It's been a year of changing perspectives. Priestly lore is that the second year of ministry is when the proverbial "poo" hits the fan. Something's going to happen. There will be a crisis. It may be a little one or a big one, or some series or combination of both ... but it will happen.
My year began with a deep loss when one of our confirmation class members took her own life after a long struggle with bipolar disorder. I learned about St. Dymphna, patron saint of those with mental illness, from her. Her life and death had a profound impact on our little community. It helped some of our members who also struggle with mood disorders to reevaluate how they attend to their own wellness and medication regiments. It was painful for spouses, partners and friends to see what can happen when a person doesn't respond to treatment. It was a reminder that no matter the circumstances of our lives, God is present: even in suffering, even through death ... and that death isn't the last word. Two new families came the morning I had to announce her death ... and they stayed because they saw how our community responded and how we loved each other through it. That's grace.
Ash Wednesday ...
Holy Week isn't always "holy" for clergy. We have a few other nicknames for it ... I'll leave that to your imagination. Just before Holy Week, Beloved Husband's brother took ill with an upper respiratory infection which quickly went septic. By Passion Sunday, he was on a ventilator and things were not looking good at all. To amp it up more, one of our well-beloved elderly members died Passion Sunday morning. Her family was in chaos as was mine. Pastoral visit to parishioner's family and a mad dash to Carroll County Hospital to anoint my brother-in-law before his airlift to Inova Fairfax's ICU.
Oh ... and did I mention this is Holy Week? By now, it seemed more like "holy s**t!" to me. Thankfully, my dear friend Michael+ (who is a priest in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion) was willing to step in to preach Good Friday, assist at Maundy Thursday and Easter Vigil along with our deacon Tom+. Organist Dj and I spent loads of time getting programs together for the Triduum along with fielding many phone calls to the grieving family of the deceased parishioner who just couldn't understand why we couldn't have the funeral on Holy Saturday and why we couldn't have a clowning routine in the middle of the service ("I'm sorry, the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer don't mention 'clowns.'" ... Just sayin').
First Maundy Thursday watch in many, many years. Well attended, even by Grace's ghosts (yes, the church is haunted ... but it's all good juju), and very moving.
Good Friday ... live Stations of the Cross:
First Easter Vigil in 10 years ... 55 people present ... fire, smoke and all the pageantry we could muster! Easter morning ... another 60+ people.
Low Sunday? Not so fast! Bishop Joe's visitation ... confirmations - 16 ... reception - 1 ... 102 people the church for the occasion.
Summer break? Well ... not much. Stayed and prayed while youth and adults went on first mission trip in ... well ... I don't know how long, if ever.
September brings the Kirkin' o' the Tartan with the Mid-Maryland St. Andrew's Society and the Frederick Scottish Pipes and Drums.
Then the Blue Mass for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels:
Now you know where I've been.