Taize and Ordinations

Katie and I are heading to the Taize monastery later today – we’ll be there for the next few weeks.  We’ll be doing a week of regular programming, a week of service, and a week of silence.  It should be a great time.  Internet may be limited, and so may our updates on things.

So, here’s a little follow up on the last post.  We’ll be getting ordained at Luther Seminary, in Saint Paul, Minnesota.   Katie’s will be the evening (7 or 8pm) of September 11, Will’s the late morning-ish (11am, probably) of September 12.  And our friends Pierre and Susan have offered their home for a joint celebration party after Will’s on the 12th at their home near Brooklyn Park. More details on that at a later time…but it will be a good party.

What is ordination attire?  Wear red!  Red dress, tie, skirt, suspenders, cowboy boots, whatever you have!

Again, we would love for you to be there!

The lucky churches getting us?  For Katie, Terry Community Presbyterian Church and Fallon Hope American Lutheran Church.  For Will, Zion Lutheran in Glendive.  We’ll be living at the parsonage in Terry.

We’re very excited!

For now, though, we are still in Europe.  It’s time to go get packed up, catch a couple trains, then a bus, and spend some time at Taize!

Will

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Montana, Here We Come!

So, it has finally happened! Will and I have accepted the calls to be pastors in the ELCA. Our calls will be in little towns in the wonderfully beautiful state of Montana and we couldn’t be more excited to go there. The congregations are filled with wonderful people. We can already tell that through the ways they have worked with us in our times without internet and our lives on the run and through the warm welcome they gave my parents when they went out there. This will be good.

Because Will and I are both pastors and have both been called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, we have decided that it is important to celebrate each of our ordinations as separate ceremonies instead of squishing them both into one service. Both occasions are worth celebrating. So, we will be getting ordained on the evening of September 11 and sometime in the late morning or early afternoon of September 12. Clear your calendars, we expect you all to be there! (just kidding…but you are all formally invited). This has been a long time coming (at least for me) and it would be great if any of you could be there. More information to come.

Now the next step begins. We must plan ordinations and travel plans and logistics from the status of “lives on the run”. It’s an odd experience to be living two lives, and very difficult. At times it seems as if we are in two places at once and so never reallly present in either. We are constantly thinking about our future calls- logistics, ordinations, compensation packages, moving, life as pastors, etc- and trying to make plans for all those things while simultaneously trying to be present with the congregations, people, and places that we are physically in. It’s tough and sometimes feels like we are being pulled (or torn). After doing this for almost 6 months (by the time we get back) will we know how to live one life? I can only imagine what it will be like to be a whole person again. That is one of the things I am looking forward to about life back in the States- being able to be where I am.

But for now, there are many things to be thinking about and doing as the two lives run parallel for us for another 5 weeks. We are here now, we are there then, we are over there after that, and then we are going to learn what it is to be home and have that home be a physical manifestation of a place Will and I have been dreaming of and holding only in our minds. It will be wonderful.

Much love from Paris,

Katie

Moneychangers in the Church

Katie and I were in Ireland the last few days.  We drove around the island, from Dublin to Belfast to Derry, down to Galway, to Cork, and back up to Dublin.

Our first day there, we wandered about Dublin, going to Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and even went on a tour learning about how beer has shaped Ireland.

This may be something that is unsurprising to people who have been to Europe before (it’s my first time)…but at both Christ Church and St. Patrick’s, there was an admission charge.  It was the same at Westminster Abbey in London – it costs £20 for an adult (about $30).  At Christ Church and St. Patrick’s, it was €6 – about $6.50.

There were two things that got me about this.  One – that you could be charged for coming into a church.  At all.  I do get that they are historical buildings and in need of maintenance…but the idea of charging people to go into a place of worship rubs me the wrong way.

Second – that the money was taken and exchanged inside the sanctuary of the church.  To enter Christ Church, you go in a set of large, wooden, double doors, and hang an immediate right through another set to enter the worship space.  Again, I realize this probably happens all over Europe – but having moneychangers in the church isn’t right to me.  If you are going to charge, there is plenty of space ouside the building, or at least the worship space, to set a ticket booth.

Third – we went to Westkerk in Amsterdam today.  It was free to enter, but in the worship space they had a bookstore with books and kitschy trinkets spilling out of a corner of the large room.  There was a coffee shop on the other side of the entrance way.  In the far corner, there was a “buy a brick to restore the church” section.

