“Celebrate Me Home!”

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This is who we are!  Party Animals and also at-Home-in-the-Body of Christ!

This week marks just about the one year anniversary of my being back here with the Saints.  The final rector candidates are wonderful people, and we can look forward to the call of the new rector of All Saints’ Church pretty soon!  When I look back over the circle of the days of this year, over and over I am remembering how much FUN it is to be church with you.  How good-natured you usually are, how hilarious you can be, how real you always are.  Churches sometimes are not able to be these things which is too bad.

Betty Derrick mentioned to me that great “Celebrate me Home” song from Kenny Loggins and wrote us a note that gets at the feel of All Saints’ on our best days. And even on our bad days.

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Betty Derrick gets it: the heart of the universe is celebration. Betty is a one of the wonderful Agnes Scott women that are all around All Saints’. She retired from AT&T after thirty years and then circled back to Agnes Scott for eleven years as special assistant to the President. She knows life-giving community.

 

Here are both of us thinking about you and the great dance of All Saints’.  Betty is in italics.

Some people joke that Episcopalians know how to party. (I have always taken it as a compliment.) It may be accurate but falls short of the essential truth, I think. What we really know how to do, at least at All Saints’, is celebrate.  We mark the small and great moments of our life together with song, streamers, flowers, beautiful liturgy, procession and even cymbals. The Psalmist would be proud.

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Every time we gather, we are remembering and hoping for a feast! Already but not yet! That’s the deal!  

One of my favorite celebrations is the rite of baptism. There are colorful banners with each child’s name. We reconfirm our own vows as a church family… and then we sing the welcoming message to Harry’s grand melody and march through the sanctuary to applause. How wonderful is that!

Betty and I are also both into the pet blessings!

I love the smiles.

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And I love the meetings.

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Thank you God.

And I love the public displays of affection.

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A lick on the nose is a true gift of love.

And the blessings!

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Here’s Betty: I learned an important lesson at the Blessing of the Animals several years ago. At the time I owned a young, frenetic, frighteningly intelligent border collie named Scout. By the time we took our place for the blessing, Scout had wrapped me around several lamp posts and provoked a number of other dogs by staring at them. When Walter Smith asked what I wanted him to pray for Scout, I answered “a calm and peaceful disposition.” Walter looked me squarely in the eye and replied, “I don’t think that is Scout’s nature.”

He proceeded to pray for a patient and understanding owner!

As I drove home with Scout, leaping from the front to the back seats, I thought: “that man just said I was the problem.” It was a lesson that not only changed my relationship with Scout but one I have remembered often with people. The Blessing of the Animals may seem a frivolous celebration to some, but it holds a lasting instruction for me.

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At our best we don’t just tolerate one another; we befriend one another, in spite of, no because of our differences. This is Flash with his old Mississippi friend Toby. Nothing first-hand to do with All Saints’  I just like the picture, and it reminds me how All Saints’ isn’t an end in itself.  Our community points to the power of love in far-flung corners of our lives apart. That is why we exist, dear ones.  That’s it.  Practice celebrating life at All Saints’  and carry it out the door.

My favorite and very complex celebration this year was Maundy Thursday.  It is a night of betrayal and a night of love because that’s the way human beings roll.  We had a supper that turned into eucharist in Ellis, which is exactly how the last supper turned into the first eucharist—in a secular room lit by the light of the love of Christ.  And we washed feet.

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Strange and deep.  This.

Betty brings up one of our other best celebrations.  Rarely do I sit at the back of the sanctuary, but I always try to for the no stress children’s Christmas pageant. From the back one has a good vantage point to see all the ears of the animals—or one year, the claws of a lobster.

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Yes, that is a tiger heading to the manger.

I love that there are not just three “wise people”. We can use all the wisdom we can find. A friend worked on the pageant a few years ago when there were traditional costumes. More children volunteered than there were outfits. She stayed up many nights making angel wings. As she said, “ the heavenly host is not a finite number.” Indeed.

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No Words.
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Here’s Betty and her new friend, Mr. Chips. She says He was a little bit of a surprise. He came as a puppy from the border collie rescue and was advertised to be 45 lbs. like his mother. Forgot my biology-he’s 84 lbs and more like his Staffordshire Bull Terrier dad but all sweetness.

