But my brain is too tired to write anything that has to make sense. I have this long list of things to blog about but I can’t handle that either, right now, so here’s some entirely random, stream-of-consciousness from me. Move over, Jack Kerouac.
Church this morning–it was our fourth week at the new church. When we appeared the first week everyone was all welcoming and asking how we found the place. The truth is, I knew more about it than half the welcomers, because I did hard-core Internet research to find the perfect church in Chicago long before we even moved. We just didn’t get it together enough to get there on a Sunday until this month. A bit of a New Year’s thing to get up and go.
Even Cole loves the place, which is remarkable, seeing as church has never meant much of anything to her before and God means even less. But as far as family activities go, she is all for it. As for uber-churchy me, I can say (and did, after only two weeks’ attendance) that it’s the best church I’ve ever been to, hands down. And I have loved other places in the past, and been very involved in lots of other places.
Here’s why I love it:
It has a serious number of members who are not white. I don’t mean, “oh look, how nice, a Negro!” I mean, it’s a truly racially mixed church. Roughly, I’d guess it’s about 30% Black, 60% white and 10% other–lots of Latina/o, some South Asian, lots of mixed-race people, etc. Nat has plenty of places to look for grown-up Black role models and young Black peers, adopted, transracially adopted, born into their families, with two same-sex parents, with single parents, etc. etc. etc. (Selina too, of course, but she’s too little to notice yet.)
That brings me to the fact that maybe 20% of the membership is queer. The rector is a gay, long-partnered white man who spent many years in D.C. so he and I reminisce. There’s never a drop-the-bomb moment of worrying that the person I’m talking to will suddenly feel weird to find out I’m a lesbian as there often is pretty much everywhere else in life. I mean, any given person may not realize that I’m a lesbian, but they take it for granted that plenty of people in the pews around them will be. No biggie.
It answers to my idea of the perfectly Episcopal church. That is, it’s full of lovely liturgical tradition, but not stuffy in the least. Lots of processing and bell-ringing and music and candles and kids and adults in various states of vestiture and yet the altar is a round table in the middle of the sanctuary/nave with pews coming off of it like wheel spokes. It just shouts “the table of God’s people!” through design. It’s theatre-in-the-round, which has always been a favorite of mine, but I’ve never seen it in a church.
For Epiphany, about two dozen golden stars and a mess of golden streamers are hanging from the vaulted ceiling to just above the altar. Nat found this immediately captivating. So did I. Tasteful, but contemporary and celebratory. I can’t wait to see what they hang there throughout the rest of the year.
If you think I am dwelling an awful lot on the material aspects of the place, that’s because I find my own spirituality and connection to the divine to be most aided by these kinds of sensory touchpoints. It’s why I like the Episcopal Church in the first place. I consider it excellent theatre. I think church can be largely a matter of taste and this is mine. Finding a herd of people who share it and also find their connection to the divine through it makes for instant bonding and a basis for intimacy. So I trust we can grow to love the people there, too.
Which also reminds me that the music program is excellent. There’s a new music director and he has wide-ranging eclectic taste and talents, so there’s a great variety of music styles every Sunday. On MLK Sunday, though, we had a jazz trio do everything, including a special Duke Ellington piece. There are choirs for kids starting at Nat’s age, so she can start learning to sing next Fall.
So far everyone has been super. People bent over backwards to welcome us and the kids and get us involved right away. It’s got a warm glow to it. They serve an entire real meal after the service too, not just coffee and donuts. Today it was mini-veggie quiches and little make-it-yourself ham sandwiches on rolls. Sharing a real meal, not just stand-up food makes for a cozy environment in which to get to know people, I think. Plus, I’m usually so low on blood sugar by the end of the service it’s all I can do not to faint on the way downstairs to the food.
Last week, as luck would have it, was the annual meeting to which I brought a big casserole of beans and rice for the potluck (Episcopalians who do potluck–the perfect blend of my Baptist childhood and my Episcopal present!). Thus I got to find out what the heck the church is up to as far as the neighborhood and the city and the world. The church is around the corner from the Obamas’ old house and the prayers on the Sunday before the inauguration, named “our neighbor, Barack Obama” for a blessing. The church is quite entrenched in the neighborhood and does quite a bit of work to preserve its mixed-race, mixed-class character. it opens the doors to parents who need a place for kids to run around in the winter; many members are involved in a local project to protect the lower-income neighbors from displacement due to gentrification (and the possible upcoming Olympics, should Chicago get them); many members walk to church from homes nearby. (We drive 40 minutes all the way across town.)
Get this. They do Montessori Sunday School for the kids. Who’s ever even heard of such a thing? They call it “Godly Play” and it’s totally awesome. Nat picked up the rug and the routine immediately. She likes the sand box with little Bible characters (to make scenes in the desert!) the best. You can also get a baby doll in a Christening gown, pour water into a little bowl and baptize her. It slays me. Who thought this up? I am so impressed.
That’s everything I can think of for now. Sunday is everyone’s favorite day now. Nat had a tantrum and didn’t want to leave this morning. That’s how awesome fun it is.
Yeah. Just like Jack Kerouac.