Monday, January 29, 2007

The baby-less baptism.

I do not know a great many members of the congregation here, as the church family is the size of a small town and the task of getting to know each and every one is more fitting of say, the Senior Pastor. My exposure to the congregants is minimal. I see people who frequent the building, those who take Bible Studies, or otherwise actively participate in regular church activities. As in any organization, the number of active participants is typically a mere fraction of the full membership. The people I have come to know are friendly and nice. I see lots of heart in their spirits, and I like that.

I can’t tell you what they do for a living, what their likes and dislikes are, who their favorite authors are, ( other than the Bible variety) or who their favorite speakers are ( other than the Pastors who offer sermons onsite here).

I can tell you some things, though. Many members enjoy superbubble gum. They prefer Kleenex to Puffs, and they have a weakness for chocolate. They brush their teeth often, as is demonstrated by their million dollar smiles, and they are cordial folks. I also know something else. Their after hours activities keep me employed.

“What?” You might say. “What is she talking about? After hours? What can the church chick possibly know about members and their after hour time?” and “What does that have to do with her job?” Fair questions, my friends. Fair questions. All in good time, readers.

I have many lovely tasks in my job, one of which includes various baby prattle-type. When babies are born, I call in the rosebud, alert the congregation via the white board, send the info to those who can continue the welcoming through newsletter, meals and signage.

Eventually, when the newness of birth has worn off, somewhat; the topic of Baptism comes up. This is a very personal and important time of the parents' lives. The babies don’t really care much about it, but in my experience as a church chick, parents care about this ritual a lot. A whole lot. .Baptisms carry their own lists of things to do and calls to make; emails to send....yada yada yada. The tasks keep me busy- i.e. working/employed. Thanks, parents.

We’ve had so many baptisms vying for the calendar in the last month, that it is pretty. P.R.E.T.T.Y clear to me what’s been going on around town, sister. Well, maybe I should just say I can guess who wasn’t watching the movie of the week or the football game 9 months ago. Let’s leave it at that and move on.

Dips and sprinkles abound around here this time of year ... If you think it’s a big job to bring a baby into this world, try organizing a baptism, and maybe then, maybe then you will reconsider.

We have a group of people who volunteer their time to help take pictures, greet/welcome the family; ushers who reserve the pews for family, and Clergy who conduct the time-honored ritual of baptism. There are many pieces that have to fall into place, and often times, as human nature will have it, one or more pieces are scrambling to find their place- if you will. This is one volunteer job that is really utilized. And that is exactly why, I found this past Sunday baby-less baptism funny.

I came in this Monday morning ready to face the week ahead. The Pastor came out of his office, while I was unlocking my door across the hall, slipped in behind me and promptly parked himself on the edge of the huggy round chair across from my desk. He held a Baptism certificate in his hand. Yes, my boss greeted me this morning with a kind heart as he usually does-but in our conversation over how the weekend went at church he informed me all went relatively well except for the Baptism.

“What?” “What went wrong?” I asked.
“Did the baby puke? Cry? Scream? What happened?”
He settled into the round hug chair and shook his head, looked down at his shoes. It scared me into continuing my 20 questions.
“ Did the photographer show?”
“Did the coordinator come?”
“uh huh”
“ Did the ushers reserve the pews for family?”
“Did I spell the names right?”
He looked at the certificate and said, “ uh, yeah, well I think so. Puciowlarginex is spelled like this, I guess.”
“Was there water in the Baptismal font?”
He shook his head yes, but kept looking down.
“ Was there algae in it?”
His head swept up and tilted to the side. He looked at me intently with a serious Pastoral calm.
“Well, I didn’t really notice that-

The custodian happened to pass by at that moment and I called to him , “Regent- can you see if the Baptism water is clear? And add a little algae-be-gone if it isn’t?” Then I turned back to our conversation.
The Pastor cleared his throat. “Algae-be-gone?”
" Algae-be-gone, Algae clear, whatever. I waved his question aside, continuing my quest to find out what went wrong with the baptism.
“ Please,Pastor, tell me what went wrong at the Baptism?”
“ Well, everybody was there except the baby.”

“What? What happened? Was he abducted? Did he crawl away? Was he let loose?”
“No, no, no. I came in and saw everyone waiting for the show to begin. The stage was set. The church was full, all players in place, but just no family.”
“Oh, My God. Did you call the police?, the FBI, CSI?”

“ No. we called the family. They thought they were on the books for another day. They went home after Sunday School and went back to bed.” Then he continued. “ I just thought it interesting that every other detail was in perfect alignment this once, except for the baby.”He pulled himself out of the chair and stepped across the hall to his cave.
My adrenalin drained taking my energy with it and I melted down from the windowsill, and poured myself back into my desk chair.