From the beginning of life to the remembrance of lives well-lived, we rejoice and celebrate. Through tears and laughter, we celebrate. We are reminded that each day is to be celebrated. We have good reason to celebrate. All are welcome at God’s table and we are home.  

 

AMEN BETTY!  THANKS FOR CELEBRATING US HOME!

What do you most desire for your country and for yourself right this moment??

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True, true, true. Philo, Socrates, Jesus, Dalai Lama, everybody says it.
I went visiting over at Midtown Assistance Center last week and Executive Director  Dorothy Chandler, Olympic Gold Medal Winner of the Compassion Marathon (23 years at MAC!),  mentioned a volunteer who brings in  REALLY GOOD snack bags.  He  named the snack bags for his Aunt B! I don’t know the back story on that but may Aunt B be our muse. She passed along compassion somehow!  And as George Eliot wrote, “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for one another?”

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One of our Saints, Nadia Fountain does ministry at MAC on Wednesdays.
Nadia says “I volunteer with another member, Lisby Ritchie, when I can.  I worked in wealth management in the past so it seemed almost like penance to give my time to poverty alleviation.  It really is an incredible place and I truly enjoy the time I spend there,  I have met so many people from so many walks of life that were able to use a little boost to get them back on their feet.  I have been blessed in so many ways and and feel compelled to do something to give back and help make someone’s world a better place, this is my something:-)”

Nadia adds, “someone asked me just this week if I can give an example of what agape love looks like and I thought of Dorothy Chandler and the way she interacts and engages with some of the scruffiest looking clients you could imagine.   She does so in a way that they feel dignified enough to keep returning even if their visit is limited just to a snack pack and a  conversation with her at the door:”

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Here are Dorothy and the B Snacks.  ( 1500 so far).   Dorothy says an alarming trend is RETIRED HUNGRY PEOPLE. She questions: “People work hard all their lives for this?”

Dorothy says that when she gets up and is getting ready, “I think about the people who come to MAC and tears come to my eyes.  Not tears of sadness but tears of joy because we are doing something that matters. MAC helps.”

How do people become compassionate?  Is compassion in your DNA?

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Tommy is a long time MAC volunteer.  It’s in his DNA! His mom and aunt helped start the St. Luke’s  and Inman Park Soup Kitchens.

Here’s another Compassion in the DNA story from Wendy Silliman.

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Wendy and Margaret. Having compassion is sometimes pain-filled but having compassion also makes people have these kinds of life-filled faces. Holy, holy, holy.

Wendy writes,  “one of my favorite MAC stories is that Dorothy Chandler is the one who came up with the initial idea for Threads!   Back in 2003, an Ad Hoc Missions Committee led by Bob Miller was exploring new missions.  Our first step was to investigate existing needs around the area.  I called Dorothy to get her take on current community needs.  She said that although MAC had a men’s clothing closet, no one had the space to house children’s clothing.  As I then called other ministries, they agreed that a children’s clothing closet would be very helpful for the area.  At the same time, the results of a parish forum and survey showed that All Saints wanted to do a new mission focusing on children and at or close to our blockThus need met desire and of course, we had to put the All Saints twist on it and make it an upscale clothing boutique where we could clothe children in need with dignity.”

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Even our core outreach ministries have DNA! Threads is a compassionate child of MAC.  And look above to see what’s coming in April.

I think you can also catch compassion like a good cold.  I know I have caught compassion down through the years from All the Saints.

 

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All Saints’ Founders of MAC and young friends – Ann Mobley Hasset and Kim Jackson. I remember when MAC was on our block. We’ve always been a compassion incubator!

I believe that compassion is in our DNA as children of God. And yes, compassion can be taught and caught. And as Jesus laid it on us in the beatitudes, compassion is often the hard and holy  lesson of one’s own personal loss.

Here is blessed Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness, aka Compassion.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

 

One day complete justice and total mercy will kiss us into eternity. In the meantime, let us be a little strong and also be a little kind.  That’s a good day’s work any day, every day. 

 

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Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.  T’is the secret of life everlasting.

Martha +