Yesterday at church, our preacher talked about the very uneasy-making Gospel: Jesus' instruction to the young man to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor. This hits comfortable Americans pretty hard, especially since -- as the preacher cheerfully acknowledged -- most of us aren't going to do it.
I started going to church partly because my husband and I had just bought our first house, and I didn't want to get complacent about living with one other adult and several housepets in a structure that could shelter entire third-world villages. (Our house is small, by Reno standards -- 1,700 square feet -- but even so.)
It worked. I'm not complacent. But I'm not about to sell the house, either, and I have a pretty crappy charitable-giving record. I'm much more generous with time and talent than I am with money. I'm banking on being forgiven instead of being damned, which may very well be a dangerous strategy.
Anyway, among other things, our preacher talked about the ONE campaign to end extreme poverty; this fits right in with the UN Millenium Development Goals, which the Episcopal Church strongly endorses. So I've now signed on to the ONE campaign, and -- as you may have noticed -- am displaying a nifty banner on the upper-right-hand corner of the blog.
"I was hungry, and you added a nice blog button." I'm betting that earns me goat-hood rather than sheep-hood. But at least I'm spreading the word, right?
In my defense -- are you listening, God? -- I help coordinate our parish's involvement in Family Promise, a program in which faith communities house and feed homeless families, parents and kids, for a week at a time every few months. We've been a host congregation for five or six years now; in 2007, we're going to switch to being a support congregation. Our final hosting week is coming up in November, and during announcements, I asked for volunteers. I got a lot of slots filled in during coffee hour. Most of the people who came forward were regulars, but one brand new person signed up, too, and I bet the homily had something to do with that.
On a lighter note, I have to say that church yesterday mega-reinforced some stereotypes about Episcopalians. Q: How many Episcopalians does it take to change a lightbulb? A: Two: one to call the electrician, and one to mix the pitcher of martinis.
And of course, wherever you find four Episcopalians, you'll find a fifth.
I walked into the parish hall at 9:00 yesterday to discover people drinking champagne in honor of the wedding anniversary of two parishioners. "Wow, we're drinking at nine in the morning," I told our senior warden.
She raised an eyebrow, checked her watch, and said, "No, it's a few minutes after nine, so it's okay."
And then there's the communion wine. One of the things I love about my parish is that we have homemade everything. Our altar was hand-carved by a former rector (whose grandson's wife is one of our current priests). The congregation made the stained-glass windows, getting together once a week for several hours, over a period of months, to learn the skills they needed. This happened about twenty years ago, long before I started going to church, but it's one of my favorite bits of our parish history. Our communion bread is homemade by people in the congregation: none of those tasteless fishfood wafers for us, nosirree.
And our communion wine, very strong stuff, is homemade by a parishioner who runs a home-brewing company.
So during announcements yesterday, we learned that the Sunday school kids had somehow been involved in bottling and labeling the communion wine for the following year (I'm unclear on the details), and would be bringing the bottles up to the altar as part of the offertory. Sure enough, the offertory included a procession of tykes lugging bottles of wine -- sometimes nearly as big as they were -- and leaving them in front of the altar, which began to resemble the site of a really wild party.
We start them young, in the Episcopal Church.
A few years ago, a friend of mine who was about to move away rented our parish hall for her going-away party. A work friend of hers asked anxiously, "But are we allowed to bring liquor, since it's a church?"
When she'd stopped laughing, my friend said, "We're Episcopalians. We don't let you in unless you bring liquor."
Sometimes I joke that I'm in the wrong place, since I don't drink. I should be Baptist. I do take a sip of communion wine each week; some parishioners, for various reasons, don't. Our clergy have always emphasized that taking the bread is sufficient for communion.
I love our commitment to social justice, though. And I love my parish community. Yesterday a friend came up to me and said, "I just learned you won an award! Why didn't you announce it at church? We love you, and a lot of us would have wanted to be there!"
I'd announced it on our listserv, but that was a while ago. I was startled by her vehemence, but also very moved. When I'm sick and tired of church politics (which is almost all the time), or feeling fuzzy in my faith (which is too much of the time), the people are what keep me going back.