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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Sunday, April 03, 2005

What are ya gonna do? Ya gotta love 'em.

Years ago, before this nudge from God to ordained ministry began, I was a parishoner in a church in Flushing, NY. Very big Asian community near the center of town; on the far side of Flushing, big Jewish community.

Among the parishoners there.... were a couple: Alma and Kelsey. Both elderly, they were unlike anyone else there, falling into the category my Grandmother would call "characters".It was a conservative parish. Small. An anomaly in the neighborhood which now surrounded it. Alma and Kelsey were faithful people. Kelsey always was in his best to come to church, tie, jacket... usually a suit. Time had obviously shrunken him just a tad... so the suits moved on him a bit. He wore rimless THICK glasses - what we would call Coke bottles - looking a bit green on the sides. It always made him look wide-eyed and surprised... and that's just about the way he wore his soul... fresh and wide-eyed and smiling. AND REPUBLICAN!Alma, in contrast, could have passed for a later-career Selma Diamond. An avid smoker most of her life, her features were a bit craggy and a bit grey.... and her voice.... I'm certain she could have done the voice for a cartoon character resembling a cement mixer.

They loved each other immeasurably, there was not doubt about it. They would pass winks, back and forth, nudge each other not to eat sweets at coffee hour (and would the moment the other turned a back) and Kelsey, perhaps the more frail of the two, would always help Alma up from the communion rail at which they would both kneel, side by side.

One Sunday Alma was not there. Kelsey's eyes were red-rimmed. The priest told me there had been an accident... Alma was in the hospital... being a Lay Eucharistic minister, I was allowed to visit her if I got the chance. Kelsey just couldn't talk about it... and looked very lost.

Two days later, I finally got to the hospital. There was Alma.. laying in bed wrapped here and there, in traction and as no-nonsense as ever. "Some hellavuh set up, right" she snapped out of one side of her mouth, the Bronx pouring out of her speech. Yes, I acknowledged, it was a rather elaborate contraption."Ha!" she barked.."I say, what the hell ya gonna do about it". OK..... how do I approch this situation. She is elderly, in pain, obviously annoyed, and I have not been briefed as to what kind of accident this had been. WARNING TO THOSE WHO MAKE HOSPITAL CALLS..... GET SOME INFO BEFORE YOU STEP INTO THE ROOM... (this is the voice of experience here.) I could only manage something bland and non-combative...Well, Alma, I'm so sorry to see you laid up like this... what happened. "For God's sake, didn't Fathuh they tell you nothin'? Kelsey ran me over....twice."

I didn't know how to respond... it was so out of character for Kelsey and one of those moments when, despite yourself, you feel as if you'll explode into laughter..."Yeh, Monday we was goin' to the store. Kels got into the car and was backin it up... we shoulda trimmed the hedge. Anyhow, he's backin up an I'm tellin him to come on an backin up and lookin at the hedge and backin up and I'm tellin him to stop but he don't hear me an my foot went out an I didn't get outta the driveway an I went under and he went over. So, I'm layin there and can't scream so good, tellin him to get the f--k offa me and he finally heard me... but he moves the damn car forward and flattens the shit outta me again." At this moment I am doing my best to keep it (and my teeth) together.... not once, but twice... being run over by someone you love as much as life itself.

Inexperienced me asks stupid question #2: How do you feel? "How the f--k am I supposed to feel? My hip's broke, my ankle's broke, I got more pains than ever and Kels is home, not eatin and can't stop cryin. I just gotta love him. That's it. I'm too old for a divorce an I can't break another one in. Ya just gotta love 'em".

Twenty three years later, I am certain Kelsey and Alma are still carrying on where they are now - still winking and needling each other... and still loving each other. I have taken the time to think about my enemies lately, those who simply cannot abide the idea of my existance, let alone the reality of it. And I forgot something very primary: I had and have the option to love them, or at the very least, acknowledge that God would and does love them. That holds true whether the THEY be the prelates of the worldwide Anglican Church that believes that a certain segment of baptised Christians are welcome to be healed by the Church,but not well enough to heal others; welcome to learn from but not teach the Church; welcome to contribute their time,treasure and talent, but not the entirety of themselves.

I'll take a cue from Alma. They are what God has given me, they're trying, I might really dislike what they've done, but hey - I'm not gonna leave 'em. What the hell ya gonna do? Ya gotta love 'em.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a hilarious story! Loved it.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful meditation. When I finished laughing, I took the liberty of copying and pasting it, along with the link, into emails to my Pastor and all my efriends.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This story brought back memories of other "characters" as well from that parish. Remember Blanche and Mickey and Hope and Ed? I too remember the deep love and devotion of Kelsey and Alta.


8:40 PM  

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