Monday, October 24, 2011

Reading Week Sigh of Relief

Today marks the beginning of Reading Week. No, not Fall Break - this is not intended as a vacation. This is a week when classes and chapel do not meet, but we still have work to do and assignments to finish. It is, however, a big sigh of relief. My brain gets to rest and not work at quite so frantic a pace (until I look ahead to the rest of the semester). I spent today nestled into the apartment and indulging my inner monastic soul with a quiet rhythm of work and prayer as the world went by outside the window.

This past weekend I was refreshed with a picnic at Stinson Beach and a long walk through Muir Woods. What a joy to sink into the silence of that forest and be reminded to "be still and know that I am God". It made a great opening for this week, a day of sabbath after the frantic pace of the last two weeks of papers and meetings.

Sunday we went to the chapel at Moffett Field. There is a lovely history of the chapel at the bottom of this page, complete with pictures of most of the stained glass windows. Having met with the Lutheran Chaplain at Camp Parks (who is also responsible for worship at Moffett Field) I was interested to see what a more liturgical, by the book, protestant service might look like. I felt much more at home, and realized that the appearance of a place has a great deal of influence on me. This was a chapel in the old-fashioned looks-like-a-small-church sense. The chaplain was as delighted as I was when she showed me the fabulous way that this space was built to accommodate Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish services by having a turntable split into thirds where the altars and Tabernacle sit; each is turned to face the congregation for the appropriate time. The Tabernacle is plain, and looks a bit like a cupboard. The Catholic third has a lovely Tabernacle below a large crucifix and large statues of John and Mary on either side. The Protestant third has what I would describe as an altar that has a brass cross on it and some flowers that coordinate with other arrangements placed in the sanctuary. The service was simple but recognizable as a mixture of the various liturgical types of worship and was based on the Order of Protestant Worship in the Book of Worship for United States Forces 1974.

The first part of this week is being spent catching up on school work, papers, and assorted paperwork. On Thursday we head out for a brief but overdue visit to my in-laws in Oregon. I am truly looking forward to the trip as we will be driving through some beautiful scenery and have a couple of side trips planned. A true break from the work of seminary and a lovely breath of time to rest in God's grace apart from the "usual" places.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Adventures

Today we finally made good on our plans to join in worship at Camp Parks. I was a bit apprehensive since I knew it wouldn't look like anything I was intimately familiar with. It didn't dissapoint on that count. A nondenominational service is exactly what it says. It takes parts from a variety of denominational traditions and weaves them together into a whole. Some parts, like preaching on a selection from the Bible, are familiar. Other parts, like a long time of singing and extemporaneous prayer prior to the sermon, are not so familiar. For a cradle Episcopalian there seemed to be a lot of emotion involved, which certainly took some getting used to. We aren't nicknamed the "frozen chosen" for nothing when it comes to that!

Talking to the Chaplain afterward we discovered that this group that gathers for worship is truly diverse. They range from Catholic to LDS and everything in between. He showed me where his learning edges are, coming from a non-liturgical background, and how serving this community is about finding what is important for people and incorporating into the worship life. I really appreciated his honesty about how he is bringing pieces from a wide variety of worship expressions and learning to hold all of that without compromising his own tradition and faith background. It really makes me look at my seminary experiences a little bit differently, and the blessing of being a part of the Graduate Theological Union.

My first big paper was due on Friday, and I am so glad to have it finished! It really stretched me, and I told my professor that I think it wrote me instead of the other way around. As a reward I had signed up to go to a "yarn tasting" at a yarn store near Camp Parks. Apparently Bergere de France is one of the only companies that offers something like this, and I have to admit I really loved their yarns. There were just a handuful of us and we had a blast playing with samples of their beautiful yarn, thumbing through their pattern books, and nibbling on french-inspired snacks. It was a great little break for me before I stick my nose back into my books!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Exploring the Area

This weekend we discovered the beauty of Muir Woods along with nearby Stinson Beach and Mt. Tamalpais. I had already fallen in love with the glory of Coastal Redwoods while on retreat at St. Dorothy's Rest and enjoyed seeing them at Tilden Park, just up the road from school. But this was new. This is old-growth ancient forest primeval. This is walking quietly along a trail to bask in the deeply cool and moist shade and listen to the chuckle of a small creek. Stopping periodically in awe to see the fingers of sunlight slipping through to illuminate the emerald green of moss and ferns against the red bark of a giant tree.

Even more than church has been recently, this was a place where I felt the presence of God. I was reminded of the words in Eucharistic Prayer C in the Book of Common Prayer: Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Only it is the Table of the Book of Nature and not the Eucharistic Table I was experiencing. Walking determinedly deeper into the park and up side paths to escape the tourists crowding the main trails close to the entrance I felt soothed and comforted. Standing at the roots of these giant trees and looking up my soul was reaching for heaven with them and peace was drifting down like the soft sunlight. But deliver me from the presumption that this place, this peace, is only where I go for comfort and pardon. I come to this place for strength and renewal also - for the courage and restoration to return to my everyday world and continue to do what God is calling me to do in the community in which I find myself.

Working with Incarnational Theology this week for a paper in History of Christianity is certainly a form of wrestling. I am reminded, and laugh somewhat sheepishly, that God has a way of bringing us to a place where we come face to face with what me most need to learn or embrace. Though Tertullian is not the easiest of reads, and the form this paper is taking is not the easiest choice I could have made when determining how to approach this assignment, it is teaching me more than I could have imagined about my own living experience of God in this time and place in history.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Greek Flashcards

Just a quick dispatch from where I sit, knee deep in Greek flashcards and potential thesis statements for my History of Christianity paper...

I am settling into the rhythms of classes and work more easily now, and finding peace in the routine that is developing. I am reminded of how much I find comfort in a fairly predictable routine, and how it feeds me to know more often than not what I am supposed to be doing when. It is making the other stuff- the work that God is doing, the wrestling that we are doing together - a little more manageable.

My week will be off and running in a bit when I head over for Old Testament Foundations, but before I dive headlong into my Monday Marathon I thought I'd share this picture from one of my classmates. It is the chapel at Saint Dorothy's Rest, where we spent our class retreat tucked in peacefully among the stately coastal redwoods.