“Before I was ordained, I just thought every day was Reign of Christ Day,” the rector quipped. Comfortable laughter wafted through the sanctuary.
I was attending the early service at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown with my husband and our daughter who was a senior at Georgetown University. She worshipped regularly with this congregation, so it was a delight to join her there in her chosen sacred space. The Sunday we were there was the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Sunday before the beginning of Advent: Reign of Christ Sunday.
Referencing Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann in her sermon, the rector discussed one difference between good and evil. “Good doesn’t like big imagination because it requires us to be too vulnerable, to work too hard. Evil, on the other hand, loves big imagination.”
I wasn’t sure I understood; she continued. “A wistful mention of the end to local homelessness tends to be met not by enthusiastic support, but by scoffing judgment and wringing of hands. But let Evil mention a big idea. ‘Let’s kill an entire race of people! Let’s fly planes into buildings! Let’s open fire inside an elementary school.’” She listed these real-life tragedies with machine-gun fire rapidity. “Evil has a preposterously huge idea and gets busy, plotting and planning, seemingly unconcerned with any possibility of failure. Good holds back. Good lists all the reasons this dream is improbable and unrealistic, then Good shrugs its shoulders and walks away.”
It was a valid point and frankly, hit me right in my self-righteous intentions.
“On this reign of Christ Sunday,” she challenged us, “the Body of Christ needs to remember where our center of government is. It’s not in Washington, but in the tender hands of merciful Jesus. Those hands can handle any dreams we can conceive, regardless of magnitude.”
Prayers followed the sermon and then it was time for Holy Eucharist. (What we Baptists call the Lord’s Supper and have monthly or quarterly, the Episcopalians have weekly and then some. If it were a competition, I’d say they are beating us on this count.)
We all filed to the front of the church and circled around the table—there were about 30 of us, maybe 40. The officiants blessed the bread and the cup, then handed one plate of bread to the left, one to the right. The organist began playing a familiar hymn as the elements of communion passed from person to person around the circle.
Let us break bread together on our knees.
Let us break bread together on our knees.
“The body of Christ, broken for you,” said a silver haired man as he leaned over to the caramel colored girl next to him.
“Thanks be to God,” a bespectacled brown man said as he received the bread from a young white man sporting a fresh military haircut.
When I fall down on my knees, with my face to the rising sun.
O Lord, have mercy on me.
The cup made its way around, passing from a teenage acolyte to a tall Asian woman with two children of disparate ethnicities.
“The blood of Christ, shed for you,” a college student said to a young dad who held his infant son, swaddled but squirmy.
A little girl—three years old or maybe four--rocked back and forth, toe to heel, in her shiny Mary Janes; a twenty-something year old woman, her raven black hair plaited in the back, smiled at the fidgety girl. A baby cried. A grown man, eyes glistening, shed a tear or two himself.
Let us praise God together on our knees.
Let us praise God together on our knees.
When I fall down on my knees, with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord have mercy on me!
What a holy and blessed time of worship. A challenging proclamation by a gifted and engaging pastor, sacred communion celebrated at the foot of the cross, and a rich foretaste of God’s kingdom: an eclectic, multi-generational, international collection of believers who came together for this one moment of connection. For me, it was like a glimpse of a dream come true.
Oh Lord, let me dream big and act with bold conviction that it is You who reign in my life.
What about you? What’s YOUR dream?
Published originally November 2015
Saturday, my daughters, mother (aka Gangi), and I took a little downtown shopping trip in Asheville, NC. We planned to visit several shops but wound up spending all of our time at Virtue, the (and this is not an opinion, but a fact) absolute hands-down best dress shop in Asheville. The girls found great deals on adorable dresses (deals made even better by the presence of Gangi’s credit card) and we left with smiles on our faces, clutching our adorable daisy-print Virtue bags.
This is always great fun for my mother because she and Daddy had such a limited budget when I was little that Mother made all of our clothes. Easter dresses, cowboy suits, neckties, bathing suits, all of it. She’s still the one the grandkids go to for needed mending and alterations. Anyway, now Mother truly enjoys shopping with us and treating us to the little extras she couldn’t afford years ago.
As soon as we got home, we began sorting through our goodies. Among other things, Gangi had gotten Trellace a lovely goldenrod cable knit sweater, embellished with buttons larger than 50-cent pieces. She removed the tags and modeled it for Gangi who oohed and ahhhed.
“Oh I love it Trellace! It looks just great on you,” she said, her glasses perched on her nose as she examined it with her seamstress eyes, looking for stray threads and fabric flaws. “Here’s an extra button,” she said, clipping the little zip-lock baggy off the sweater’s tag. “Don’t lose that!”
Trellace looked over her shoulder at her grandmother and then down at the proffered notion, tentatively accepting it. As she looked at it, clearly uncertain of what to do with such a thing, she handed it back to Mother saying, “Umm, can’t you just keep it Gangi?”
“First Baptist of Weaverville,” I said, answering the wife’s question.
We’d just been at the same meeting when we saw each other at the bank. I’ve always had a soft spot for octogenarians; so naturally, I stopped for a quick chat with them.
“St. John’s Episcopal,” the woman responded, gesturing to herself and her husband.
“Episcopal? My daughter attends an Episcopal church,” I told them. I explained that she’s in college in D.C. and, not finding a good fit among the churches of Baptist heritage, she chose a small Episcopal congregation within walking distance of her school.
