I’m in a mood

I’ve been in a mood the last few days. It’s been hard to not be in a choir and singing. It’s what I know, how I worship, how I’m in community, and I miss it so much, especially during Holy Week. The Episcopal Church is in the liturgical tradition and we have services all week. I’m used to singing all of them, from the celebration and drama of Palm Sunday to foot washing and celebrating the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, ending with the stripping of the altar. Then the quiet agony of Good Friday, often ending with a requiem in the evening after services from 12-3. Saturday’s Great Vigil was always my favorite Easter service, recounting in chant and ritual the history of the Jewish people up to the death of Christ, then bursting out with bells and lights and alleluias of Easter. Easter Sunday is a work day for choir people, often with 2-3 services to sing, and the Vigil gave us a chance to be in the moment and worship ourselves.

This year, though I have a church and followed online services, I’ve not been physically present – and not singing. Most of my neighbors are Baptists who of course celebrate Easter, but do so very differently than the tradition I’m used to. The day is the same, the resurrection is the same, but the way we do it is different, and the music is very different. I miss my friends from choirs past and found myself watching YouTube videos of choirs singing favorites such as Beethoven’s “Hallelujah!” from Christ on the Mount of Olives, Matthias’ “Let the People Praise Thee, O Lord“, which I learned in Virginia, and “We Shall Behold Him” which is newer to me but oh so powerful. And then there are the hymns. It’s not Easter without the eleventy million verses of “Hail Thee, Festival Day” which I think only Episcopalians sing.

On top of that, it’s been a week with lots of people in it, making me realize how much I’m more isolated now than ever before. Having people come over is great and wonderful but really tired me out. But if I don’t ask for help, ask for visitors, I don’t have them. I guess I still expect that other people will reach out to me but they really don’t. It’s out of sight, out of mind – and I can’t complain about it because I recognize that I often behaved that way myself. If someone I knew moved, there was a hole but it quickly filled up with people who were still there and life activities that kept going. I wasn’t good at keeping up with them when they were gone, so why would I think people would keep up with me after I moved? The difference this time for me is that I only moved 12 miles away instead of 1600 miles. I guess I thought it was close enough to stay in touch but it really hasn’t been. But phones work both ways and if I want to talk to/hear from people, I have the responsibility of reaching out myself. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t abrogate that.

So it’s a conflict. I’ve been alone for so much of the last eight months. Sometimes I’ve been achingly lonely, missing people like my right arm and needing their help. Most of the time I’m fine, just adjusting to being alone – tho months and months of Covid isolation actually prepared me for that. I’m figuring out how to do more for myself, partly to prove that I can and partly because there’s no one else to do things. Today I figured out how to reorganize near my bed so I can put my decorative shams back on the bed and have a place to put them when I sleep. I know, that sounds small, but it really isn’t. My bed looks more finished and I’m therefore happier.

Also making me happier is FINALLY having my porch screened in. The cats have hardly been inside since Wednesday, preferring to hang out on their chair cushions supervising the lawn and watching birds and squirrels. I haven’t figured out how to get out on the porch without using the walker and I’m not supposed to be doing that by myself. The chair won’t go through the door so it has to be the walker. I need to ask therapy this week about that.

Physically I’m in discomfort from problems with my shoulders, mostly on the right but some on the left as well. You can’t roll yourself in the chair without reaching backwards in a motion I don’t use for anything else, but the muscles are also essential every time I try to stand up or walk with the walker. This pain is muscular, not nerve (for a change) in the front of the upper arm/pec/inside the armpit. How on earth do you put anything on THAT to help? It hurts and it’s annoying.

Easter Again but Different

Christ Church South, taken during Lent

Last year Easter came but church wasn’t possible; everyone was shut down in full Covid mode. There was no Palm Sunday procession, no Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services. No Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday night. No sunrise service or joyful celebration on Easter Sunday morning. It was just a day.

It was, of course, still Easter. God doesn’t need us to have the familiar structure, liturgy, calendar of our traditions for us to remember, which is what Easter is all about. Christ doesn’t die again every year on Good Friday, that happened once for all millennia ago. The resurrection doesn’t repeat every year; it happened once for all time. All we’re doing is pausing to remember, to honor, to pay attention. But we’re used to doing that within our churches – unless your focus is on the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs and jelly beans.

But today we were back doing the “normal” things with a freshness because, after a year without them, they felt new. I was in my new worship church for my first Easter with the familiar liturgy but contemporary music. There was a flowering of the cross, not a new tradition but not something I’ve ever seen or done. A wonderful sermon. Sunlight coming through the glass cross built into the wall. Celebrating with friends who came with me, and new friends in the new congregation. Wearing masks, all of us, and sitting distanced, but with full and happy hearts.

My soul feels settled. I was home.

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.