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Saturday, January 06, 2007

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Of Very Impressive Clergymen, Pomp and Effervesence


Peter Cook, as the Very Impressive Clergyman, in the Princess Bride

I don't bring my religion much into my writing here. Principally, because anytime I attempt it to weave it in, I find myself prefacing it with a lot of neurotic explanations about my gradual conversion from intellectual fundamentalism and how being a believer isn't at odds with being a thinker, and mostly, how I'm not one of those other Christians. All of which not only makes me sound like an idiot, it is beside the point. Because my religion isn't what I believe in; my religion is the vehicle that takes me there. It's just the particular bus I have chosen to board, for the return leg of a round trip I believe every one of us is on.

Maybe the scenery along my chosen route is different from yours. Maybe the tour operators offer different brochures and running commentary. Maybe you prefer the solo, self-guided option. Maybe you bought a ticket that you thought put you in a different class than the rest of us. Whatever. I'm betting on meeting all of you back at the station sometime.

My bus, for this leg of the journey, happens to be the Episcopal (Anglican) tradition, and I could not not post about attending the Consecration of the 13th Bishop of Arkansas today. Because in addition to all the important things the Episcopal church gets right and in spite of what we get so very wrong, we excel at ceremony and open bars. Wow. It was like being at a royal wedding or the end of the first Star Wars movie. The new Presiding Bishop of the United States, Katharine Jefferts Schori was there. About a bazillion priests, deacons and bishops were there. Lots of flowing white robes and hair. The entry procession alone took nearly thirty minutes and I half expected to see elves and dwarves bringing up the rear.

Seeing the recently installed Bishop Schori was thrilling. I don't know if she has always had a commanding presence, or if that comes automatically with the pointy hat and crook, but every neck in the room was craned to see her come in. I couldn't help but feel, on the heels of Nancy Pelosi's installment as Speaker of the House, that for a brief, shining moment, we are all in Camelot (or maybe an AARP version of Castle Anthrax).

The scene stealer, however, was a young priest from Little Rock who gave the sermon. It was funny and smart and provocative, without grandstanding or pontificating. He also had the je ne sais quoi pas factor going on. He is a good-looking guy, obviously a gifted writer and speaker. I wondered why and how he came to choose to apply those gifts to priesthood. Lots of people in secular life would kill to be able to write like that. (I mean, he could have been a blogger!) Granted, being an Episcopal priest is not exactly a hardship post. You can be gay, married or rich. But still. I am fascinated by the idea of call, of being annointed, in any walk of life.

Two movies I watched recently also delve into this idea: The Queen and The Lady in the Water. Both explore what it means to be annointed; how certain individuals are singled out for extraordinary purpose, the cost and the burden of accepting one's call, and how others become magnetized by it.

There is much that drives me crazy about my adopted church, and institutional religion in general. I confess, some Sundays I sit in the pew and think, my brothers and sisters in Christ? You've got to be kidding me. But then that same person I have been silently, defensively, pre-emptively judging, turns around and smiles at me or my child and I realize what an insecure moron I am. There's a great joke where somebody says to a church member, "Oh, I couldn't join the church. It's full of hypocrites." And the church person smiles and says, "Yes, but there's always room for one more."

I'm that one more. Today was one of those occasions when I could get down off my high horse and be a part of, not apart from, this messed up, imperfect gathering of human beings. Champagne really helps with the warm fuzzies, doesn't it? After all the theatre, there was a huge reception with gallons of it. Because, where two or three Episcopalians are gathered, there ye shall find a case of wine. You couldn't really move about, it was so crowded. So I just kind of bobbed on the current, like a floating duckie in a carnival game, making a continuous circuit from one champagne table to the next, smiling and raising my glass to friends and strangers. A lucky duck, part of something grand and hopeful, annointed in my own small way.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Faith said...

All of which not only makes me sound like an idiot, it is beside the point. Because my religion isn't what I believe in; my religion is the vehicle that takes me there.

Haha. I know what you mean. But your explaination is very well said! :)

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Nat said...

Although I am a terribly lapsed Episcopalian, I agree that we do ceremony well.

Do you attend the cathedral? We went a couple of times and talked to Dean Hudson about having our daughter baptised there (we ended up in Florida soon after). He gave us a piece of the old pipe organ from the cathedral and we still have it in our living room. If you see him, you can ask him if he remembers us.

Religion is very personal, but then again, so are our blogs, so you should write what you want and feel without fear of censure. I try to do that, but fail sometimes.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

Thanks, Faith!

Nat, all our sons were christened in the Cathedral. In a long white gown of Irish linen, which my Baptist-reared husband looked askance at until I told him it was my only chance to see a child of mine in church in a long white gown and to shut up!

I will ask Dean Hudson if he remembers. What do you do with a piece of pipe organ? Plant ivy in it? Use it for a bong? An umbrella holder?

7:35 AM  
Blogger Kimblahg said...

well all i want to say is "mawiage. mawiage is what bwings us together today."

3:32 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

and wuv. don't forget twoo wuv.

:)

6:12 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Thanks for writing so beautifully about religion. I understand what you mean about feeling the need to add disclaimers; also I'm Quaker, so I never know how much explaining to do because people confuse us with Puritans or the Amish. . . . Anyway, glad you had a bubbly positive experience!

3:23 PM  

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