I called after him,“Maybe we should consider keeping a babydoll on hand in case something like this happens again so you’ll have something to sprinkle.”

“ Yeah, maybe we should." I heard the familiar click of his door closing and then, opening again. "Uh, church chick- you know I’m just kidding about that, right?”

I looked up from my Toys-R-Us catalog. “ Oh. Sure I do,boss. Sure.” I closed the magazine and continued on into my Monday .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Winter wonders

One of the fun aspects of living in this part of the country is the delicious weather. I say delicious because our weather is cooked up with a pinch of spicy unpredictability. We can have mid 70's on a Monday in January, and snow by Wednesday. You just never know. I recall years and years ago, when I was a mere teenager, delighting in the oddities of the seasons here. I find cold and flu season especially interesting here, still.

The Winter season revolves around looking for the first snowflake. Sometimes, the first will be the last, and other years, we'll have buckets of slush for days on end.

The local meteorologists keep us on the edge of our seats with "weather alerts" and "Operation snow desk special reports". Often times, the weather alerts consist of warning the viewers of "the possibility of some potential changes in temperatures that might result in cold." In high school one year,I distinctly recall the adrenaline rush upon hearing the intro sound to "Operation snow desk special reports".The urgent message scrolled across the bottom of the screen bleeping out morse code warnings while the reporter silmultaneously was breaking into regular programing- all to remind us, with frozen urgency, what we needed to do to prepare for frigid temps -were they to ever arrive. Sadly, I believe we had an uneventful season that year.

These taunting and teasing alerts continue still and are broadcast to us from December 21 til March. -there is something about considering the chance of possible precipitation that creates a refreshing energy. The titles of the program interruptions change from year to year, but the idea and purpose remain the same. The reporting practice keeps the meteorologists on their toes, helps them stay focused through doldrum and dreary overcast days of winter. I have come to look forward to these seasonal reports, and I consider them in some ways a mini-series.

Truth is, we don't usually have too much excitement in the way of snow and other cold flaky stuff around here. Every now and then, we'll get measurable and impressive snow or ice, but not every year, and because of that the anticipation is all the more exciting.

Waiting can drive one to the short side of mania, though. The local news teams are experts at stirring the viewers into a flurry of irrational responses. " The temps appear to be thinking about dropping in the next week or so." ..." The air flow is full of crystalized dew today" ...."Something in the form of chilled micro-galvanized water has been reported heading towards secondary roads"

It is comments like these that get us winter watchers revved up. and that is exactly why I am not surprised that we, here in our area have surpassed the world record for highest number of automobile accidents caused by single snow flake fall-age.

The weather people work their suspense, break into regular programming, and drop hints of something coming bit, by bit..... until by the time they actually say, "It's snowing, the first flake has hit the ground!" car fenders are jumping into the roads begging to be dented.

"Oh, for God's sake, I can't take it anymore!!" screams a Jeep.
Take me!! scratch me!! Just get it over with!!" hollers a hallogen headlight.... screeching for scratches and scrunches, the fiberglass, plastic, and metal body parts go on and on.

I like to clock them, the accidents that get tired of waiting to happen.

This morning, the precip started at 6 am, and by 8 we had 217 accidents reported. At 11, the snow was gone, the roads were singing in the rain, and the excitement was over. ...Until next time (due to hit in 72 hours , maybe 74) or possibly, not until next year.I find the whole phenomenon entertaining. This time 2 years ago, we had recorded 800 accidents in the same short time.

The church is self-contained when it comes to seasons. The season of advent is consistent, annually coming along inside the church walls and it runs parallel with Fall and early winter outside. Some advent years are warm and sunny, others are dark and muggy. No matter, advent comes every year, the baby Jesus is born again and again and again.

Was it warm in Bethlehem that year? Was it snowing? Were sand floods covering the toes, of the wise men? Is this why it took them so long to get there? Oh, the details that are left to our imaginations. There are no Farmer's Almanacs published that early in history, either.

Did the Angel say to the mother to be, "You will be with child in 40 degrees with a northerly wind?", or was it more like, " Wear a cammie and some shorts and you'll be fine"?...
or, "Double up on your socks along the way to the Inn,Joseph, there will be a chill in the air?"

In looking at pictorial depictions of the birth of the babe, did you notice the camels and donkey and other participants who surrounded the new born babe seem to be standing a little close? Were they blocking the frigid evening crisp? Well of course they were. Why else would travelers and desert animals subject theirselves to the odiferous wafts of such a snug gathering? I'd be willing to bet it was pure T freezing, people. Desperate temps call for desperate measures, I say.

No telling what really happened in the atmosphere those many years ago, but today, in present day time, we saw some snow. Well, I think we did, anyway. I'd better go check the news