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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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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I Believe in Letters

This piece was sent to me a while ago by a MOLC reader, Mary Alice Bennett. She lives on Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts and am a member of Our Redeemer Episcopal Church in Lexington, Massachusetts. Thanks for sharing this with The Geranium Farm, Mary Alice! Blessings, DJ

I believe in letters

Every day I walk out to the mailbox to retrieve the days offering, hoping for a real letter; news from an old friend, distant cousin, or aged aunt. It is not that I don’t hear from people. I do. Through e-mails, phone calls, or long weekend calls when we are “using up” our minutes on our cell phones, multi tasked with walking the dog.

As I walk back from the mailbox, I flip through the pile of mail each day glancing at the return addresses. AT&T bill, gas bill, water bill, bank statement, investment statement, query from a life insurance company. One day last week as I was leafing through the usual stack of important, though emotionally unfulfilling mail, I saw a hand addresses square envelope. I was excited. A real letter. I ripped it open and discovered that it was actually just an offer from a credit card company. What disappointment. It annoyed me that this company would use a handwriting style font as a means to get the recipients to actually open their offer. It seemed so dishonest. I did get me thinking about letter writing though.

A real letter do you remember those? Recognizing the handwriting on the address, feeling the weight of the envelope you could tell immediately if it was filled with news or was simply a short note to let you know that the sender was thinking about you. Somehow having a letter to hold in your hands, to toss in a shoebox and reminisce over years later is so much more fulfilling than reading a quickie e-mail off the computer.

How often do we send or receive a letter anymore? Holidays certainly, birthdays if we remember in time. Every year I faithful start writing Christmas cards the first week of December. I write a few each day, trying to write a small personal note in each one. A synopsis of our year squeezed in and around the printed holiday greeting. I enclose a photo of the kids so that family and friends far away can see how they have grown and changed. I wait to receive Christmas cards in the mail; trying to guess which friend will be the first to get hers mailed out. It is generally a retired older aunt that has the luxury of time to complete her cards early, next it is the Martha Stewart over-achiever-mom friend, who hand stamped her cards back in July and has waited to send them out the day after Thanksgiving. I love to receive Christmas cards, but I would rather be surprised and get letters at random times throughout the year.

My grandmother passed away a year before I was born, but I still feel that I really know who she was. How? Through letters she wrote during the course of her life to various people who saved them and I have since had the pleasure of reading. My grandmother wrote long letters to my mother while she was a way at college. Through these letters I learned what was important to my grandmother, what her sense of humor was, what her style was, funny anecdotes of daily living that would have been long forgotten had they not been recorded in these letters for the amusement of my mother in 1957. I still have these letters, a link to the past, which helps me understand many things, who Dorothy was, history, genetics, nurture vs. nature, how I have become who I am.

Will our e-mails to friends and family survive the years and provide that type of context to our lives that my grandmother’s letters have? Probably not. We will delete them and our link to the future.

My mother is a great letter writer as well. As a young woman during the Kennedy administration she admired the style of the lovely First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. My mother read somewhere that Mrs. Kennedy had a signature light blue stationary which she used for all her correspondence. My mother was so inspired by this she decided to do that as well. I have kept many of my mother’s letters over the years and when I look through my keepsake box, I can quickly see my mother’s letters in their light blue envelopes.

Have we become so much busier now that we simply can’t afford the time to keep in touch through letters. Studies indicate that we are busier now than 30 years ago. Most married couples both work out side the home, children are all involved in a multitude of extra curricular activities. We run from dawn to dusk it seems. I believe we can still find time to write letters though, and to have the pleasure of receiving them. It just takes will and time management. When I took my daughter to have her braces adjusted this week, instead of reaching for an old copy of People magazine, I wrote a letter to an old high school friend. While waiting for my son at soccer practice, I wrote to my aunt. I told her how much I loved going with her to explore tide-pools when I was six. It just takes a moment to bring a smile to someone’s face and isn’t that what life is really all about?

Monday, February 05, 2007

On the Road FROM Damascus

Sorry, I just couldn't avoid the reference.

