It was a brief but nice stay in New Jersey. My mom had some of her friends over for a baby shower in our honour. My sister, brother-in-law, and their son were able to make it over from Manhattan. My other sister and her family, however, were unable to make it due to illness. Betsy and I received some nice gifts, including a "Moses Basket" that will go great in my office. There we some baby clothes, too, and a nice go-bag for daddy.
It was important to me to go to St. John's on Sunday. This is my "home" parish--the one that sponsored me for ordination some years ago. Right now they have a priest-in-charge while they figure out whether they can afford a full-time Rector. Like many parishes, they are dealing with the fact that the neighbourhood has changed dramatically since the parish was founded in the 1850's by British immigrants brought in to work the mines. These days Dover, the town, is largely spanish-speaking. The previous Rector, Maggie, established a spanish language service in the afternoon, but it is not yet self-sustaining financially.
My mom had told the priest-in-charge that I would be coming on Sunday morning, but I didn't plan or wearing a collar or participating in the service except as a parishioner. I wore my Utilikilt and a white oxford with the sleeves rolled up. Needless to say, I was the most comfortable person sitting in that unairconditioned old building! At the peace Fr. John asked whether I wanted to come to the chancel. I agreed and went up, assuming that I just be a communion minister distributing the sacraments. As we got to the altar he said, "you do the wine and I'll do the bread?"
"Sure," I said, still thinking about distributing them.
"Ok, in that case I'll say the prayers from the Sursum Corda through the words of institution for the bread, and then you can take it from there to the Lord's Prayer."
"Oh!" now it struck me that he wanted to me co-celebrate with him. I excused myself momentarily to go to the sacristy to get a stole. I'm sure I looked kind of odd in my white oxford, gray kilt, sandals, and green stole! Oh, well!
As it happened, Fr. John was using "Rite I Holy Eucharist"--which my Canadian parishioners would recognize as being similar, but not the same, as the 1929 Prayerbook. I haven't said this Rite in probably 6 years! Remarkably, however, it was still in my head. I was able to read through the difficult Elizabethan style language with hardly a trip. All the while I kept thinking about Rowan Greer in seminary and trying to remember the manual gestures he would do with this prayer.
I've never done co-celebration like this. The usual pattern is more like "concelebration" in which the Assisting priests join the Presider in saying the words of institution in unison. We used to do this at St. Mary Magdalene's, for example. I'd have to check with my liturgy wonk friends about the pros and cons of the two styles.
Interestingly, the choreography at the altar was very smooth. Fr. John pointed to the text so I wouldn't loose my place (a very nice courtesy for the Presider), and when we switched off being in front of the altar it was quick and smooth. And the more conservative liturgy minds out there will appreciate that St. John's uses an East-facing (priest's back to the people) altar. After the service people said they really appreciated seeing me celebrate. It was special for me, too.
Bede came down from the monastery. He has known my family for a long time, so he enjoyed catching up with my mom. He headed off to New York after visiting with us to see two of the brothers that live there.
On Tuesday I packed the car (fitting the shower gifts in meant unpacking everything and then repacking it). Eight hour drive from NJ to Toronto. I talked my way through the border without much fuss. The house was in good shape. Our housesitters did a good job of cleaning it in anticipation. The tomatoes on the back deck are almost ready for picking. My kitties we a little confused, but glad to see me.
Pizza for dinner. Fitful sleep (indigestion from eating beef jerky for lunch?). Got up early for the Contemplative Eucharist this morning.
Here is a wonder: my Contemplative Eucharist service has grown substantially in my absence! I had asked Anne Croswaith to do the service this last month and I'm really glad I did. Suddenly that service grew from three or four to seven or eight! Most of the new people are from a particular Centering Prayer group that has heard of what I'm doing. I'm very pleased to have them.
Today I've set up my computer again and am just settling in to answering e-mails and taking care of urgent projects. This PM I'll pick up Betsy from the airport.
Feels good to be back!