tonight will be the first official discussion group for young adults up at MSC. tonight's topic is going to be immigration and the rallies that have been going on this past week....well, it will be a loose conversation on that. we'll see where it goes. tonight i'm going to propose that we all sit down and watch "brokeback mountain" next week. the group of people that will be there tonight, my friends, are torn on the movie. i'm hoping that by watching it and actually seeing it for what it is, we'll get some good conversation going-not just on homosexuality, but the media and our very sheltered suburban views as well.
i'm also thinking a lot about this week being holy week. ken mentioned that on thursday night we'll be having a maunday thursday service and i'm wondering what it will look like. i pulled out a lot of my old episcopal bulletins from the church and i've been looking them over. it's amazing to see how far i've come in the past 5 years. it doesn't feel like that long ago that i knew what a pew felt like, what dressing in a white acolyte robe felt like, what communion wine tasted like. it's different...
for us, maunday thursday was the night where all the priests got down in the bright, white robes to wash some of the congregations' feet. that act of submission was a beautiful thing. the men that did it were beautiful in their act of servanthood. they asked for random people in the congregation to come forward and i remember once when i did it. the head priest actually asked me to volunteer-i'm not sure if he was doubting the participation or if he had something in mind, but it was wonderful. it was heartwrenching. it was God.
the good friday (or black friday) services were hard. ever since i was about 11 i was an acolyte, and on that specific night i was one of the head acolytes. we would set out a row of candles with the christ candle in the middle and as people stood up to read passages (usually very sad laments) they would each extinguish their own candle. as they did, the lights in the sanctuary would be dimmed until at the end of the readings the room would be almost pitch black. the only thing giving light was the christ candle. then the choir would begin to sing "were you there" and specific women in the congregation would come forward to begin to strip the altar. not only did they take down all the dressing on the altar, but the priest also stripped down to his regular black robe and white collar. he was exposed. the altar was exposed. the congregation sat in the dark reflecting on the sad laments and what was about to take place. as the congregation remained knelt in silence, myself and another acolyte would leave the sanctuary and head outside to the fellowship hall. we carried the elements, the host with us. our priest would whisper quietly to hurry as we quietly, secretly left. the fellowship hall would be filled with flowers...tons of flowers and we would place the host on an alternate altar in the midst of them. there they would...there christ would remain... until easter. during the next 24 hours people would be in constant watch over them. the easter vigil. we all took an hour long segment of time to go and sit, and watch, and wait with christ. my friends and i always took the hardest hours, usually 3:30-4:30. we were young, still are, and it meant the most to us. the hour was hard. it was hard to stay awake. it was hard to bear the burden of what we were symbolizing. no matter how old you are, that feeling is there.
whenever the priest and my fellow acolyte and i returned to the sanctuary the room was pitch black. people were still singing acapella. then, after we knelt down at the center altar, just the 3 of us, there would be a loud drum on a gong and a crash. the curtain had been torn. it was scary and painful.
i would cry...pretty much through the whole service. hearing the weeping of others around me and sitting there in the dark...it was powerful. watching my priest, my head priest, undress himself in the dark and strip down...was uncomfortable and yet beautiful. i saw him as a man there in the dark. he was no different than me. he was humbled. we were all humbled.
then, after the loud roar, people could leave. most would just stay and remain kneeled until they could stop crying and leave. no one really exchanged words...they just left. i remember once where i stayed there at the altar for hours. i couldn't move. even now it makes me tear up.
now, if you know me, you know that i am one of the most critical people of the traditional church. i think most of its doctrine and liturgy is bogus and dumb, but there are just some things you can't shake. it's not that the good friday service pulled on people's emotions or manipulated them into anything, i think it really was a true, symbolic remembrance of what happened.
as i travel through this week, i remember a lot. not only of christ's week and walk toward the cross, but also my past. i can only hope that i never forget what it was like to be with christ in the lonely hours before his crucifixion and that i can translate that onward as i move in the emergent church. i hope that as we all travel together that we cling to the good from tradition and move toward the future with fresh eyes. i hope that we can all be open to bringing our pasts to the table and all be willing to look to the possibilities of what we can be.
my prayer is that we don't forget what this week is. tonight, as i go to my discussion group, we'll be talking about immigration, homosexuality, ethics, etc., but i know that no matter how distant we may seem from the matters of the new testament's days, we are still in the story together. the apostles may not have struggled with some of these issues, but no matter. we are linked. we are inseparable. we are a family, and this week i remember them. my heart goes out to them...and to you, whoever may choose to read this. my prayer is that you too may feel the joys...and the sorrows...of christ.