Thursday, March 27, 2014

Introverted Episcopalians Unite!

Meditation on Scripture composed for A Pilgrimage through Lent, a collection of parishioners' thoughts published by The Pilgrimage at St. James' Episcopal Church, Marietta, GA.

Mark  6.31  Come away to a lonely place.

This verse is welcome validation for us introverts.  We always have to explain that going to a lonely place is different from feeling lonely.  A 70s songwriter [Carole Bayer Sager] said it succinctly:  “It’s not so bad all alone to come home to myself again.”

When we come to St. James’, we push through a flurry of extroverted activity.  Friendly ushers offer programs, men joke about who won some game, acolytes fuss with robes and matches, and the choir chats.

But we step inside the nave to an introvert’s sanctuary.  Vaulted ceiling, recessed windows, and a wide aisle make space around us.  The silence of parishioners as they kneel and prepare for worship creates another space.   We are insulated from the bustle of our everyday world by witnesses to older times: candles, flowers, ancient symbols embroidered on linens at the altar, and worn memorials to founding parishioners along the wall.

Our liturgy and music create another space, inside us.   We worship with elegant clauses that lead one complete thought to another, so unlike the scatter-shot phrases and urgent slogans that fill our weekdays.  The words in our hymns are the same way, often taking several verses to carry a thought through stages.  The music may be composed to evoke grandeur, solemnity, confidence, or longing.  Some music is deliberately strange to our ears, evoking the God whose ways are not our ways.   Ancient chant elevates our ordinary words and resonates with earlier centuries.

Sundays, I carry my Monday like a snow globe filled with swirling scraps of unmet obligations and uncertain conditions.   The spaces opened inside by St. James’ are big warm hands cradling that globe, steadying it, showing it to be the small thing that it truly is.   In feeling this way, I bet I’m not alone.

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