Saturday, May 24, 2008

Taking the Bus

It was about a year ago that I started to take the bus to work in earnest. I experimented with a three month bus pass and then purchased a yearly pass. I don't take the bus every day, but I imagine I've averaged twice a week this year. Buying the pass was the easy part. Harder was figuring out things like what potluck dishes do bus travel well, how to get errands done on the way to and from work, where I can go for lunch without a car, and those kinds of adjunct issues. Being a bus rider adds a half an hour to my work day, but since I can listen to the news or pray, it's not a complete loss of time.

This is the desert, so we don't get much rain; the morning I took this picture was the first time in a year it was uncomfortably wet in the morning. I've had to ask someone to come and get me once because of bad afternoon weather. Last Summer there was a spate of trouble with missing or broken down buses, but my route has gotten new equipment, and we don't seem to have those troubles any more.

The new buses don't seat as many people, and lots of folks sit sideways, which I don't like to do. They arrived just as gas prices started to rise, so just as we got less capacity, we got more riders. I actually had to stand for a while one day, which is a first since my Boston Days. I do feel good about my riding the bus. Not only is it the ecological way of the future, but I have a sense of knowing the people of my city better. And I do arrive at my destination more relaxed. All in all, I like the bus.

Friday, May 16, 2008

For Such as This

Our new church administrator came to the service a few weeks back to be introduced, and something I read from Annie Dillard prompted her to give me a Jewish prayer she loves:

"Blessed are you, Holy One, sovereign of all worlds, who has created such as this."

Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheynu melech ha'olam
shekacha lo b'olamo

(This reminds me of wonderful lines from Fiddler on the Roof: a villager asks the rabbi, who has just proclaimed that there is a blessing for EVERYTHING, "So is there a blessing from the Czar?" "Certainly," says the Rabbi, and he intones, "May God Bless and keep the Czar, far, far away from here!")

"Blessed are you, Holy One, sovereign of all worlds, who has created such as this."

What a wonderful prayer for life's odd moments!

A prayer, I presume for those moments of awe, such as the one I had this evening when I went out to my garden and found the last sun's rays in an otherwise darkly clouded sky had bathed the world in yellow light. "Blessed are you, Holy One, sovereign of all worlds, who has created such as this."

And perhaps for those moments when you are perplexed, as in, I don't know what that meant, or where we're heading, but it is beautiful....

And also, most profoundly, for those moments when you have come to terms with some awful thing, so that you are ready to bless it, not too extravagantly, but as a part of all that is your life. I remember coming to that place after my cancer diagnosis. Sometime in the last few days before surgery, after I'd had a month to adjust to the whole shocking, terrible business, I found that I no longer wanted to hate these wayward and dangerous cells or try to will them dead. That would have been the right blessing for that moment, too.

"Blessed are you, Holy One, sovereign of all worlds, who has created such as this."

I passed my 10 year anniversary of that cancer diagnosis last Spring. Now that all has turned out well, and I see the many blessings that era brought me, I can be more extravagant. It changed so much (and almost all for the better) that I must be grateful.

Unitarian Universalism has a prayer like this, in the form of a hymn: "For all that is our life, we come with thanks and praise, for all life is a gift, which we are bound to use, to serve the common good, and make our own life glad."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Contemporary Worship

We have to start a third service next year. Gulp. Many UU churches have successfully made the transition to two services, but few have tried three services, so we're making this up as we go along. One option is a band-led service, and in pursuit of knowledge of this worship-beast, several of us crashed a Presbyterian Contemporary Worship service on Saturday evening. It's my third such venture, (one Reformed mega-church, one medium sized UU church, and one big mainline church.) Here's what I'm learning.

Contemporary Worship seems to be a matter of developing a higher level of energy than a traditional worship service has. Indeed, I think that the basic aim of a traditional worship service is to calm people, quiet them, help them be receptive to the message. The music is used to awe and impress...big organ, beautiful anthem...the Glory of God revealed in Music.

