Sunday, November 02, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-changes Ch-ch-ch-churches

Part of this new position at the diocese is the odd condition of having no church home.

I left my parish behind when I left my call as rector there. They will do well and prosper under new leadership because they're great folks who understand what living the gospel means. Their fabulous deacon, The Woodworker, will be a source of continuation of God's love as they move through the space of transition.

And as I've said before, I'm in transition, too. So too my husband, who has said goodbye to friends and the choir at the old place.

So we're church shopping. Since I will often be presiding at various and sundry parishes throughout the diocese on Sundays, it's more of an issue for him than for me. He is ordained in a different denomination and does not work in a parish, but has come to love liturgy, so he's become an Episco-friend. Given my times away, a church that works for him is more important than one that works for me.

Odd thing when you're a priest going church shopping (particularly, since as my husband says "you know at least one person in every church in the diocese") - folks come up to greet you. Sometimes I wear the collar, sometimes not. But there really is at least one person in every place that knows me, so we cannot be anonymous. Not so bad a long as you greet my husband with the same interest and respect as you do me.

This has been a great reminder of what it is like to be a stranger (or at least somewhat a stranger) in a new place. Some places are large, and if you're a newcomer, you are easy to miss, since everybody doesn't know everybody and just assumes you're simply a member who normally attends another service. Some places are small and you stick out like a sore thumb, and you get inundated with folks wanting you to feel welcomed, which has its upsides and downsides. Some places just don't have the hospitality gene, so you sit with your significant other in your pew and at the passing of the peace, you greet each other, then look around to greet another person and they are studiously looking down, avoiding your line of sight.

Some places have orders of service that have the whole service, just about every word in it. Since I'm used to flipping through the Book of Common Prayer and the Hymnal, it's not really necessary for me, but it's a nice thing - keeps my head in the worship rather than in the logistics. Other places have orders of service with page numbers - that works fine for me, although not for all newcomers.

Then there is communion time. What's the plan for getting humanoids up to receive communion and back to their seats? Everyone says the ushers will guide you. Some places do that better than others. There is nothing that feels quite so awkward as turning to walk back to your pew and not knowing if you should go down the center aisle, down the side aisle, or through a mystery door ("I'll bid on Door Number Two, Bob!")

Signs. What door do I walk into? Sometimes it's obvious. Sometimes it's not. Signs help. Where are the restrooms? Please, by all that is holy and good, have good signage. I'm at the age where I don't give a darn about saying "where's the ladies' room?" but a 14 year old girl? Not so much. How do I get to the parish hall, since you've invited me to join everyone for coffee there? This morning, the rector was utterly clear in explaining how to get there...made it easy for all newcomers.

I'm learning, in ways that I was not always aware of when I was a parish priest, how the little things make a world of difference in making one feel welcomed.

Have we decided where our home parish will be? Nope. Lots more cool places to visit and consider.

But I am grateful for the welcome we've experienced thus far. It's going to be a hard decision!

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