The couple shared briefly about their life in ministry, alluding to the joys and frustrations common to all denominations. We exchanged other niceties and said our goodbyes.
“Oh one more thing,” she said, calling me back. “Tell your daughter, that we have found that Baptists make the very best Episcopalians!” She pointed out that in general, Baptists have a great grasp of scripture; once they learn the liturgical traditions of the Episcopalians they have it all. “Really,” she repeated, “They have it all!”
I chuckled as they walked away. And that, I thought, is why we think Episcopalians make such great Baptists!
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism . . . " Ephesians 4:4-5 (NRSV)
Another Guest Blogger: My own daughter Trellace. She made this speech for an awards ceremony; ACRHS does not recognize valedictorians at all at their graduation, so this was her pseudo-valedictory speech. It was awesome. And I'm not one bit biased.
During my Wake Forest interview this past summer, my interviewer asked me about the culture of my high school. “Well,” I told the woman, “we think we’re the best, and…we are the best.” Now, this might not have been the most humble or tactful way to tell an interviewer about the atmosphere of Reynolds, but I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty accurate. I went on to talk about our expectation for excellence in everything we do, whether it be in academics, athletics, or the arts. If you’re in our school and community, you are proud to call yourself a Reynolds Rocket.
Sure, from state championship rings, to award-winning publications, to widely-acclaimed musicals, we have a lot to be proud of. But more than our shiny resume, we should take pride in our fantastic teaching staff.
As I began to write this speech, I wondered how I could choose just one teacher to praise. All of mine have been amazing. Mrs. Love is fun and creative. Mrs. Kuster is dedicated and caring. Mr. Hutchinson is crazy and engaging. Ms. White is generous and kind.
But in particular, my AP teachers have shaped my education in profound ways.
My sophomore year, I took AP U.S. history with Coach Goode, where I learned that it is possible for someone to grade 200 essays in one night. In addition to speedy grading, Coach Goode demonstrated his passion for his students by working many late hours on History Day projects, amusing us with pick-up lines and the creative use of stuffed animals and other toys, distributing candy before the AP exam and encouraging us to touch the “staff of knowledge” for good luck. But we didn’t need any extra luck to help us succeed on the AP exam. Coach Goode had taught us well—we knew practically everything about America from 1700-present. He also gave us the tools to assess information analytically, laying the groundwork for the things that Marcia Hudzik would teach us in AP World the following year.
Through thesis-writing, short answers, document analysis, and class discussions, Mrs. Hudzik taught us a new way of thinking. When Mrs. Hudzik gets into a lecture, it is evident how passionate she is about her history. She loves her world history, and she loves her students. She has written many of our college recommendations and given us advice on everything from what we should get our parents for Christmas to how we should spend the next four years of our lives. In fact, it is not uncommon to find non-World or Civics students hanging out in her room before school, after school, or during lunch.
And though I love her dearly, I am not often one of Hudzik’s groupies, because I am spending many of my afternoons in the newspaper office with Ms. Cooper. If Ms. Cooper had a dollar for every extra hour she has spent at school with her newspaper editors, she could retire. As one of her editors this year, I know how thankful her staffs are for her unrelenting devotion to the school newspaper. She makes it possible for us to be proud of our successful publication. This year, Ms. Cooper has also served as my AP English teacher, where she has taught our class how to interpret and appreciate, if very rarely, the literary genius of Faulkner, Dunn, Keats, Dickens, and many others. Yes, we certainly respect the literature knowledge we have gained this year, but I think we enjoy more the pot of hot tea she keeps in her back office and the periodic breakfast treats she brings us.
And while those surprise breakfast mornings may be delightfully frequent, I have probably eaten just as much in Mrs. Wheeler’s class this year, between many food days and the bag of candy she gave us before our AP exam. Mrs. Wheeler, lover of fun and calculus, has given me a surprising appreciation for advanced mathematics. If you had asked me as a freshman about my senior schedule, it would not, over my dead and forlorn body, have included calculus. But after enjoying the teaching brilliance of Mrs. Wheeler in Pre-Cal, I decided that a year of calculus might not be too bad. In an engaging classroom setting, learning calculus has been almost enjoyable this year. Thanks to Mrs. Wheeler, I have realized that I should further my knowledge of math, and so in the fall I will be combining my love of the humanities and mathematics as an International Political Economy major.
As many of you know, I will be pursuing that major at Georgetown University. But let me tell you, I was not Georgetown material when I came to Reynolds as a freshman. I believe that it is the result of my teachers’ efforts, not any innate intelligence of mine, that has allowed me to enroll at a prestigious university like Georgetown. My teachers have shaped me into the well-informed scholar that I am today. Without their guidance and instruction, I would drown in the academic challenges that Georgetown presents its students. But thanks to the ways that my high school teachers have already pushed me, I know that I am ready to participate in analytical and intelligent conversations there. Now that I’ve completed hundreds of IDs, 40 minute speed essays, 15 minute free response questions, and hours and hours of late-night homework, I am so grateful for the energy that my teachers have put into my education. So, thank you, not only to my teachers, but to the entire Reynolds faculty, for making all of us the successful student we are today and will be in the future.
Trellace graduates in June 2012 and starts at Georgetown in the fall. She likes church, tennis, and Just Dance 3. We call her Queen.