Friday, January 29, 2016

The Bishop's Bitch Slap

Last Sunday I was confirmed and I have been goofy happy about it all week.  Joining the Episcopal Church is the first religious decision I have made completely and entirely on my own, with no consideration for any one else. 

That may run counter to the principles of playing well with others, but seeing that the others have taken their football and left the playground, it seems legit.

Sunday morning I was awake by 4:00 a.m. - excited and a little anxious, I guess.  I tried all manner of things to go back to sleep, but gave up and decided to do something productive.  Like getting dressed.  On Saturday I attended confirmation class with a couple of college students who were going through the ceremony at another church.  Mother Jay, who I am pretty sure was even more excited and anxious than me, suggested that we wear "Sunday Clothes".

I took the hint and dressed up.  A bit.

Episcopalian Confirmation Services have joined funerals, football games, and a host of other events on the list of things I'm not willing to wear a dress for.  Or pantyhose, for that matter.  But I did wear something more appropriate than jeans and a t-shirt.  And I wore heels.

Her second request was that I arrive at the church early to meet with the Bishop.  She promised there wouldn't be a test, but that we'd do a walk-through of the service.

I can be early.  I was up at 4:00 a.m.  I can be damned early.

When I arrived I found about half the congregation already there.  The three of them were frantically searching for confirmation certificates, oil for the Bishop to consecrate, and the parish register so they could affix me to the 'permanent record'.

When Jay registered my presence, she smiled like I was the guest of honor - something she's good at - and stepped closer for a hug.

Then she hesitated, uncharacteristically, arms out-stretched.  It took half a moment for me to process.  She'd never seen me in heels before and the extra inches put her face right at boob height.  It was gonna be an awkward hug.

I bent down so she could reach.

The paperwork procured, I was given the task of completing my own certificate, having been declared to have the best handwriting.  Things were coming along rather nicely and when finished I stood in the hallway outside the church office, talking to a friend.  Jay joined us.

"I think we've got everything ready."  She relaxed a bit and we chatted for a few minutes before she turned to go into the sanctuary.  She threw this comment back over her shoulder,  "I suppose I should warn you.  Sometimes bishops slap the candidates on the face during the service."

"Wait -- WHAT?!"

Jay turned and walked back, grinning like a cat full of canary.  "I've seen it done.  The Bishop gives the candidate a little slap on the face."  She reached up to demonstrate and I flinched. "But don't worry.  I've never seen our Bishop do it."  And with that she walked away.

"Oh...Oh yeah?!" I stammered towards her retreating back. "Well--thanks for the warning!"

(I told this story to my friend Cyn in a San Antonio Starbucks while waiting for a flight back home.  At this point she exclaimed, "Thank God she warned you!  If not I know what your exact reaction would have been during the service!"

I nodded and in unison we shouted, "WHAT THE HELL, DUDE?!")  

The bishop arrived and true to Jay's word he was an complaisant man with a talent for putting everyone at ease - making the way smooth.

He asked if I wanted to stand or kneel for my part.  Being born a Baptist who inherited a pair of gimpy knees, I opted for standing.  All was well until he realized that even when standing on the altar, his recent shoulder surgery prevented him from laying hands on the top of my head.

I bent down so he could reach.

He didn't slap me.

My parents were there for the service.   It was nice to have someone standing in my corner, or my pew, as it were.  Also they raised the weekly attendance by 22%.  (Yeah.  I did the math.)  Everyone was very welcoming and especially accommodating of my mother, whose cerebral palsy has confined her to a wheelchair for the past decade.  When the service was over, I gave her a hug.

I bent down so I could reach.

There's probably a lesson in all of that.  I'm leaving you to work it out for yourself.  But, since I've sat through a lifetime of evangelical sermons, I just can't leave the Three Points without a Poem.  And in honor of that same conversation with Cyn, in which we discussed many important and useless things I have managed to find a snippet of Helen Steiner Rice that has no doubt graced some complicated frippery of drug store stationery in years past:  

God has a much bigger vision
and He tells us it’s only a bend
For the road goes on and is smoother
and the pause in the song is a rest
And the part that’s unsung and unfinished
is the sweetest and richest and best.

 HSR is probably full of crap about the road being smoother, but I know that you do have to be willing to bend. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I'd Settle for Seattle. Or Even Galveston.

Have I mentioned I'm getting confirmed?  Sunday?  With a real-live bishop and everything?

I am.

I'm not going to wear my big bishop-esque vampire-repelling cross.  And I'm not going to dress like Anton LaVey.  Still not going to wear a dress, though.  Check off another box on the List of Things I'm Not Willing to Wear Panty-Hose For.  Anything else I should do or not do?

Oh, and I gotta remember to go to confirmation class on Saturday.  That's really why I am writing this.  It's a big ol' sticky note in the blogosphere to help me not to wander off on Saturday morning and forget all about my immortal soul and such.

This past Sunday, the Priest told me, all casual and off-hand, that she'd done some research and someone my age doesn't have to have a godmother for confirmation.  She would just act as my sponsor.  I smiled and nodded, but in reality I was all "waaaaaiiiiiit!  Fairy Godmother?! I might want one of those! Do they come with their own wand?  Do I get three wishes?  Should I bring a bottle?  An apple?  Some cooperative house mice?!"

So many questions.  But I don't know them well enough at this point, so I just kept my mouth shut.  And that right there was a miracle. Kept my mouth shut.  Y'all remember this and eventually, when I'm up for canonization, this bit of thaumaturgy will help get me my own feast day.

Does Transylvania already have a patron saint?  What are my chances?  I don't wanna get stuck being the Benefactor of Akron, or something lame like that.