It was Dorothy Parker’s hairdresser who said of Calvin Coolidge “He looks like he was weaned on a pickle”. At the 9:15 a.m. service today an older parishioner looked just like that: “Weaned on a pickle”, I thought. Never a smile. Never an eye contact. No sense that he was in any way engaged in the service.
After service he approached me and said “that was a terrific service. I truly enjoyed your sermon”. I was a wee bit surprised since I had sensed his disapproval.
A few minutes later his wife sidled up to me. “My husband”, she said, “never comments on services. So what he said today was unusual and true”.
Lance was in Church. He’d traveled the 45 minutes or so from North Port FL.
You’ll remember that Lance was a High School kid who attended St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield with his buddy Michael when I was Rector there. You’ll also remember that I called my ISP “Comcast” earlier this week, and Lance (by happenstance?) had fielded my call. As I called he remembered my name, and recognized my voice. We each got goose bumps as we chatted on the phone.
So there he was this morning - with his same as ever look - a mixture of shyness and confidence. What a joy for each of us - after nine years.
I plan to have lunch with Lance and his girl-friend on Wednesday.
She, a woman in her late fifties, chatted with me between services. It all came rushing out. She did not care if the State ever recognized same sex relationships. She did not care if the Church decided or not to bless them. All she cared was that her gay son would find a life partner - a person to have and to hold until death did them part.
Why did she chat with me? ‘Tis simple. Parents of gay children know who is safe.
In due course I “outed myself” to her, and added my hope and prayer that her (27 years old) son would find a life partner.
We are not supposed to change the Liturgy. I did today. The Prayer of Consecration noted that the Lord Jesus has brought us “out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life”.
At the second service I added “out of despair into hope”.
A woman worshipper heard this, and as soon as he arrived at home she called the parish office (knowing that I would be there for a third service) and asked the parish secretary to tell me that above all she needed to hear those words “out of despair into hope”.
The Church and her shenanigans often drive me crazy. I often doubt my own priestly usefulness.
But this morning gave me pause to be grateful for my vocation, and glad to be available as a summer “supply” priest.