Priested!

So much happening so fast these days!  I haven’t had a chance to post anything recently.  So here’s something anyway, to keep the ball rolling at least.  It’s somewhat reactive: reacting to monumental life events as I’m in the middle of them.  Look for a post at the end of the month for a more reflective take on these events of July, 2013.

So, on Saturday last I spent the day with my dad and stepmom who flew in from L.A. for the occasion of my ordination to the priesthood.  They wanted to spend time with the grandkids, naturally, so they all went off for a few hours to take in a couple of movies: one set went to see Despicable Me 2 and Lone Ranger the other.  Which was just as well, because my former seminary dean was to arrive any minute having also flown in from California for the occasion, to be the preacher.

All ran like clockwork.  Dean arrived, I got him settled, and we returned to the house in time to rendezvous with the others for dinner in the Pearl Brewery district, a presently-being-refurbished part of San Antonio that is well worth exploring if you ever get the chance.  Our first choice for dinner was La Gloria, about which I’ve heard excellent things.  But the wait for our party of nine was an hour and a half, too long for our hunger and anyway for the youngest member who was already up past his normal bedtime by now.  No worries though.  For in the Pearl all one has to do is walk a block or less to find another eatery, which we did, Il Sogno, which had an outside table for nine ready to go presently.  Turned out to be one of the best dining experiences in a long time for all of us, 2.5 hours of sitting around a table over a meal and some of the most delightful fellowship imaginable.  Go if ever you can.  The antipasti sampler is highly recommended.  But plan on $25+ entrees and $40+ bottles of wine.

Sunday morning was spent fairly typically, in church.  The difference about this day was that the normal 6pm service would be transformed into my ordination service.  Normally maybe sixty parishioners make the evening mass.  It meets in the rather large nave, but a small wooden altar is rolled out front.  People sit only in the first several pews.  There is no music.  The sermon is relatively brief and conversational.  It’s done and over in forty minutes.  But tonight meant the full choir and organ, a congregation of two hundred including several visiting clergy, an hour-and-a-half service at least, and a reception following with sandwiches and wine or fruit punch for those who preferred it.  It was a spread.  And it was all for me.  Indeed, no one can say that the Episcopal Church doesn’t honor its clergy!

I tried to connect beforehand with everyone participating: the deacon to read the Gospel, the cantor, the choir and organist, the readers, presenters, chalice bearers, Bishop, preacher, Bishop’s chaplain, acolytes, even the verger.  I don’t know if I succeeded, but I knew it didn’t really matter.  The service would happen anyway.  Then at last all seemed ready.  Those processing gathered in the narthex for a prayer.  The amen was said and the bell tolled.

“You look like a bride,” a woman whispered to me as I stood in line.  I couldn’t help but smile.  On the surface it was a funny thing to say.  For I have a beard and was dressed in an alb, not a gown, without any part of me manicured or pedicured or otherwise made up: I looked nothing whatever like a bride.  Yet her words were entirely appropriate, for the service, what with all the preparations and accoutrements, felt much like a wedding.  Only this time around, I mused, I wasn’t a nervous wreck like when I actually was the bridegroom in my own wedding.  Twenty years will do that I guess.  But, too, there was such a clear sense of the Holy Spirit through it all.  That had to account for something.

Throughout the evening I had no nerves whatever.  Even when I signed a declaration stating my belief in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God!  Even when my oldest daughter showed up fifteen minutes into the service, surprising me smartly since I thought she was a thousand miles away!  Even when my son climbed into my lap in only the squirrelly way he can, right as the preacher turned his address at me personally!  Even when the Bishop and the gathered clergy consecrated me, laying their hands on me as a tangible expression and reminder of the weight of the Holy Spirit now upon me!  Even when I handed each parishioner a wafer and said, “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven”!  Even when I pronounced my first blessing!  Through it all the Holy Spirit was present and known.

But that woman’s statement about me looking like a bride was appropriate in another way.  For here, in my ordination, is one of the sacramental rites practiced by the Episcopal Church; just as is matrimony.

The dean stayed through Monday, giving him and me a good time to catch up with each other, a rich time I’ll cherish for many years to come.  And now it’s Wednesday night.  Tomorrow morning I will celebrate my first Eucharist.  Sunday ahead promises three more celebrations.  Maybe then I can get back to this blog.

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