Today’s post discusses more of the U.U. side of my spirituality but also, like so many things in my life, crosses over into the cross-roads of my Pagan roots.
So with some fluctuations in my schedule recently I actually got to sleep the Saturday night before Church, instead of hoping to grab a nap after getting off of work from the overnight shift. I was eager to explore the novelty of the Church Service experience having had a full nights sleep beforehand. I was slow in waking up, even with having set my alarm early but not only felt the personal need to go to church… I also felt a bit unsettled about the idea of missing it that day.
So I got my things for my work shift together, quickly ran through some of my Daily Practice, gave Jonathan a kiss, and headed over there.
As I was driving up to the driveway I usually use, I could see that folks were there waving signs, at first I wondered if there was a car wash or something going on that I had missed reading about in the weekly 1U Email… bright colorful signs and folks milling about the sidewalks and the side-driveway, so I pulled past the Robinson Street driveway and got ready to turn on North Hampton to what I think of as the Main Driveway. It was as I was waiting for the oncoming traffic to let me turn that I realized that the signs were condemning abortion and homosexuality, and some of them were the extreme close-up pictures of dead babies that the far right and fundamentalists are so very fond of.
It says something about the spirit that my beloved community engenders within me that my first thought was a cheerful and almost eager…
“We’re being protested… how exciting!!”
On some strange level seeing those folks out there preaching down a storm on us, and the signs about how awful and false and without Jesus we were and how we would mislead folks into thinking Homosexuality (because we are an Affirming or GLBT friendly Congregation) or Abortion (1U Congregation members were instrumental in forming Planned Parenthood of Orlando) ….. somehow those folks protesting us confirmed deep within me my conviction that this Congregation was a force for good in the world.
I pulled into my usual parking spot, having arrived early despite getting briefly lost in the maze of streets between this mornings 408 exit and the Church, and set out to track down Rev. Kathy to see how I might be of help. As I walked through Campus I could see members & friends of the Church also milling about both Gore Hall (our social hall) and the Sanctuary. I found Rev. Kathy, and asked her..
“Shall I help make copies of lyrics sheets for We Shall Overcome?!”
She laughed and then in a slightly distracted manner reminded herself to change the closing hymn and talk with our Music Director…
Rachel, whom I know from around Church and from Worship Committee, came up and told me how some of the protestors were going to be leaving their signs and slogan-bearing t-shirts behind and join us in the Sanctuary for Services… and how there was also a Plain-Clothes Police Officer going to be in the Sanctuary today in case there was any problems during the Service. I touched base with a few friends and felt the tension on the campus. The overall mood of our folks seemed subdued, some folks were tense or nervous… there was a sense of dread and controlled anger and even fear in the crowd milling about waiting to start Services… given the sad fact of some of Unitarian Universalism’s recent historyI suppose I can’t blame them.
I took a few moments to touch base with the coordinators of our newly formed Social Hour Team and discussed my sketchy schedule for July and August, said hello to a few more folks and ran into Rev. Kathy again. I asked her if I should see if the Protestors needed any water or if they needed a restroom or something… it’s called Radical Hospitality, and I am a practitioner of it… she pointed out that they probably already had their needs covered (and that some of our co-congregants might not be as ready to extend Radical Hospitality as am I…). She seemed a little nervous, so I reminded her of those Six Breaths she had once talked to me about and let her get going to the Sanctuary.
At some point in all of this, the part of Geoffrey that chose the name Pax, that now goes by other more secret names, the part of me that has danced Deosil round Rowans in the Rain, that has thrown offerings of Grain and Rum out to the many Holy Powers and to the Spirits and Ancestors, the part of me that has tried to self-train as a Priest to the Holy Powers for most of the last 20 years sat up and took notice. I breathed into my Center and my Chakras and to my Connection to the WitchFather, and took another look around.
