A few months ago I told you about Jimmy the Lions Club Prayer Guy. Jimmy was a true patriarch of the community and deaf as a post. He was a master of the institutional prayer. He couldn't hear a single word I said for the entirety of my tenure as Lions Club president. But he knew when I gestured at him, he was supposed to do his thing. "MAY WE PRAY?"
My year as the grand poo-bah of the local Lions Club is thankfully also at an end. I am ever so happy about that. Ever bloody so.
The new Lion Boss has declared pay back upon me for the many times I asked him to do bits of the weekly program. So far that payback has included making me lead the pledges to the American and Texas flags each week. This week he upped his game.
I was in the middle of stuffing fajita chicken into a warm tortilla when he knelt next to me at the table, pen and agenda in hand, and asked if I would do the prayer.
I looked a little stricken, fajita filled fist frozen halfway to my open mouth.
"That's ok, right?" he asked, halfway serious. "I mean, you're right with the Lord and stuff, aren't you?"
"We talk," I admitted. "Are you sure you're not worried about lightening strikes though?"
"It's not like I'm gonna be standing next to you or anything," he admitted. "I'm just hoping the whole building doesn't cave in around us. You're not going to call down snakes or our heads or anything like that, are you? I mean, I've seen Carrie. That sort of stuff doesn't end well."
I assured him I would leave off the incantations and praise of the dark side.
His request was unusual. Singular, even. I wondered if perhaps he asked me to do the prayer because of my outfit. Mindy describes this particular ensemble as my Anton LeVey garb. It's a black priest-looking shirt and a necklace of black crosses. I did soften things a bit with a pair of blue jeans instead of the black pants I normally wear with it. But I still wore black boots with silver studs.
(Lord, I've owned at least one pair of black boots with silver studs at all times since the late 1980's. And how many years have I worn this shirt? Maybe I should get a new one. Wonder where Anton LeVey shops? Demon Marcus?)
While I finished my meal - including almost all of my vegetables - I tried to think of something to pray. It has been years since I've been asked to do an extemporaneous prayer. Long, long years. For starters, I am a woman. That precludes me from these duties in most social and civic circles here. And forget being asked to do it in a Baptist church. Or most of the other denominations we have here. Besides, the weekly club meeting is really the only gathering I attend that requests extemporaneous prayer these days. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. Not at all.
A well-written prayer trumps pretty much all extemporaneous attempts when it comes to public performance. Admittedly, I do love to count the repetitions and churchy phrases that most of us don't realize we've fallen victim to when put on the spot. One of my favorites from childhood was the church treasurer who could never pray without requesting to be delivered from the lust after filthy lucre.
I've been enchanted by all the good stuff in the Book of Common Prayer since becoming an Episcopalian. In years past I've been the designated pray-er more often than not at any sort of institutional gathering that I was a part of, outside of church. It's a dubious perk of being the preacher's kid. I have prayed at every single graduation ceremony I've ever been in. I've prayed Catholic prayers, poetic prayers and my favorite was a particularly beautiful Baha'i prayer.
After my college graduation my grandmother admitted to having 'peeked' during the prayer. "I wasn't sure that was really you. You sounded so...different!" That may well have been when the probation voice was born.
The probation voice doesn't get as much use these days. It's my own attempt at the voice of God. Or at least Morgan Freeman. It's all about gravitas and authority. The older I get, the less I use both those qualities. Now maybe I'm more about consensus. And really listening. And finding a solution rather than demanding one.
And then, if all that doesn't work, it's time to use the probation voice. That normally doesn't work either, but it's at least kind of fun.
Today was not a probation voice day. I managed to quietly say a few words of thanks for the meal and request that we'd all be blessed as we returned to our lives and work in the community. Blah, blah, blah.
I don't know if Jimmy would have been proud or not. But I do know what he would've said.
"SPEAK UP, WOMAN!!"