Sunday, February 04, 2007


February has traditionally been a time of epiphanies and celebrations for me, even before I started going to church and realized how neatly my personal experience matches the church season of Epiphany. February 20, for instance, is the anniversary of the day I was offered the job at UNR (in 1997), the day of my very unexpected and grace-filled first communion (some months before I was baptized, in 2000), and the day when we learned that my mother's lung-cancer surgery had been so successful that she needed neither chemo nor radiation (in 2004).

From late March to mid-April, on the other hand, I've consistently had a series of awful things happen: April is the cruellest month, and all that. So this three-month stretch has a kinda bipolar feel to it. But hey, we're still in February. I'm not going to borrow trouble.

Historical digression: When I was a kid, a friend of my mother's worked for an obscure record company, and one Christmas she gave us an album of Sydney Carter songs called Carols Round the Year. The album's so thoroughly out of print now that I can't even find used copies anywhere, but my mother and sister and I loved it and listened to it nonstop, even though we weren't religious.

This morning when I walked into church, the choir was rehearsing one of my favorite songs from that album, "Carol of the Universe." I'd completely forgotten about it for years, but the entire thing popped back into my head as soon as I heard the first line.

Every star shall sing a carol,
Every creature high or low.
Come and praise the King of Heaven
By whatever name you know.

Chorus, sung after each verse:
God above, man below,
Holy is the name I know.

When the king of all creation,
Had a cradle on the earth.
Holy was the human body,
Holy was the human birth.

Who can tell what other cradle,
High above the Milky Way,
Still may rock the King of Heaven,
On another Christmas day?

Who can count how many crosses,
Still to come or long ago,
Crucify the King of Heaven?
Holy is the name I know.

Who can tell what other body
He will hallow for his own?
I will praise the son of Mary,
Brother of my blood and bone.

Every star and every planet,
Every creature high and low.
Come and praise the King of Heaven,
By whatever name you know.

Reading the lyrics now, I can certainly see why they appealed to a kid who loved science fiction! But the tune's lovely, too. When I heard it at church, I raced over to the choir and started singing with them -- even though I can't sing -- just because I was so excited to hear the song again. They were doing it as an offertory hymn, and the choir director very kindly offered to let me sing with them, but I decided not to inflict my non-voice on the rest of the congregation. I sang it in my car on the way home, though!

That was a splendid beginning to church, which continued to be excellent. Today we had a combined Eucharist and annual meeting, which actually worked out very well, with much better attendance than we've gotten when we have the annual meeting at night. Nominations were made for delegates to diocesan convention -- which is probably where we'll be electing our next bishop -- and I nominated myself, because I'd like to have a vote in that process. Last year I didn't go to diocesan convention because I was so utterly sick of church politics, but this morning I discovered that I want to go this year and want to be able to vote; and I'll be able to, because I was one of the people elected. (The three of us who'll be delegates all tied: are we trinitarian, or what?)

This morning's service included a wonderful homily about the importance of following God's call even when we don't feel worthy. Maybe that had something to do with my nominating myself for convention delegate. It almost certainly had something to do with the epiphany I had about halfway through the meeting . . . which is that I may be able to see a path to ordination after all, if I can be ordained to a very particular kind of diaconal ministry within the diocese. I don't want to be too specific about this yet, because it depends on a lot of variables (none under my control), and chances are high that nothing will come of it. But I mentioned it to four friends who know what a tough time I've had with the ordination issues -- including two of our parish priests -- and all of them were intrigued and supportive. What I want to do comes directly out of the struggles I've had over the past few years, which means that if it works (very big if, there), all the crud will have been transformed into something useful.

Wouldn't that be lovely?

I'm trying to be realistic about this and not get my hopes up, partly because what I want to do probably requires political skills I simply don't have. On the other hand, all things are possible with God -- and it's nice to feel as if ordination might even still be theoretically possible.

And yes, there's still that thorny vow of obedience, which would remain a decidedly nontrivial issue even if everything else worked out. But all four people I spoke to today immediately suggested that I schedule an appointment with our interim bishop to talk about the idea. So we'll see.

In the meantime, I keep humming the Sydney Carter song!


  1. Lovely lyrics, Susan! I wonder if anyone has put it on the web in audio format. And where did you find that awesome image? I want a large copy for my desktop wallpaper. Good luck at convention this year!


  2. Sounds great, Susan, I'm so happy to hear it. Good luck!

  3. Whoa... you're an Episcopalian, you write science fiction, AND you talk openly about struggles with depression?!

    I'm adding you to my blogroll!

    (My blog tends to be about the intersection of sf/f and Christianity; about religious topics (I'm an Anglican), and lately at least, about anxiety and depression.)

  4. Hi, Elliot! Welcome, and nice to meet you! I'm adding you to my blogroll, too!


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