May 22, 2004
Ascension Day

On Thursday evening my church had a joint Ascension service at the local Episcopal church. The Lutherans and the Episcopalians came close to merging a few years back, and while that didn't happen, they are in communion with each other and lend out pastors and that sort of thing. When my pastor was on vacation last month a friend of his who's an Episcopalian priestess filled in for him. It was kind of cool because she sang almost the whole liturgy. Our regular pastor is supposed to do that but he speaks a lot of it because he doesn't like his voice. (Hers wasn't that great either, but she did it!)

But anyway, Grace Lutheran's more longstanding relationship is with St. Mary's. They also do a regular joint Thanksgiving service, and join forces on some charitable activities (they also work with the local Catholic church on some things). My pastor said Grace didn't even used to do an Ascension Day service, which kind of surprised me. I know it's not as hugely significant as some other holy days, but it seems to me to signify the ascension that's supposedly in store for all of us. But St. Mary's actually has a daily mass. I wouldn't have thought an Episcopal church that small would have enough people -- the other Episcopal church I've been to around here has services just twice a week.

Unfortunately, I missed the first half of the service because I got lost on the way over. So I missed my own pastor's homily. But it was interesting to see the Episcopalian way of solemnity. They used incense, which was a first for me, and ceremoniously swung a censor while ringing a bell before communion. I liked the ritual but it made the air feel a bit oppressive. (I suspect that the original purpose of incense in public rituals was to drown out the smell of all the gathered unwashed bodies.) The congregation also recited a Hail Mary during the Prayers of the Church. I guess it was appropriate, given the church's name, but I didn't realize any non-Catholics did those.

After the service we went to a back room to have coffee and food. The Lutherans gathered at a table and started chatting with some of our hosts about an interesting fact I'd noticed on the way over: there was a Krishna Consciousness temple down the block.

"Oh yes, they used to give Father Lynn a lot of trouble," the woman told us. "Camping out on the lawn, handing out flyers. But they're much better now."

She went on to say that the other day she'd fallen into conversation with a young man from the temple. He seemed to need someone to talk to, she said.

"What kind of worries does a Hare Krishna have?" asked one of the Lutherans, as if we were contemplating beings from another planet.

"Oh, his mother had just died," said the woman. "Pretty much the same problems anyone has."

Our Lutheran pastor wandered over to the table, and we asked him about the Hare Krishnas.

"I know them," he said. "Some of them come to our monthly interfaith meetings."

I didn't know there were monthly interfaith meetings, and I wondered what they talked about at them. But before I had a chance to ask, he went on: "I've been to the temple. They have a great vegetarian restaurant there. Father Lynn didn't want to go, but I talked him into it. It's really good food, and low prices."

I smiled. My pastor's mind is never very far from his stomach. I'm still thinking about those interfaith meetings, though. I think it's neat that our church has so much contact with other churches, even non-Christian ones. But what kind of common subjects fill a meeting every month? I wonder.

Posted by Camassia at May 22, 2004 12:14 PM | TrackBack

And I bet you're going to go and find out, aren't you! I look forward to reading about it...


Posted by: Dash on May 22, 2004 07:05 PM

Whenever I've heard or read the term "priestess" in relation to Episcopal or Anglican ordained women, it's been derogatory, used by those who oppose women's ordination. I know you don't mean it that way, but I'm just wondering if she used it to refer to herself or if someone else called her that. The ordained Episcopal women I've met just use it different in CA?

Posted by: Jennifer on May 23, 2004 07:29 PM

Probably it isn't. I don't know what she calls herself, but I think my pastor called her a priest. I kind of like the word priestess myself, but if it's taken to be derogatory, I'll avoid using it.

Posted by: Camassia on May 23, 2004 08:29 PM

None of the Episcopal churches I've been to have done Hail Marys (it would be way on the high church end of the Episcopal spectrum), but when my mother was living in St. Vincent (Caribbean), she went to an Anglican church there where the priest was very keen on Mary, and included the Hail Mary in every service. Actually, just about anything Catholics do, you can find at some Episcopal church, though some Catholic-like things (such as Stations of the Cross) will be a whole lot more common than others (such as rosaries - of which I'm told there is an Anglican version).

Incense I've seen quite frequently in Episcopal churches, as well as chanting, and my grandparents attended a church where the priest wanted to do the ringing of the bell before communion, but had enough parishioners who preferred otherwise that he wound up not doing it.

"Priestess" has indeed been taken up in the ECUSA by opponents of women's ordination (my grandparents used to use the word in this way all the time, though I think my grandmother has by now become used to women priests), and so I've never heard it from the women themselves; I can see, though, how it would sound right if you hadn't heard it over and over from the other side of the debate.

The whole woman priest debate was raging around the time I was confirmed, right at the same time as the new prayerbook debate (I think no one can debate more intensely about liturgy than Episcopalians). Of course, by the time the first women priests were ordained, I was going through my years of disbelief.

Posted by: Lynn on May 23, 2004 11:09 PM

I echo Dash's comment. You don't think you can get away with telling us about an interfaith meeting and then not posting about it, do you?

Posted by: Lee Anne Millinger on May 24, 2004 07:30 AM

All right, all right. I'll have a chance to talk to my pastor about it tomorrow evening, so I'll get back to you. Gee, I didn't think y'all would be as interested as me!

Posted by: Camassia on May 24, 2004 06:59 PM
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