Thursday, December 07, 2006

Weenies!

Perhaps I should begin with some apology or at least explanation for my long absence from the blog, but I don't know quite what to say. Sometimes I have energy and inspiration to write here, and other times I don't. This has been a time of "don't."

And it seems I should try to do some catch-up here – explaining what I've been doing, or what I've been thinking about the goings-on in the Episcopal Church or the wider Anglican Communion. But if I try to do that, I'll never get to "now." So I'll stifle that urge and begin with now.

With at least this one exception.

Some of you are aware that here in Missouri we got hit very hard by a snowstorm a week ago tonight. It was an awesome storm – technically called "thundersnow," for there was awesome thunder and lightning as the snow came down. It was a thunderstorm, but the precipitation that fell was snow instead of rain. An amazing sight. I had seen it once before – from the 8th floor of a hotel in Washington, D.C. in the mid-'90s. It's a sight and sensation one does not forget. Like something is profoundly wrong with the created order. A sort of "apocalyptic" event.

Our little town was pretty much socked-in the next day (Friday). The official snowfall total was 13". It was so heavy during the night that snowplows could not operate. So they had a tough job the next morning, when the snow ended. Not only was every school in the region closed, but a great many factories and retail establishments. Most tellingly, even the nearby casino closed! I didn't think that ever happened!

I simply cocooned in my house, taking it easy, enjoying the cats' companionship, and managing to avoid the various chores and tasks that I thought I should do with that unexpected day off. My car was stranded in the garage, at the end of a very long unplowed driveway; having no particular need to get out, I just stayed home all Friday … and Saturday. I didn't need to be anywhere until Sunday church.

Saturday afternoon I had the television on, half-watching some football games. Every station had that slow "crawl" at the bottom of the screen, announcing the "closures" for Sunday. I was surprised to see church after church after church was cancelling services. I smugly remarked to a friend that it seemed all the Protestant churches were cancelling services. "Weenies!" I called them; "What a bunch of weenies!" And with great self-satisfaction, I remarked that neither of the Episcopal churches in the area were cancelling, nor were any of the gazillion Roman Catholic churches. No, we're made of stouter stuff!

Now, as I move into this snow tale, you need to know (or remember) that I am a daughter of the South. I just do not "do" snow!

I only live a couple miles from church, and had already decided I would walk instead of trying to deal with the car and driveway. I didn't even consider skipping church. I need to be in church. And recently it has felt that I especially need to be in church – need that special connection with God and with my faith community.

Sunday morning broke bright and clear – beautiful blue sky. It was a darn cold 16 degrees, so I bundled up, tossed the essentials in my backpack, and headed out. I was surprised at what I found. No sidewalks had been cleared until I got downtown (where our parish is located). Almost no cars were moving. (But a great many were buried under four-foot snowdrifts.) The walk was sufficiently strenuous that I was actually hot by the time I got to church, but I knew better than to remove my hood or unzip the parka.

(This is a photo of my church in a much more pleasant season.)

I got to church a little before 10 a.m. – late for Adult Forum, but plenty early for the 10:30 service. As I reached the corner across from church, I noticed there wasn't a single car parked on the street. Understandable, I thought. Attendance at Adult Forum is probably down; folks probably used the parking lot behind the church. Then I got close enough to see our front door. And I could see a sign had been posted on the front door. "Uh-oh," I thought, "probably not a reproduction of Luther's theses." Indeed it was not.

The sign read:

Services Cancelled
Sunday, December 3

How angry was I??? Words don't begin to suffice – or at least not any words that I wanted to use on a Sabbath morning.

I just stood by the doors for a while, catching my breath and collecting my thoughts. (OK, truth be told, I was also doing a fair bit of stewing and fuming.) Then I became aware that I was really, really, really cold, and getting colder!! So then I started thinking: Maybe somebody else will come to church … in a car … and they'll give me a ride home, 'cause otherwise I may freeze to death out here. But there were no cars. Nobody was coming.