There were a couple of members sitting in outdoor chairs by the Robinson Street driveway to keep an eye on the protestors and make sure they didn’t come onto Campus with their signs or t-shirts… which since it’s out property we have the right to deny folks entry if we wish, though its sad that we have to make that choice. Somehow, it was the realization that we had members on guard pushed both my Witch/Pagan buttons and my Usher/Greeter/Multiple Committee Member buttons. I took another deep breath and asked the Spirits of the Church, the dryads and other nature spirits of the campus and Genius Loci and the Congregational Egregore, to lend a hand.
I found myself entering Usher/Greeter mode, greeting Church members and looking around for member needs and ways I could help. Rev. Kathy mentioned she needed a glass of water for the pulpit, so I went and got one…
“I Bless thee and consecrate thee oh, Creature of Water and cast out of thee all impurities, that we might work wonders…”
~I spoke the words of consecration as I walked from Gore Hall to The Sanctuary…
…by the time I returned Services were beginning so I placed the glass of water on the table to the side of the pulpit area where the book of Joys and Concerns was waiting to be fetched by the Rev. when she was ready…
I returned to the back of the Sanctuary by the doors to the Foyer, and Rachel came up again and reminded us all of the Evacuation plan for the building and as she and her partner Nicki went to Gore Hall they shared a few key Cell Phone number’s with me in case some of the protestors who were observing the Service caused trouble. I watched the beginnings of the Service, but was already feeling a part of it yet standing apart from it, with my Acrostic eye viewing things through both a Pagan headspace and that of an Usher… so I took my leave of the Sancuary and walked through the Fountain Courtyard, past various Memorial Plaques and plantings and made sure that the protestors weren’t planning on disrupting things by marching through on that end.
I am realizing my time-sense of the day is a little off, partly because the usual Order of Service was adjusted and there were no Words for All Ages, the children were already in the Religious Education building… probably to insulate them from the protestors. When a member parent and child arrived late the protestors started shouting at the mom about how the child was endangered from our Churches false teaching. Some comments the Director of Religious Education had made a little while ago made more sense, and I realized that this also insulated them if there was violence from the protestors. They probably had the RE complex locked up tight…
I stopped at the back of the Sanctuary, facing Hampton behind the back wall of the Pulpit/Altar area, where some of the most recent memorial plaques are and where I had poured offerings of water to the Congregational Ancestors when my friend Sandi joined Them this Spring, and sent a few breaths to the Honored and Beloved dead of the congregation asking for their guidance and guardianship and aid. The protestors did not look to be trying anything on that score, so I returned through the Fountain courtyard, and briefly thought about turning the fountain on… but I decided against it and went back inside to listen to the remainder of the Service.
The Service went well and there was no disruption, I thanked the Reverend and gave her a hug and went over to Gore hall. I turned on the fountain as I headed out to Gore Hall. The social hour was a little restrained at first… I think that I was not the only person who was hesitant to speak to folks who were unfamiliar to me (of course given my poor memory for names and faces that can be a long list from even longtime members of the Church)… I think there was also an element of waiting to see if some sort of disruption or attack occurred at this point. The usual joyous tumult of social hour was also a bit subdued because there weren’t as many kids roaming and running about… I guess many of the parents had taken them home.
Here is where things got a little interesting.
First off, one of the ladies of the Alliance came up to me as the worshipers were wandering in and gave me an apron that had been part of the goods from my friend Sandi’s house-hold goods donated to the Alliance for resale, she had seen it and set it aside for me since Sandi and I shared a culinary connection in our friendship. Then some of the conversations with folks after Social Hour started to wind down revolved around how many of us either just happened to go by Church early that morning and saw the protestors setting up, or woke up unusually early and looked at e-mail and got the message about the goings on, or simply felt especially drawn to Church that day.
Were the Ancestors present? Did the Genius Loci and the Congregational Egregore send out some sort of “Hey! All hands on deck!!” to those particularly attuned to their frequencies? Did the many and diverse Holy Powers of the world here the prayers of some of the Congregants?
Personally, I believe so.
Whatever the details of the explanation, we handled it with dignity and Grace, as U.U.’s have sought to handle difficult times in the past. I know we can carry the lessons of that day forward as we strive and sometimes struggle to be within Beloved Community with one another even as some of us are trying to widen the scope of that Beloved Community in some uncommon directions.