15 July 2006

The AGO convention last week

Thought I should blog about the American Guild of Organists national convention last week in Chicago, in which I was registered but also did volunteer work. Here's what I wrote to a friend who couldn't go... The AGO week was much fun. I did not go to everything--none of the evening events, for example--but I was very happy to work the hospitality desk, where participants could get information, parking discounts, and so on. I really enjoy helping people when I know I have ways to help, like knowing the city. I guess I impressed people with my knowledge of service times at downtown churches. :) Tom Gouwens of Fourth Prez came up and slyly asked when services were at Fourth Prez. I said, "8, 9, and 11, with music at all three, and identical services at 9 and 11." He said I was right and that there is a 6:30 p.m. service I should not tell anyone about because we want everyone to attend the opening concert. I met Edith Ho from Advent, Boston; Fred Swann formerly of the Crystal Cathedral; and probably some others, but nametags were hard to read. Some people magic-markered their names in huge letters to make them readable. Edith Ho should have come to Ascension--since she plays in a similar church--but asked for information about St James' Cathedral instead. She visibly cringed when I said they use Rite II. It is that East Coast fixation with traditional language being essential with Anglo-Catholic liturgy. Morning Prayer at St. James' was wonderful; I really like their choir, although I have never liked that they have to sit in the "card section" of "bleachers" off to the left. They should do a card routine during the sermon. Thierry Escaich played at St Paul's UCC in Lincoln Park and was ear splitting and amazing. For a German Evangelical and Reformed church, their organ is rather Saint-Sulpice. A woman in the front row stopped her ears the whole time and looked annoyed. Nobody is forcing you to attend the concert, lady! Anyway, he started his concert with the Tournemire Te Deum Improvisation, to give you an idea. Whew. I ushered at Ascension for the Alexander Fiseisky concert, which I found underwhelming but he seemed to get a good ovation at the end. I mostly heard it through the narthex doors. He wanted to practice afterward, and we told him he could but that there is a service (Evening Prayer) at 6pm. I vested and got ready to start just before 6, and he was still wood-shedding a phrase on the organ, so even though we don't normally ring a bell before Evening Prayer, I went to the sacristy door and gave the bell rope a good yank, and then went in and started Evening Prayer. Nobody else showed up, so I am sure he thought it odd that I was reciting a service with no congregation. Wednesday I ushered the Ascension Choir's Solemn Vespers and Benediction at St. Mary of Perpetual Help in Bridgeport. Scott the Younger was able to go, too, and even got to ride back with me on the AGO bus due to the kindness of the driver. It was a gorgeous service, and the choir was expanded for the occasion to about 25 from their usual 17. I didn't know they were going to do Benediction...it was interesting to hear 1,000 AGOers from many denominations saying together, "Blessed be God...Blessed be the name of Mary most holy...Blessed be her holy and immaculate conception..." :) Anyway, I hope the recordings of these events will be made available somehow; this will be one well worth hearing. Thursday I got to do whatever I wanted, so I attended the 9am concert of Carol Williams, the English-born civic organist of San Diego, at St Vincent de Paul, and then Thierry Escaich. He really uses his whole body...I thought his head would hit something as it flailed around. It was good to meet many people and especially to represent Chicago and our chapter to the visitors. I loved just standing at the entrance to Ascension, or St. Mary of Perpetual Help, ready to answer questions (mostly about the bathrooms) and have people smile at me and tell me how much they were enjoying themselves here. I cannot imagine the expense some must lay out to attend the whole thing, especially paying for a hotel room for six nights or so. However, I think the event was a great success. The chapter leaders seemed wired and very thrilled. I am sure there will be a Pipedreams show about it. I met Michael Barone at Ascension for the Fiseisky concert. Unfortunately, Barone was on a bus that was late coming back from Rockefeller Chapel, so I had to hold him and some others at the door until the end of the first piece, but he took it well. He has a long ponytail...who would have thought?

14 July 2006

Discernment progress

Is the Episcopal Church, or are its leaders and parishioners, too quick to focus on ordained ministry as the inevitable path for highly committed Episcopalians? We had a chat about this, and many other things, in my highly helpful spiritual-direction session yesterday. We also had some great discussion of what sorts of lay ministry I might be called to, and how I might consider the permanent diaconate as well, which I hadn't seriously considered. His great questions unearthed some exciting possibilities. The priesthood ordination process isn't out of the question, but we made some great progress on some important questions that I need to get clearer about. I remember how I used to think I had a strong desire to preside at the Holy Eucharist. While this would indeed be a wonderful role, I'm finding that I'm doing just fine not presiding at the Holy Eucharist. To me, this is central to being a priest. I'm just weighing such thoughts against the really long and involved Process and its effect on my partner and our relationship. That, and I'm starting to shake off the idea that not becoming a priest will be tantamount to wasting my life, and that I'm coming to these conclusions because I've waffled too long--ridiculous, I know, but there's a voice saying that within my thoughts sometimes. I don't think a genuine call would denigrate the ministry of baptized laypersons.

10 July 2006

The liturgical beat goes on

In our parish, six for MP or daily Mass is pretty good. No one has suggested these be cancelled. I'm the Monday EP officiant and often (especially in summer) recite the Office alone. This past Monday a Russian organist was practicing as 6pm approached, when EP starts. He had been told he had until then but that there was a service at 6. Sure enough, as the sacristy atomic clock hit 6:00, he was still fiddling with a phrase on the organ. I had half a thought of praying EP in the sacristy but then came to my senses and decided to cut him off by ringing the sacristy bell and then entering and saying the office as usual. I'm sure he thought it odd I would vest and recite a service with nobody else there, but the Office is part of what the church is there for, and it was my job to do it, whether anyone showed up or not. (Most of the time there is at least one other person, and we do get more if there's a Mass afterward, on BCP holy days.)

Current spiritual scene

Discernment is under way in the form of spiritual direction with a very good director. Next session is this coming Thursday.

At the moment, I'm observing a wave of encouragement for me to enter the Process on the one hand; on the other hand there are concerns about how it would affect my partner and the thought, "Why can't I just decide I'm not called to ordained ministry? There are plenty of people who never ask the Church about this and who decide this for themselves."

Another possible vocation (that I have started already) is that of being a lay Benedictine contemplative oblate and helping others see that as a way of living out a Christian life, including prayer disciplines, the habit of hospitality/mission/outreach, a rule of life, and so on. In our diocese we have a whole parish that offers its members and friends a Benedictine rule of life and many resources for following it (St Paul's, Riverside).

Introductory post

I'm just reviving my blog; this replaces my previous one on Blog-City called Letters From Edgewater. This will be an eclectic mix of reflections, diary entries, and interesting (to me) finds from the Web.