Our youngest daughter, GForce, is one of those old souls. As I wrote in my very first blog post, she has this way of saying things that have a clarity or wisdom or weirdness that comes from beyond this life.
GForce is one of the rare preacher’s kids who gets to go to church on her own. When we left SweetP’s previous parish for the current one, we told GForce that as soon as the previous parish found a new person to call as their rector, she could go back there if she wanted (the previous parish had, and still has, a remarkable collection of youth and children, and a long-standing tradition where the older kids mentor and generally look out for the younger ones.) Counting the time when we were all there together, GForce has been at this parish for about 6 years, and has been an acolyte there for about 3 of those years.
Brief digression: A lot of churches in my experience across several denominations include a ritual of foot washing at the Maundy Thursday service. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve participated. It’s a little too _________ (gross, intimate, annoying, etc.) for me. Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m not a fan of Holy Week for a whole bunch of reasons, although as I encounter better and better preaching and teaching, I’m warming up to it slowly. This year, on the Tuesday of Holy Week, we were guests at the Boston Jewish Spirit seder, which vastly improved my ability to navigate the rest of Holy Week. This was our third year attending the BJS Seder, and I look forward to it and love it more every year. The Haggadah they use is both beautiful to look at and to hear, with inclusive language and lots of extra sources to illuminate the story.
Okay, back to our old soul. She was the acolyte at her Maundy Thursday service this year, and I left my Maundy Thursday service early so that I could get to her church in time to pick her up. I arrived just before the service ended, but without her seeing me, so I got that rare opportunity to watch her without her knowing. I was struck by how the long red cassock made her look even longer and leaner than she already is. She looked so poised and serious, but with a confident sort of grin on her face most of the time. It’s a very solemn service, and she seemed to tune her natural effervescence to fit the moment. Afterwards, a dozen different people came up to me to tell me what a great job she had done, and how poised she was. I was glad to have seen a tiny glimpse of what they were talking about.
In the car on the way home, I asked her how she liked the service. She said, “I found it to be quite magical.” Go on, old soul, I thought to myself, but to her I asked, “Can you say more about what you mean?” She said, “Well, I wasn’t going to get my feet washed, but then my friends started doing it, so I did it. This man I don’t know washed my feet, and he gave me a big hug afterwards. Then I washed another man’s feet and he was smiling at me the whole time and, I mean, I’m already wearing a robe and everything, and so I really felt like I was in that room two thousand years ago, washing my friends’ feet.”
For all we know, she probably was.
Being the pantheistic whyhead that I am, I know that there are lots of avenues to the types of magical experiences that GForce had on Thursday night. I also have been to enough really bad church ( bad theology, bad liturgy, bad music, bad preaching, bad visuals, and on occasion, all five of those) to understand why, for many people, church is the LAST place they’d go searching for a magical experience. Knowing this makes me all the more grateful that GForce (and her old soul) got a taste of magic this week. I had a taste of my own, several, in fact, but I’ll save that for another post.
For now, let’s go out with a classic from k.d. lang