Since many of you asked about how my Sunday went, here's a recap:
The first part of the service went fine. Doing the announcements made me feel like a talk show host; I was thorough, and funny, and able to ad lib -- heck, if I'd boogied down the aisle and given away fabulous prizes it would have been just like "Ellen." Our guest musicians, Lutheran camp counselors who muchly impressed our confirmation kids this year, did a terrific job, and even got uptight yours truly moving a little in the pew. My AM did a good job; when it came time for the Gospel Acclamation it sent shivers down my spine to direct the congregation to rise and then to read the text. Then came the sermon.
Now, it's not like I think I'm St. Paul at the Acropolis or anything, but I thought I'd written a good little sermon on the theme "Blessed are the meek." But as I gave it, I looked out into the congregation and saw several sets of glassy eyes. Oh, crap, I thought (or the dynamic equivalent). The gaggle of Brownies in the front rows were nattering and squirming, and none of the adults attached to them were shushing them. I heard other people talking. I have to tell you, people talking in church after the service begins drive me insane even when I'm not front and center, and now it just seemed to underline my perception that I was dying up there in the pulpit. Why can't you be as interested in this topic as I am? I thought desperately.
So I was glad to finally descend from the pulpit and turn the proceedings over to my AM, who's a graduate of my lay ministry program and has a situational dispensation from our bishop to consecrate the Eucharist if our pastor isn't available.
But as I sat in the front pew, next to some of the Brownies, they started squabbling with one another over our imminent Eucharist.
"You can't go up there. You haven't been to class."
"Yes, I can! That minister said I could! And my mom said I could!"
I felt a tug on my alb. "Can she go up to Communion? She didn't go to class."
Sotto voce, I told the little girl that, yes, she could go to Communion -- if she held up her palms, they'd give her the wafer, and if they didn't, she'd get a blessing. The first little girl looked daggers at me and started whining.
My attempt to remind myself of Piaget's stages of development -- This is how kids this age act, they aren't capable of nuanced thought, they're very rule- and fairness-oriented, they can't help it -- was short-circuited by annoyance: Where the hell are the moms? Why didn't they prep these kids beforehand on what to do in church? How did I wind up babysitting these miniature harpies? This must be what hell is like -- surrounded by bitchy little Heathers-in-training.
I got mad. I put on the disciplinarian face. I raised the pedagogical index finger. I want all of you to be quiet right now, I hissed sternly. You're disrupting the service during a very important part. I almost told them, but didn't, that they were making the Baby Jesus cry. Now they were all glaring at me.
My post-Communion prayer: I am about to lose it. This is not how I wanted this morning to be. Help me.
Despite handshakes and hugs after the service, by the time I got into my car, I was ready to breathe into a paper bag.
I know that some of this sounds pretty comic, and I suspect that one day I'll be able to look back on it and laugh...but my Sunday morning experience led to a downward spiral that's still headed south.
What's my motivation? I want to help people find sacred space, space to worship; how do I do that in a church that is at times so noisy and anarchic, with people seemingly not engaged in what's going on? I love to learn about the Bible and about theology -- how do I transmit that love to people who don't seem all that interested? And, most importantly, how can I presume to be a minister of any kind when I can't even seem to minister to myself?
And how do I nurture my own faith? Some Sundays I am so desperate for a spirituality that acknowledges the holiness of God and supports a reverance for God. I want to be able to genuflect, to genuinely express the awe of encountering "Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty"; I want to be able to get down on my knees in the context of the worship service; I want to be able to rest in holy silence; I want to enter into that place where heaven meets earth. But people in my congregation just don't seem to be where I am. And is it fair of me to expect that they would be?
Sometimes I feel so alone in my church. And then I feel guilty for feeling alone: Who do you think you are?
I think I need to be checked into a spiritual ICU and let other people, people with some expertise in spiritual direction, take care of me for awhile. But I don't know who or where or when or how. I just don't know.