Paul had a revelation on the road TO Damascus. OK, OK.... be picky and say it was a different country, a different time, a different mode of transportation.

Yet this afternoon, at about 3pm I was on the road FROM Damascus.... Damascus, NY and the road was Route 17 East. Barbara and I had just finished a wonderful weekend with the delightful folks @ St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Horseheads, NY.

We arrived there Friday night - later than expected or hoped - having passed through a snow squall or two, often wedged in between 18-wheeler trucks that buffeted Harriette Honda a bit -yet we priest, one deacon, one faithful EpiscoPup (Emmy Lou), two bags, boxes of books and provisions for the road. By the grace of God and some relatively new tires we arrived with all parts intact.

"Be ready to hit the ground running" Barbara said as we got off the exit from Rte.17 into town, not knowing if we had made a wrong turn in the swirling snow. Keeping the car running I pulled into a convenience store on the main drag. "Oh, THAT church... it's 2 blocks away on the left". Back into a toasty Harriette, 2 blocks and a U turn later I dropped Barbara in front of the Parish Hall. She was wisely decked in clerical attire... I was dressed for comfort, thinking we would have arrived much earlier (not having factored in the nasty weather). Emmy, in her red collar and knitted red sweater at least made a positive fashion statement... in loose jogging pants and a Michigan Hospice T-Shirt my appearance inspired little awe... more like "ahw, nnoooooooooo".

As usual, the initial presentation went well. The Rafters- Michele and John - were perfect hosts in every way. By Saturday things were moving right along.... and Emmy-Lou was getting the royal treatment by everyone (especially those who 'accidentally' dropped a morsel of food on the floor). Unless my ears deceived me, I thought I heard Em burp more than once between bagels, soups and desserts galore.

The talks were held in Church, Barbara sitting and using a microphone to make sure one and all got every word and many a nuance. The group was encouraged to decide to keep fairly silent - and speak mindfully: i.e. speak when there was a need for information to be transmitted - not as a means to ease the discomfort that often accompanies internal and external quiet. No church business to be transacted, no chatter.

After talks Barbara and I each took individual conferences with those who signed up to speak one-to-one with us. Lunch. Another talk. More conferences. Eucharist began at 3. Because there was there were more people than 'slots' for conferences, the last conference was over at 5:05. We each had a power nap before a wonderful dinner.

Sunday started... with new snow and a pre-windchill temp of 4...yes, four degrees. I toddled down to let Em out at 7am for a little relief and locked myself out on an exterior a t-shirt and shorts. Luckily, Michele was still in the kitchen and rescued me.... talk about a rude awakening! Yikes. The 8am service - then I went back to the rectory to set the bags in the car and let Em run in the snow a bit... an adult forum, the 10:15 service during which the divine Miss Em was nearly whisked away by several families. Back to the house to eat a quick, delicious lunch and off on the road......through Damascus on the way to St. Bart's in NYC by 5:30 for a series.

Vocation is a strange and wonderful thing. Those of us in ordained ministry make vows and sign papers saying we have no intention of perpetuating heresies. Bishops lay hands on us and we become links in a chain that goes back to Peter. We ask our supporters and witnesses to support us in our ministry.... whatever it is. Yet ministry often starts in one arena - on one path and along the way the path leads somewhere else to whatever it will become.

Paul, never had an apostle lay hands on him to welcome him into the fold - he fell off a horse after having had a divine revelation from Christ. Starting off on the road to Damascus one thing was on his heart and mind.... and it wasn't the propagation of the faith. After leaving his destination something entirely different was there.

My revelations along the road FROM Damascus are manifold: my preconceived notion of who I am and what my ministry is will be in flux (as well it should); I am learning to work with a three dimensional person who has much to teach (and I SOO much to learn); if you consider yourself humble you may be very mistaken.

You never know when some insight - some in-light - will seep through. How much better evangelists of the Good News we become when that sight and light pierce through the layers we surround ourselves with and we are transformed by their grace!

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