Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Update

Happy Sunday from a land buried more deeply than usual in mist. Not quite the predicted rain but certianly a very heavy mist. Really good weather for staying in and sticking my nose back in my books, which is what is up next.
Since I am on my own this weekend I went to the closest church possible, just a few blocks away. All Souls Parish. Most of the parish was away on their retreat this weekend so it was pretty quiet. Because it is so close to school there are several CDSP students and faculty deeply involved in the life of the parish. Today the deacon, one of the eucharistic ministers and the presider were all from school and it almost felt like another community Eucharist. I could also draw a lot of connections with my home All Souls community, and certainly made me ponder the connection of name to personality of the parish on my walk home.
We had our "prom" on Friday and it was a lot of fun. The main idea is that it is a time when the "newbies" get introduced to the continuing students in a fun setting and we all relax and socialize. With an 80's theme the commons were decorated with streamers, pac-man cutouts, and real vinyl records and we all had a blast.
I think I am finally starting to settle into the academic and worship routine here, which makes things go a lot more smoothly (at least I like to pretend that it does) with fewer panicky moments of "What day is this and am I missing a class right now?!"
I am off to go stir my soup, refill my teacup and dive back into the readings for Old Testament Foundations.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Worship and Experience

Today I took a giant leap out of my perceived comfort zone. I joined a group of classmates who were heading over to here:

Saint Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church. I'd heard about this place. They have the Liturgy of the Word in one place and dance to another place where they have the Liturgy of the Table. They're touchy-feely. They are not as orderly as most Episcopal parishes. They're different. Did I mention that they dance?! As part of the service! I was expecting a disaster in terms of how I felt about this place. I am trained in a set liturgical style, highly ritualized and pretty rigid, and that is where I am comfortable. Dancing? In church? Not me.

What I was not expecting was the vibrancy of the place. You walk in and are engulfed in an icon-style mural of saints, all dancing. Some of those saints are pretty recognizable, even if the Church doesn't particularly call them Saints or celebrate their feast days. Some I had to look up in the little booklet. But all of them holy in the eyes of the parish members. Lady Godiva. Shakespeare. Saint Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. Desmond Tutu.

The dancing saints are not the only colorful part of this building. There is color everywhere from the fabulous fabrics on the crosses to the brilliantly colored vestments to the sparkly parasols used to place the Gospel Book and the Presider in the crowd gathered. People were friendly, and I assume rather used to those of us hanging around the door wide-eyed and a bit skittish about this whole thing. Please wear a nametag - use the red pen if this is your first visit - so that we can call you by name when we share communion with you. Here is the book you'll need, we'll tell you what page as you go. Have you seen our dancing saints? Want more information about them? How does our service move? Let us help you.

One fascinating thing is that we were there for a baptism. Actually two, twins. The baptismal font is just outside in a small courtyard off of the main rotunda space; a large dark grey rock with water trickling down the face and gathering in a small pool before dribbling down the rest of the way or being re-pumped to the top. Simple and beautiful against a backdrop of vines and other plants growing down and covering a very tall wall. In the sunlight I noticed some berries that glistened like rubies, perhaps under ripe blackberries or maybe they were raspberries. It made me think of the abundance of God's love and nourishment of all of us.

I surprised myself by not feeling quite so out of place as I expected. There is no organ so the music is acapella, and there is a lot of it. The majority of the service was either sung or chanted, and I found myself relaxing into it after a bit. Even the dancing wasn't as scary as I was prepared for it to be, though until I get the hang of it I think I will have to focus on either singing or dancing.

All in all it was a good experience. I have been hoping to explore the breadth of the Episcopal tradition as lived out here in this area and this was one of the places on my list. By far the most intimidating to me as it was the farthest from my comfort zone, but I am glad for the experience and just might go back a few times to shake myself up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

And So It Begins...

It is time for an update. I now officially have a week of classes behind me. It started last Tuesday - day after Labor day - with Fundamentals of Worship. My classmates and I gathering in the chapel not really having any clue what to expect. Today we gathered in the chapel with more of an idea, looking at our teachers with less fear and trepidation in our hearts, feeling a bit more confident about our places here in the rhythm of this community.

CDSP gathers for worship as a community 13 times per week with occasional drifts into higher numbers if there are special needs or new things we wish to try. Daily Morning and Evening Prayer (except on Thursday there is not Evening Prayer). Holy Eucharist Monday, Tuesday, Friday. The only exception to our motly daily rhythm is Thursday when instead of a midday Eucharist and Evening Prayer the whole community intentionally gathers for Holy Eucharist in the evening followed by dinner and other community activities. While I am not able to be as consistent as I like in participating in all of these worship times I do my best.

I carry a full class load with Old Testament Foundations, Anglican Tradition and Life, Elements of New Testament Greek, History of Christianity I, and Fundamentals of Worship. This means a whole ton of books plus readers full of information copied for us. Aside from somehow managing the book load there is figuring out Moodle, a useful and helpful (once you get a grasp on it) online tool where you find the syllabus, readings, forums, interesting tidbits from the teachers and all kinds of goodies all put together for each class you register for. I'm just glad there isn't a grade for how quickly you figure it out, because I've needed a lot of help!

Aside from our first week of classes, we also had our class retreat this last weekend. It was held at St. Dorothy's Rest, an Episcopal Camp and Conference center up among the coastal redwoods. What an amazing experience! I loved the company of the giant trees, the hush of the forest, the dripping as the fog condensed and fell from the branches. I can't wait to go again soon.

I am looking forward now to finally being able to settle into the rountine I am craving to help me get all of the reading and writing done that needs to be done. Although I had arrived in Berkeley early to settle in I had no idea what my weeks and days would look like. Now I have some idea and am moving forward into that rich rhythm of community and study that called me into this particular place for my education and formation.