In Contemporary Worship, the aim is to get folks up, singing along, and clapping. There's a beat to the music, and the singing goes on for a good long (20 minutes?) time. Well done, and in a well-filled room (last night was well done but a very small crowd, perhaps 60 people in a room that must seat 4-500 people) all that energy is very, well...enlivening, and I can easily imagine that this, too, helps people to focus on the message of the day.

The did project their words, but to very high screens. I bet there's a science to screen height and I bet those were too high. It was a very good message, weaving in Pentecost, Mothers Day, and the end of a sermon series on the gifts of the Spirit. This was the first time I've seen the use of an embedded video in a sermon...this hilarious clip of all the things Mothers Day, sung to the William Tell Overture. Judging by the comments on YouTube, it was shown in a lot of churches this morning, and a lot of folks looked it up to see it again.

I have to say that it feels just impossibly intimidating to be having to find video clips as a part of sermon-writing. I'm feeling glad that our sanctuary is just too bright for projection.

Speaking of intimidating, I think that finding a music repetoire for Contemporary Worship, especially without violating copywrite law, is going to be the biggest trick of all. These Christian Churches can download their stuff off of websites and easily pay royalties. We UU's can't even easily use things from our own hymnals, not to mention finding a way to get permission to use, say, Cris Williamson's "Song of the Soul" as a worship tune.

Short takes

1. Even in informal worship, I think the preacher and band should be dressed up just a tad.
2. Looks like intergenerational bands work.
3. The band needs to have practiced enough that they can put energy into connecting with the congregation...eye contact, etc.
4. electronic drums: This was a great discovery. They can be played at a volume that would work in our sanctuary, they don't take up too much space, and they are not prohibitively expensive.

A Bird in Church for Pentecost

The moment we opened our church doors this morning, a curved bill thrasher flew in. Her(?) mate stayed outside and fussed, but she was confused by our big windows and couldn't find her way out, in spite of the attempts of at least a dozen people. With all our doors open, a second bird flew in...a young dove who was not confused by our windows because she didn't see them. She crashed and I carried her out, her little heart hammering in my hands, wondering at this coincidence; in 20 years, I only remember one other time we've had a bird in the sanctuary, why in the world would we have two in a week!

But, of course! This is not just Mothers Day, it is Pentecost...that day in the Christian Calendar when the Spirit (often depicted as a bird) came upon all the people who could suddenly understand each other's many languages.

The Thrasher and her holiday were noted by the lay leader before the chalice was lit, and she provide a good deal of amusement through the first service and the first half of the second service, strutting along the top of our mural and making short flights through the crowd. She seemed to like the music. She spent the prayer of the second service eyeing the side door which had been left open for her and departed on the stroke of the Amen. We all did feel blessed...and relieved...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Kinda Sad about Hillary

I voted for Obama in our state primary, and I can't say that I like her much, but as the handwriting is on the wall, I have to say...I'm kinda sad about Hillary. It would have been cool to have a woman president.

Hope for the Shade Problem

So what I've been doing in my spare time is obviously not blogging. It's the season to put in the garden, and I'm experimenting with hanging tomato plants to make up for the loss (to shade) of a chunk of my garden. Chaco, a chocolate cherry tomato, and Ceila, a Celebrity tomato. We'll see how they work...

In the background are the apple and peach trees up top, and invisible in the mulch, three more tomato plants, and cukes and squash under the mesh tunnel (that's for squash borer control.)
I've planted carrots for the first time since I was about 6 and planted a row in my mother's garden which I could not bring myself to thin. My mother believed in learning by I learned. It's taken 50 years to try again. Now that's a scary thought!


Now, this picture is not as much shows the totally pathetic shipment of pepper plants for which I paid $16.95 plus shipping. This picture makes them look don't see the blackened leaves. Only about three of these plants are wroth taking a chance on planting. They were definitely damaged during shipping; the tips of their leaves are black. But mostly they are just puny, leggy little things. What a disappointment!