So I headed back toward home, retracing my steps along our downtown main street. I hoped my favorite coffeehouse might be open so I could go in and warm up for a while. But, no. It was closed. Then it occurred to me: about 4 blocks off my route home, there's a huge Roman Catholic church that has three Sunday morning services. And I thought: "OK. The Episcopalians are now revealed as weenies! But I bet the Romans aren't!!" So I headed in their direction.

As I got close, I could see there were indeed several cars parked on the street in front of the church, so I knew I would at least find the doors open. And I did. Services had started at 10:00 (according to the sign outside), and it was now 10:15. As I stepped into the narthex, I could hear they were just beginning to read the Gospel. So I was home free. (I figure it "counts" as long as you arrive in time for the Gospel reading.) I unbundled myself and opened the doors into the church.

Wow!! The nave was completely packed. There was not a single seat to be had, and there were about 20 or 30 people standing in the back! So I took my place there in the back, among the other late-comers, and was profoundly grateful to be with other believers on that first Sunday of Advent.

We are assured in Scripture that wherever two or three are gathered together, the Spirit will be present with us. Apparently, the Romans took it literally on this Sunday, and they worshipped with a more-than-full house. But for the Episcopalians of my parish . . . ?

I learned later that the decision was made to cancel services in our parish because the parking lot by our church was still covered in snow and unusable. [It's not our lot. It belongs to the city, but we get to use it on Sundays and at night.] And that was true. But surely I am not the only person in our parish who desperately needed and wanted to be in church that day.

Later that day, I was fulminating to a priest friend about these events. He told me about a Sunday when he had to hike 4 miles through the snow, to hold services and celebrate the Eucharist with the half-dozen people who showed up, and that it was one of the best services of his tenure there.

We cancelled services because parking might have been a problem. The Romans held services and had a standing-room-only crowd. I'm so ashamed of us! At the next vestry meeting, perhaps I should propose we change the sign outside to "The Weenies of the Episcopal Church Welcome You." Truth in advertising, and all that. Whaddaya think?

So . . . that's my rant, and I'm stickin' to it!

7 Comments:

Blogger Ann said...

very wimpy but good to see you posting to your blog again

12/07/2006 10:25 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Yeah, right! But you're a seasoned veteran. Me, I grew up where a dusting of snow incapacitates the town!

And, yeah, I'm a weenie too.

12/07/2006 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah -- you need to have experienced Buffalo under 36" of snow to truly appreciate what snow is. I'm glad you found a place to worship that morning. Too bad the Episcopalians in that area are not of a heartier sort. :)

Glad you're back -- I've missed your postings!

icymgms -- interesting word verification, given the topic!

12/08/2006 7:18 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

The last time we had a humdinger of a snow storm, one of the members of my community came by with his Land Rover and gave me a ride to church, and then came back and shoveled the walk for me.

About 25 people showed up.

We ain't weenies everywhere.

12/08/2006 6:05 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Suzer, my dear, I do not ever need to experience 36" of the frozen white stuff! Nowhere!

But, yeah, icymgms was a pretty good captcha, eh?

And thanks for the kind words. I'm not sure what got into (or out of) me.

12/08/2006 7:33 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks for the note, Elizabeth. Yeah, I know we aren't all weenies. But I sure was bummed that our local parish was!

And here's what I didn't say in my post: Where do the clergy get off deciding that it's "unsafe" for parishioners to come to church?? Most of our households have an adult in them, right? Shouldn't the clergy assume that some adult in the household will make the decision? I think one of the things that most flummoxed me was the paternalism of the whole thing.

12/08/2006 7:36 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

We used to have a rector who would post a sign - no services, rector sick - as if we were not capable of holding a Sunday service - Morning Prayer with coffee and cookies. BTW - we are dry, dry, dry here in Wyoming after a promising September snow. The only day I remember school closing for our kids was in May when we had 3 feet of snow overnight.

12/08/2006 10:19 PM  

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