In all this, I kept thinking of Matthew 21 – here for those of you who don’t know the story: <Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”>  

Jesus probably was angry because the moneychangers were batantly cheating the people…it’s not exactly the same thing as what I’ve experienced – but it’s what I keep coming back to.

All of these churches do welcome anyone to worship times, with no payment or donation required.  So we did go to evensong worship at Westminster Abbey.  Not only did we get to see the Abbey, we got the joy of worshipping in that space, following in the footsteps and heartbeats of so many people before us.

Moneychanging in the worship space frustrates me.  Paying to get into church upsets me.  (I am fine with a donation box – free-will style.) Partly writing this is a way for me to process it, and partly I’m writing this because I think churches are to be open spaces for people to gather, pray, worship, be renewed, and meet God amidst the busyness of our crazy world – whether they have 6 Euro or not.

Will

From Ireland we flew to Brussels, and then bussed to Amsterdam, where we arrived yesterday – we’ll leave tomorrow.

The Clamor of Silence

Last week Katie and I were at Iona Abbey, on the small, western Scottish isle of Iona.  Amid the mighty howl of Hebridean wind arose a strangely gentle calm.  Outside the walls of the Abbey the silence came in knowing the wind was the only thing creating noise, the clean air, and the sense of relentless freedom.  Inside the walls, the calm was felt in the steadiness of hewn rock, standing strongly against the constancy of Scottish weather.
The week in itself was much different than my expectations.  I had pictured time of meditation and prayer making up most of each day.  No doubt, these happened – but not as much as I imagined.  And when they did, it was hard not to focus on the strangeness of the silence.  In Meiganga, Cameroon, it seemed there was rarely silence.  Kids climbing the mango trees, calls to prayer, thunderstorms, roosters, dogs, cars, car horns, bells, cows, sheep, people, birds – at all hours of the day and night.  It was hard not to focus on the cold, too, at Iona.  The days were long as well – when 9pm worship ended a half hour or so later, it was still light for another two hours.  There are times I think I actually needed a week to prepare for the week at the Abbey.  The differences between Cameroonian and Ionan lifestyles was striking – and the roar of life the past few months kept returning, taking many days to calm down.
There are so many things I could, and some I hope to, write a little about from Iona: drolleries, our pilgrimage, the Abbey community, Glaswegian accents, the food, the ferry strike that forced us to leave early – but there was one experience that right now comes to the top.
The moment that gave birth to the title of this post happened on Wednesday – a week ago today.  After breakfast the adults and teenagers gathered for an activity/session.  Split into groups of roughly various ages, we were given three tasks, all different.  My group – two young teenagers and myself – finished our first two tasks (smiling at 30 people, and looking at light and dark spaces in the Abbey) and set about on our third.
“Explore the Abbey using only your ears” the card read.  “What?!” the teenagers subtely cried.  I smiled, having seen and done experiences like this.  Not expecting much, I suggested we walk one of us at a time down the center aisle of the Abbey Church – from altar in front to font in back, or vice versa.  Assenting, we took turns leading each other around tourists, down and up steps, and over grave stones.
When it was my turn, I closed my eyes near the altar and was slowly led westward toward the baptismal font at the other end.  With my eyes closed, suddenly I was hit from all around with new sensations.  The floor, seemingly smooth as glass moments before, betrayed the slightly uneven nature of the stones.  The space, large and cavernous, seemed smaller as my world closed into simply where my feet were and where the next foot would fall.  The noise, light and airy, nearly unnoticeable moments before, became a clamor of activity.  The calm motions of tourists and fellow participants, listening to audio guides via headphones, reading, sitting, taking photos, and motioning silently to their neighbors something they saw, changed.  The stones muffled the noises – they were no echoes, but the rocks could not hold all the sounds, releasing some back to me as I walked.  The rustling of windbreakers, squeaking of shoes, mumbled awe of tourists, and the gentle noises of cameras focusing on some distant object flew straight to my ears.
The calm and silence of the open-eyed Abbey gave way to the clamor of the open-eared Abbey.  I was moved in that moment – it is something I have been reflecting on so far every day since.  Silent places aren’t always silent.  Calm places are often flurries of activity.  The activity, the noise, just aren’t always things that we pay attention to.  We tune them out, we push them off, in favor of things we deem more important.
As I walked the length of the Abbey church, the important things for me changed.  It wasn’t the ferns growing on the bare stone walls, nor the fading figures in the stone, nor the high vaulted ceiling.  It was the sounds, the bustle of activity, the feeling of the stones under my feet, the earnestness of life emanating from the very rocks that create the space.
Will

London!!!!!!!

