Tag Archives: Episcopalian

“I Pray to Float”


Only two young children were brave enough to join Rev. Mary when she asked for help with the sermon this morning. They shyly approached the front of the church where Mary awaited with pens and index cards.

Staying engaged in the liturgy had been a struggle. I kept turning over and over in my head a comment that really bothered me. At a recent memorial service in the same Episcopal church, a visitor — someone I know well — remarked that they really hated canned prayers. “In our church, we think you should just talk straight to the Big Guy,” she said to me. “There shouldn’t be anyone between you and God.”

As I sat in church, surrounded mostly by gray haired people, reciting prayers together and warbling through nineteenth century tunes with eighteenth century lyrics, I could see how it would seem foreign, formal, maybe even forced to someone who gravitates toward a Big Box evangelical church.

But I found it welcoming and comforting, like being held in my mother’s arms.

For once upon a time, I did lean against my mother’s ample breast as she added her voice to the church choir. I, too, was a little shy. I disliked church school, which my brother dutifully attended during the grown up part of the service. Rather than sit alone, I joined my mother in the choir, and sang along as best I could.

I was also thinking about Memorial Day. Last year, I remember a man rose during the service and paid homage to a friend of his who fell in battle, long, long ago, when they were both young men. “I will never forget,” he said.

As the children stared up at Rev. Mary this morning, she explained that she would give them index cards and some pens to write a prayer. Their prayer would be read during the Prayers of the People, which came next. They were asked to give the cards and pens they didn’t need to someone in the congregation.

With trepidation, little Carrie began walking down the aisle. Mary said, “Just close your eyes and give it to someone.” Her blue sparkly shoes advanced methodically, first the right heel, then the toe, then the left heel, and the toe.

“Pssssst,” I whispered to her. “Psssst.” Her eyes still closed, she inched in my direction. At last she opened them and handed me a card.

On it, accompanied by hand-drawn symbols, I wrote this message: “For love and healing for those who served (and serve), and those who waited (and wait). May their hearts find peace.”

Ripples extend each time someone dies. They flatten in widening circles with time and distance. But the ripples remain even when they move beyond our sight.

Church for me is a time of communion. I’m not referring to the gathering of a supportive Christian community (though it is that), or the sharing of the sacrament that we call communion.

Church is a place where I feel close to my parents, and my mother in particular, who was a dyed-in-the-wool Episcopalian. It is a place that lives out of time, a place between this world and whatever follows it.

Poet David Whyte recently published this line:

“Beauty especially occurs in the meeting of time with the timeless; the passing moment framed by what has happened and what is about to occur.”

When it came time for the Prayers of the People, Rev. Mary read what little Carrie had written, her heart’s longing:

“I pray to float.”

This morning, I floated — thinking of those who have died, praying for those who remain, and held by the familiarity of a liturgy that is embedded in my bones.

(I wrote about my father’s service during WWII last year in this post and about my mother’s role holding down the homefront in this one.)


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Remembering Christmasses Past

christmas eve

Growing up, Christmas was about much more than the presents, decorations or food. Certainly we had all of the trappings; I remember gently hanging silver foil “icicles” over the branches of our tree, and helping Mom to place on the mantle her collection of angel figurines on a bed of “angel hair” lit from below. But at its heart, Christmas was a religious observation.

My Mom was a devout Episcopalian. We went to church and Sunday school every Sunday, and if we were sick, Mom read the week’s lessons and prayer service at home. And Christmas Eve meant attending midnight mass, which actually used to be held at midnight. When I was very young, we attended the Washington National Cathedral (I think). I drifted to strains of “Silent Night,” snuggled against Mom’s silky seal skin fur coat, surrounded by votive candles and swags of fresh greens. That distant memory of light, music, smell and touch is about as close to heaven as I can imagine.

Through the years, the scene was repeated — at St. Mark’s in Seattle, St. Patrick’s in Eastmont (near Everett) and St. Andrew’s in Tacoma.

This is a different kind of Christmas Eve. My Dad and I will be at my house, but he is not strong enough to join in the festivities at my in-laws. Much less attend Christmas Eve service. My advisor Jim reminds me, “Each moment now, even the most gritty one, is precious.”

Mom, tonight you are closer to me than ever, though you have been gone for almost 14 years. Keep the candles burning for Dad. He is trying to find you.

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