Howdy! That is THE word here in College Station home of Texas A & M---and---St. Thomas Episcopal Church, of course! I like howdy and the friendliness it conveys. Even
though I spent years living in Austin and...you know...rooting for that other football team...I am loving this community and all of the Brazos Valley. But no matter how friendly everyone has been, there is still no substitute for time. I am joyfully and painfully aware of that on Sundays in particular.
My sweet husband bought me a new Book of Common Prayer/Hymnal combo to celebrate this new chapter in our lives. Yes, we are dorks who buy things like that to celebrate new events. Rob also buys me jewelry and I buy him his favorite bourbon...we are dorks...not Philistines. And every Sunday I am aware of how stiff my new prayer book feels. I've been using it only 9 weeks.
The prayer book/hymnal I was using before was my original one. The priest who sponsored me for seminary bought it for me because at that point, over ten years ago now, $100 was out of reach. $100 now is not exactly "couch cushion" money, but a little more attainable. (Please note that the cost of the prayer book/hymnal combo has not, unlike other things, skyrocketed. Can I get an Amen?)
That original prayer book got me through my last year in seminary, my first years as a deacon then priest in Austin and went with me to Houston. Sometimes as I participated in worship at the Cathedral in Houston an old note would fall out of that aging, weathered prayer book. Once it was a funny little note by a kid I adored who was in the 7th grade at the time he wrote the note. When I found the note again on a Sunday in Houston I realized that little 7th grade boy was now in college. Most of the notes, wrinkled and smeared, had names on them.
Most of the notes were names of people I had loved whose funerals I officiated.
I'm always so anxious that I will say the name wrong...even of someone I knew for years!
So for every funeral I make sure there's a post it note with the person's name on it so I don't have one of those horrible blank moments during the service! There aren't that many things that can go wrong in an Episcopal funeral....we stick to that prayer book sister! But it would be awful if the priest blanked on the name of the dearly departed!
I hadn't realized how many of those notes were still stuck in various places in my prayer book. But I'm glad. Finding those notes added another little piece to the string that keeps me connected with all sorts of people, people both living and dead. Early in my two years at the Cathedral, I didn't feel connected to folks in that community at all. So sometimes finding those names in the middle of a worship service helped me remember that connection is not only possible but never ending. I was oddly encouraged even though that encouragement was tinged with some sadness.
By the end of my time in Houston, I was so grateful to have made connections with people. My prayer book had new names added to it and new notes from little kids. Notes and names that tumble out from time to time when I open my old prayer book at home.
My new prayer book is dear to me because my beloved gave it to me and because it symbolizes a new chapter in my ordained life. I will be glad when it's not so stiff, when the pages aren't so crisp, when some notes come tumbling
out. I certainly am not anxious for people I'm now serving to die of course! I am anxious, however, to be more deeply rooted in this place. This place I can already tell is so wonderful.
But of course, there is no substitute for time! I could run over this prayer book and make it look far more weathered than it does. But all that would do is ruin a perfectly good prayer book! I will have to use it, over and over. Hold it when I'm laughing, crying, griping, praying, day dreaming. Hold it, even as I hold this community. And one day, this prayer book too will serve as a reminder of all those I love. Peace, Rhoda