We made it to London late on Thursday!

It was quite the long trip.  Here goes…

We left Meiganga on Friday, bound for N’Gaoundere, a few hours north.  Hoping to get tickets for the train to Yaounde on Sunday night, to arrive Monday morning, we went to the train station.  That train was sold out.  But there are agencies that buy up large groups of tickets – so we went to one of them.  Someone told us the owner was at prayer.  We waited.  He came back, and told us to come back the next morning (Saturday).

On Saturday we came back, but he had no tickets.  We went to another agency – they had no tickets, either, but they did have tickets for Saturday night.  We bought them, and that night took the 15 hour-ish train to Yaounde.

Staying there for three nights at the Langdji’s, the ELCA’s representatives for West and Central Africa and Madagascar, we left for the airport Wednesday morning, ready to come to Europe.  And then the day got interesting.  Arriving, we got in the ticket line, arriving at the front around 8am for our 8:45 flight.  The receptionist could not read our printed ticket, being it “too blurry”.  So she wrote us tickets while someone else took our printed pass and “checked it out”.  About ten minutes later they came back, and told us we could leave.  So we did, following the signs for “Domestic Departures”.  What we didn’t know is that there are two signs for “Domestic Departures”, pointing in opposite directions – one leading to nothing, the other to the gold we were seeking.  Naturally, we chose the former, then the latter, arriving at security around 8:30.  We proceeded through security, each having our bags gone through in front of us by one person, zipped up, then by a second person.  What did I learn from this?  Scotch tape is ok, packing tape is not.

Around 8:45 we started loading the plane, taking off about half and hour late for our half hour flight to Douala.  Landing, we got our bags, and walked out to the main part of the terminal, with no idea where to go.  A nice airport worker showed us to a small cafe in the airport, and told us he’d send someone to help us.

This person came and showed us to the check-in desk…and then hung around for the half hour it took to check in.  He was looking to earn a buck, I knew, but didn’t know how long he was going to hang around.  As we left the check-in, he took Katie’s passport so he could “make sure everything was there” or something like that.  I grabbed it back and told him off – I didn’t like the idea of someone else walking around with one of our passports.  The guy left, saying forlornly how he could tell we didn’t need his services (which, frankly, we didn’t).

We went to a second check-in desk for the airline.  Then the police clearance.  Then the passport clearance.  Then our passports were checked again about fifty feet away.  Then we were asked about how much cash we were taking out of the country – francs, dollars, euros.  Then we went through security at the gate.  Then someone went through each of our bags.  Then a second person went through each of our bags.  It was a lot of different little checkpoints!

The flight from Douala a little left late, arriving late in Addis Ababa, our connection point.  We had about five or six hours until our flight for London left, about 3am the next morning, so we settled in for a long night.

The flight was pushed to 3:30, then 4.  Around 6am we got on the plane, and were told there was a small maintenance issue they were fixing and we would soon be airborne.  At 6:40am someone got up and began yelling at the stewardess that the plane was unsafe and they couldn’t keep us on an unsafe aircraft and that the crew knew it was unsafe and were going to fly anyway and that we all wanted off the craft.  I was awoken from sleep by this, then a second person who took up the cry of the first.  And then a third.  They were afraid the plane was unsafe to fly, which I and others around us thought was ludicrous.  Why would a pilot and crew knowingly fly a plane that was unfit?

A little while later the pilot came on the intercom and said there was a software update they were doing.  The TV screens hadn’t been working, and had a screen saying “network error” on them.  It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what was going on.

Finally around 7 we were told to disembark.  The last people off the plane?  The people who were leading the charge to leave.  These same people had been complaining about being forced to sit and not be able to walk around.  When we got off the plane, they sat down immediately and remained seated, except when they got up to spout hatred of the airline.

We boarded another plane around 8:30 or 9ish, taking off a little while later, about 6 hours after the original departure time.  The flight itself was uneventful, thankfully, and we arrived in London about 7 hours later.

We spent some time in the city on Thursday night and Friday (yesterday), including going to Evensong at Westminster Abbey.

Now we are on a bus headed for Glasgow, where we’ll catch a train, then a ferry, a bus, another ferry, and possibly another bus to arrive at the Iona Monastery on the Isle of Iona.  We’ll be there for a week – I’m super excited!!!

Will