Last Sunday, March 3rd, was the first time that I had a chance to preach at my church for the regular Sunday services. I woke up at 5:30, and carefully sat in front of my computer waking up, meditatively drinking coffee. (That’s different from usual days, when I’m hunched in front of the computer, just desperately trying to keep my eyes open.)
My church has three services, 8:00, 9:15, and 11:15. I had only been to 8:00 church one time before, the previous week, in which I discovered that this early service was a remarkable tight-knit community of delightful people. I never thought that a music-less, Rite I service could be so full of energy. It’s a quiet energy, a morning-time no-bells-and-whistles energy. The day that I was preaching, the entire 8:00 congregation, apparently, showed up. There were about 40 people there, and everyone said “This is the most people we’ve ever had!”
I like sitting with the 8:00 crowd for their coffee hour. They sit for easily an hour after church in the little side room by the offices, talking about whatever. Many of them are African Immigrants. On the day that I was preaching, someone had a 90-something-th birthday, and there was a steaming heap of Jollof Rice and chicken (at 8:45 in the morning).
At SPR, preachers, even guest preachers, vest and process and sit with the clergy throughout the service. The last time I vested, I was the thurifer. I wore jeans under the robe and I chose one that was way too small. (Reversion to age 15, perhaps? My semi-conscious mind actually didn’t want to look official in that robe. Resist, resist, resist! Hah.) This time, though, I was in a skirt and tights and heels, and I chose a robe that was the right size. I looked official. I felt official.
There was a particular reason for the heels. I needed the couple extra inches to get over the pulpit that our two six-foot-tall priests usually preach from. It is HUGE. It dwarfs me. I’m also not comfortable preaching from the floor yet–I’m definitely a reader, even though I can anticipate what’s coming next, and I can talk to people–I read the sermon to get the particular verbage correct. Megan, my boss at the Hamline Wesley Center, always used to tell me “You’re a wordsmith!” And it’s true. But I don’t riff on sermons. There’s too much at stake for word choice in my mind.
Anyway, I was flying high. The 8:00 service had more energy than usual, and I had more of that energy to go off of when I was at the lectern. At 9:15, there was a lot of energy in the church. I didn’t get too many laughs, but I didn’t have too many funny parts–it was 11:15 when I really got the laughs. The 11:15 has the most young adults, and many of my friends attended that one. They were so supportive and I was ecstatic to see them there.
It felt good to be the preacher. That was kind of scary. What was scarier–that was communion time. I got to stand at the table during the Eucharistic prayer. Then I got to serve communion. I wasn’t actually informed of this beforehand, but after the initial silent “I can’t do that!” at 9:15, I ran with it. And I liked that too. Oh no. It’s scary to know that I enjoy this work.
Now I’m trying to do my schoolwork and I can’t focus on it. I’m still flying high on this–on all the good feedback, on everyone who told me that they really enjoyed the message. I was not given an easy task. The passages were practically impossible–about repentance and things that I hate, hate, hate about my religion. I worked really really hard to have a message and to work with the scriptures to the point where I had something that I could say that was honest, true to the text, and also something that I believed in. Because it was nasty stuff: full of the ancient worldview. But the more I worked on it the more I saw that there really was something valuable there, not just a curveball for the liberal. And other people appreciated it too. I was floored at how supportive everyone was, and how many good comments I received.
I have an exam on Thursday and it’s practically impossible for me to give a crap. I feel so full of joy in regards to THIS that I can’t re-engage the mess of texts that is History of Theological Ethics. I’m a little worried about what that will mean for my grade.
But, I guess I will need to go to the gym and hit the library as quickly as I can.