed and at peace and will be back, probably next week. It’s Lent and that seems a good time to be reflective and open to new possibilities. No commitments yet for joining the choir – after only one visit, it’s too soon – but I think it could work. We’ll see how it goes. I do know that I go into this week feeling more at peace and that’s a Good Thing.


Quieted spirit

Stained glassI spend a lot of time fighting with my inner self about who I am, what I need vs. want, whether I’m a good person, how I relate to the world around me. And food, of course. You name it, I’ve had inner dialogues about it.

But one area that has gotten very short-shrift these last few years has been my spiritual life. I stopped going to church when I was ready to murder the choir director every time I saw him; it was somewhat in conflict with the concept of worship. I didn’t know how to worship if I wasn’t sitting in the choir loft after 40 years of singing in church choir. So I just gave myself a little sabbatical that has been extended for about 6 years.

I never stopped believing in God; I was just taking a break from church. It’s time to get off my butt and find a place where I can worship again. I am a choir person to my toes and need to sing – it’s how I worship and a way for me to empty myself of the busyness of the world and relax into knowing there is more than what I see around me. I miss the music but also the community that choir members form so easily. I’m rather isolated now and miss that sense of family that comes with belonging to a choir. Note that the “altopower” of my blog address does not come from playing an instrument; I am an alto and proud of it.

Today is Ash Wednesday. Until 6 years ago, this was a big deal day with heavy-duty music and big service. I wasn’t up for all of that this year, although there are certainly many places where I could slip into a pew and worship. Instead, I started off this morning at the university chapel, sitting with a small group beneath the warm sunlit colors of red and blue in the stained glass windows, saying Morning Prayer and receiving the imposition of ashes.

I didn’t know anyone but that didn’t matter. What mattered to me was the comfort of shared liturgy, the stillness of the place, the chance to hear words of prayer, of scripture, of meditation, and feeling a sense of being home in the quiet.

For me to be a whole person, I can’t just work on my body. My spiritual life needs to be fed and refreshed as well. I exist in one but when I remember that my real self isn’t in the limbs and pounds and physical limits of the body, I can soar and not be alone and find peace.

It’s time to find a choir and a church where I can be all of me again.