Sunday, April 12, 2009

Notes from the English Department: Easter in Fall

I'm writing as the sun is beginning to get low. A slow afternoon of not much going on. For lunch, we had salmon bought right from the fishmonger. One of them once told Bill he could come to her kitchen and cook anytime. I shared a bottle of wine with Bill. We rarely drink a whole bottle, but today is Easter and the afternoon slow. This morning I went to St. Peter's, the Anglican church in Vina Del Mar, which is very English. I learned that the Gospel According to Mark was written like a best seller, with an ending that leads you hanging and wanting to know more. I like trivia like that. But as lovely as the people are there, I miss St. John's, my church at home in Lake County, California, the place where most of the parishoners support Gay marriage and where Shared Ministry has been practiced because we can't afford a full time priest. That means we get to make a budget and plan the songs (not me because I can' t sing, but I did write the newsletter) and grumble a bit. I miss the grumbling. Before we sit down, most of us do a kind of little bow or curtsy to the alter that they don't do here, and we use the old form of the Lord's Prayer more often, which I prefer. We've kept more to the old forms in general. It's like how Americans still say gotten, but the English don't.

I'm reserved and my personality predisposes me to be one of the Frozen Chosen. There was guitar music during Holy Communion today and it annoyed me. I prefer the old hymns. I feel my English major coming to roost in them. I used to feel my bones were buried in an English churchyard in a past life. Weird. It passed, but the thought stayed with me for a long time as I got to know Episcopalians. I'm a latent one. Not from the cradle, as they say.

In my doubts, which I have many, i found the first church I ever was comfortable at St. John's. Redwood gothic. It creaks like a ship. Motorcycles sometimes go up the street during hymns. We've had bikers come to church. If I'm really in a rush or haven't gotten the ironing done, Iwear jeans.

This Easter, as usual, my doubts seem larger than any belief. I feel Christian because I like Jesus. Not sure I love him; he seems a bit stern at times, but he'd be one of the people from history I'd have over for dinner if I could. I know that with my disposition, had I been born Jewish or Muslim or Hindu, I'd be in just about at the same place . . . probably attending a synagogue or mosque or temple with the same half-faith that I have lived with all of my life. As a child, my parents didn't go to church but would send me to whatever Southern Baptist church that was close by where I'd ask Jesus into my heart countless times, and not feeling he ever got there, kept on asking. I guess I still am in a way.

Mrs. Haines, my Sunday school teacher when I was eight, got mad at me because I went up to an alter call after having gotten down on my knees in her class a few weeks before and asked for salvation. You only do it once, according to her. She told us that the size of our houses in Heaven would be built according to how many souls we saved. Mrs. Haines warped me, and I got in trouble at home because people from the church came to tell my parents the good news, which they would have been just as happy not to have heard.

Bill and I are were in Valparaiso yesterday buying some extra macrame necklaces for our friend Charlene who is back in Canada. While we were talking to the vendors, beautiful young women in sight and soul who happen to be Communists, a couple of ragamuffins came and pulled on Bill's shirt. They wanted a donation for the Judas they had made. Today, many Judases, along with political figures, will be burned in the cerros on Valparaiso. One of the lovely Communistas said that Bush has been burned many times. That's an Easter, if you ask me. A little fire. A little effigy burning . . .now, that sounds like a party.

Last year as I went to St. Peters, a group of about two hundred Pentacostals passed me by, singing joyously, throwing confetti and handing out candy in celebration of the Lord's resurrection. I missed them this year; they must have taken another route. Even though I have my prejudices about conservative Christians, I kind of wanted to follow them because of the music and their energy. I'm not into contemporary Christian hymns. Most of them sound like they are being emitted from a bad FM station. Really bad rock and roll from the 80s, and the like. But I do like gospel music, and though this wasn't it, it had a great beat. They were joyous, an emotion that I have to admit I feel I haven't had my fair share of.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this other than I wish that I could look at life with eyes more open, find fewer barriers in my soul, unloosen a bit. I'm one of the shy people Garrison Keillor speaks of, even if I'm not a Lutheren. I'd love to be a Buddhist, actually. I sometime admire atheists. The dead Jesus thing gets to me. I learned a few years ago that the earliest Christians, those Communistas, would have never thought of putting up a crucifix. It was too real for them, too brutal. It was only after the memory of real crucifictions faded that they started to appear.

Truth be told, I might be a better Christian Scientist or a determined follower of A Course in Miracles, as they make more sense to me. Only the sensory elements don't. Or with the history I've had. I have too many fixed signs in my chart. Maybe that's why a half bottle of wine on an Easter afternoon beats Easter Eggs.

I want to burn effigies and handle snakes and find my mind overstepped by emotion. Forget about creeds. A problem for a Protestant, at least this one, who since Mrs. Haines and before (Dr. Bob at Central Baptist could probably have hosted Fox News) has worried about what to believe. I'm shy to admit this, like how uncool can I be?

Chile isn't necessary a Catholic country anymore . . .( my other influence as all of my parent's friends, retired cops from Detroit, were Catholic. We didn't eat meat on Fridays because we always had one or another of them over. I can still say the prayer from heart where you ask for blessing all the faithful departed may they rest in peace amen after asking for blessings for the bounty we were about to receive). The government made October 31st a holiday last year, the anti-Halloween. There are enough Evangelical voters now to be catered to. Lots of Mormons here. Seventh Day Adventist, too, who are mainstream other than that they eat healthier than the rest of us and have the Sabbath on the right day.


Harry Allagree said...

Alethea, I think you may not know it yet, but you seem to be an "emergent Christian". If you can get it, The Great Emergence, by Phyllis Tickle (an Episcopalian) is an absolute must-read. It will help you understand the transition which all of us Christians are in/have been in for some time. Fr. H.

Norm said...

"Most of [the newer hymns] sound like they are being emitted from a bad FM station."

And can be heard on K-LOVE radio.

I recommend Bart Ehrman's books. I think you'll really like "Lost Christianities." When you return to LC, we can loan it to you.

Anonymous said...

I had not checked your blog recently, but did today. I sure enjoyed reading your thoughts. This week I went to the free organ concert at the Episcopal cathedral in Boise. We also have gone to that church for Christmas Eve services these last two years since coming here. On the other hand, we've been going to an Assembly of God church near our home for the most part, a kind of church we've never gone to in the past. I miss the hymns, too. There is so much heart, thought, doctrine in the words and structure. A bottle of wine on Easter evening sounds good to me if I'm enjoying it with friends and good conversation. If you come and visit us, we'll go on over to the cathedral. Debbie