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Community.

I'm learning a lot about community this summer. My colleague Albert, our musician at St. Luke's Cathedral here in Portland, put me up to be hired as the summer organist at St. Cuthbert's Chapel on MacMahan Island here in Maine. A wonderful gig indeed--wonderful people, a very old summer community founded by a bunch of Episcopalians--lay, clergy and Bishops over 100 years ago--and a wonderful look into what community really means.

Maine has lots of Episcopal summer chapels, but this is the only one accessible only by boat. I get picked up at Five Islands every Sunday, and ferried over to play the service. What I am paid for this would shame most Vestries--for its fairness, and its generosity. Clergy are invited for the summers, too, and the chapel even has a Rectory. (I hear the waiting list is long).  Saying Mass there, or being the organist there, involves a great deal of relaxation as well as expectation of high quality. I didn't know it when I was "put up" for this job, but this summer gig is actually something that a career musician would proudly put on their resume. It's a great summer community, and they sing lustily, and appreciate their chapel. Not all in attendance are even Episcopalians, though the clergy and the musicians always seem to be, because that is their tradition.

Here's the old two manual and pedal Estey reed organ I will be playing through Labor Day (with the exception of the next couple of Sundays):

Now this is not your great-grandmother's parlor organ. These were made for small churches, and when given to the chapel in 1939 it was given an electric blower (so the bellows didn't have to be cranked by hand) and has been lovingly tended to throughout the years. It is a joy to play, and it is appreciated by the congregation.

Why "community"? Well, today, in the Revised Common Lectionary, we heard some very strange stuff. John the Baptist's head on a platter, right out of Oscar Wilde's Salome, it seemed, as well as an OT reading from the book of Amos spurred a very interesting sermon from Fr. Roger. While there is some real juice about people marrying their brother's wives, even seducing them, Fr. Roger was clear that what was going on was exploiting the poor, and not about "sexual sin". Hardly surprising from an Episcopal pulpit, even one that is probably--and I mean no disrespect here--still one that is the "Republican Party at Prayer". "Focus on community", said Fr. Roger, and avoid trying to be in a "two-way relationship with Jesus as if you and Jesus were the only two people in the universe". Good thoughts, indeed!

Driving up to the Rock I got to thinking about this. Some thoughts over the Orange Cloud of Allergy-Free Incense ™

Communities are strange beings. Sometimes, people antagonize them. Years ago, I read a wonderful book called Antagonists in the Church: Identifying Destructive Conflict by an (ELCA) Lutheran named Kenneth Haugk. In that book, I saw every mistake I ever made in my career as a church musician and lay minister. I saw scenarios in technicolor. I also learned a great deal from that book about what my role was as a minister--not to enable, but also not judge. I learned compassion--Mitleid--"suffering with"--but also how to draw boundaries. I learned how to listen, and how to be with people (I'm not that good at it, but like life, it's an ongoing process) and how to avoid some of the pitfalls of ministry. Most of all, I learned the difference between just being some trained musician who happens to play the organ, knows how to direct a choir, negotiate a favorable contract for myself, knows a little something about liturgical theology and how to get my way, and how to be a part of a Christian community, and to be a person called to ministry and treat others as I would have them treat me.. I also learned that I will always fall short of that, and how to be upfront about that shortcoming.

I've seen a great deal of meta here this week, and some of it is highly uncharitable. I'm not blaming anyone. Not in the least. Good conversations are being had about a great number of things. At the same time, people are afraid. They are skeptical of everyone. A great deal of damage has been done to our community. So what do we do?

What We Do

What we do is continue to love each other. Continue to trust each other--and that doesn't mean without verification, to quote a certain Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)-turned-Anglican President. However, if we are going to be a community here, and if we are going to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Swindled? No. Vunerable? Well, yes.

We may argue about all things here, but being charitable to one another--even those who have wronged us--is not up to discussion. One can forgive while holding another accountable. One can have reason-based faith in the intentions of others without becoming paranoid. We may carry on as a community. If we do not, we're calling for a prophet (false or otherwise) head on a platter at the expense of our own humanity. This is what I learned from the Daily Kos in the last week, and from Fr. Roger this morning.

Peace, love, and community to all.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

A Moment of Housekeeping

Brothers and Sisters: Calendar:

July 22: jgilhousen

July 29: OPEN

August 5: x

August 12: blue jersey mom

August 19: open

Originally posted to commonmass on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 05:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Anglican Kossacks.

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