Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Going Home


I’ll have to admit I’ve been a real poopie-pants since the election.  And that’s putting it mildly. 

This election was supposedly “in the bag” so the outcome was a shock and to some of us it was a shock on the level of 9/11 except that only half of the nation was sad and the ones who were sad had to contend with the ones who were not.  Then, to make matters worse, the ones who were happy seemed to spike the ball in the end zone by being kind of mean about it and overbearing to the marginalized people and that made the rest of us even sadder and more worried about the future. 

I had to stop hanging around the people who had asked me if I intended to “vote for that baby killer” because I just couldn’t be around them in my sadness.  Then the holidays arrived and whole families faced having different philosophies and personalities forced into an always stressful occasion sometimes adding booze to the mix.  About the only thing I had to be Thankful for on Thanksgiving was that in my family, at least, we were all of one political mind.

I spiraled into a deep funk.  I couldn’t bear to watch television.  My old favorite news commentaries had turned into funeral dirges.  The only thing that kept me from going mad was binge watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls.

It got so bad I started to wonder if I needed professional help.  When I consulted the closest thing I have to a therapist at the moment—a spiritual director—she mostly told me to move over and went on to describe the meetings she had been to where people were in tears over the election.  But then spiritual people do tend to be more on the liberal side.

I tried a number of things I thought might help.  This ran the gamut from buying a bunch of books on meditation to making a list of the top three things I worried about under Donald Trump and trying to force myself to concentrate on just those three. Somebody cooked up a Womens March on Washington with a Texas version to march on Austin and I planned to go to that.  I did as many proactive things as I could think of and I still stayed in a real funk. The last two months have been a real bummer.

Then came New Years’ Day and for some reason that did the trick.  I turned the corner.  But it wasn’t just the calendar page that did it.  It was that age-old trick:  I went to church. But not just any church.  I went home.

Home is the only way to describe it. We only moved away about four years ago.  Until then we lived in Garland and raised our girls in the First Presbyterian Church for over 30 years.  When we went back for  Christmas Eve services I noticed how comfortable I felt.  I don’t mean just physically comfortable in the pew or social comfortable among old friends.  I mean spiritually comfortable.  Most of my spiritual growth happened there—inside the walls but more importantly inside the relationships with my fellow members and inside the pages of the bible I read and studied as a young mother.  I found myself sitting in the same spot I sat in for three decades as I chewed on some of the basic concepts of Christianity that are now second nature to me. You might even say this is where I really became who I am today.

I went back on New Years’ Day mostly because Raelee Gold was singing.  That’s the other thing:  I’ve been part of this church long enough now to watch an entire generation grow up.  I remember Raelee’s birth and baptism and I remember my promise to God and her parents.  I promised to love her and teach her about Jesus.  The loving part was always easy.  In order to teach her about Jesus I spent summers at youth events and once took her to the Gulf Coast to show her how to help clean up after a hurricane.  And now she is grown up and in grad school studying voice.  Even though she lives in Princeton, New Jersey now  she always sings for the congregation when she comes to town for the holidays.

Here's the youtube link if the video isn't working-- link  It should be noted here that the accompanist for Raelee in the video is  Hunter Williams who is also a child of the church and a high school senior, another one I have promised to love and teach. The man taking the video is Raelee's father, who  never took lessons in videography, whose baptism I never attended and therefore didn't promise a thing but love nonetheless.


But I forgot that I would get a bonus when I went to Garland because on the first Sunday of the month Garland throws all their special effects out and has a worship extravaganza of the most awesome sort. 

First, you need to know that over the last ten years or so the Garland church has had a growing group of folks from other countries in their membership.  When Mercy and Divine Kuja, from Cameroon, joined the church, it kind of sealed the deal.  The year their son was born he was our baby Jesus in the church nativity that Christmas and you can’t get any better theology than having your baby Jesus be the child of Divine and Mercy. The Cameroon contingent has now grown to include around thirty members plus their children.  Recently a few folks from Nigeria joined them so now we call them simply the Africans.

Then a group of Presbyterians from Pakistan approached the church and asked if they could use our building to meet in.  After a few years they ended up just joining the church.  So now there are about 20 Pakistani Presbyterians who are members. 

So, on the first Sunday of the month Garland pulls out all the stops and celebrates this quadra-cultural congregation with an Anglo, Pakistani, Cameroon, Nigerian Presbyterian Communion service, many wearing colorful ethnic robes, it is just the most magnificent thing you’ve ever seen.  It is, in fact, the best depiction of the Kingdom of God I’ve seen inside the state of Texas yet.  Rev Oliver Jamshaid and his gang sing something in Urdu and play the strangest musical instrument I’ve ever seen or heard that looks like a big bread box and sounds like an accordion.  He assists Rev. Paul Burns, a good Scot Presbyterian if there ever was one, in Communion and says parts of the service in Urdu. 

But it is the African Offering that steals the show.  We’ve been doing this for over four years now and not only are the staunch Anglos used to it we love it.  We don’t merely accommodate it, we embrace it with smiles from ear to ear, doing our best “frozen chosen” version of dancing up the aisles to bring our offering, following the African members beating the drums and singing:

Up on the mountaintop,

Down in the valley below

Go and spread the love of Jesus

Go and spread it everywhere.



If you want a taste of the rhythm, you can go to a video of Juliette Mofor teaching it to our Women’s Retreat back in 2015.  Here’s the link: 

So, we’ve been trained.  We’re experienced.  And we love this song. 

As I was dancing up the aisle, my oldest dearest friend Linda Peavy danced by and hugged me and asked if I had come to see Raelee.  The offering was a great social opportunity for hugging and smiling.  I’ve never seen a bunch of Presbyterians enjoy an offering so much in my life.

The service ended with the congregation singing ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ and I remembered that I came here originally to hear an angel sing but I got so much more than that in the bargain.  And right there at the end, after Liz Harris-Kay added the descant to the hymn turning it into a heavenly moment, Margaret Ball played the zimbalstern part on the organ.  One was tempted to look outside because you would bet you could see snow falling.  The sound of the zimbalstern does that to you. My soul was content.

I have been healed. 

It is a new year. As the Benediction, the pastor started the congregation on a series of studies of the Ten Commandments for the new year starting with “Thou shall have no other Gods before me.”  I realized  what a great sin of distrust I  had wallowed in to doubt the future when I knew all along the future is in God’s hands. Later that week It occurs to me we survived Nixon and that helped.

Next week:  I go to the movies.  Homework:  go see Hidden Figures.  Or read up on the movie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...spiritual people do tend to be more on the liberal side." ??