13 August 2007

Sunday Morning at the Cathedral: Nice Jewish Girl In Church

I was at the Cathedral this morning -- first time I've been there for a service since I left National Cathedral School at the end of 9th grade (May/June 1988), when my family moved to Kentucky: before that, I was there for Cathedral services every Friday morning from 6th grade to 9th grade! My friend Sara, who's Native American by ethnic heritage (and was in town from PA for the National Powwow, which I came to some of yesterday--really neat!) and Episcopalian by religious upbringing, wanted to go to church this morning -- and I said that the Cathedral has services at 8, 9, 10, and 11 a.m. (we made the last one!) and that I'd love to go with her.

The sermon was wonderful -- given by a young female reverend (Rev. April Berends), whom we talked with briefly afterwards: she invited us both to come to their group for 20-and-30-somethings if interested, though since Sara lives far away & I'm Jewish, we said it was kind of her to extend the invitation but not likely that we'd come.

The service was beautiful, as always, with a very beautiful piece sung by the choir during the offeratory, by contemporary vocal-music composer Lee Hoiby (who was born in 1926, but still seems active now in his 80s!): it reminded me of the Thompson Alleluia (composed during WWII at the time of the Fall of France; I sang it with the choirs at Harvard commencement in '92, and I think it's an incredibly beautiful piece of music)...

Afterwards we got some coffee (yay, refreshments!), walked around, looked at the moon rock in the space window, etc etc. -- even went to the small side chapel to get a special blessing from one of the 2 clergy members who were offering personal blessings and prayers there, which was neat: both were women, probably in the 40-60 age range (one African-American and a little younger-looking; one white, with silver hair).

Sara, who works with ESL students K-12 in her small PA school district, said she usually asks for a blessing as she begins the new school year. I asked for a blessing as my husband begins the new school year, as the synagogue where I work gears up for the High Holy Days, and as I work to complete my dissertation for the Oct. 1 deadline -- as well as for healing and consolation for all our friends and family, of all faiths or none, who are ill or sorrowing or have lost loved ones.

I have now been anointed! ;)

It was pretty interesting:
she'd asked if I wanted to be anointed, and I said, "um, sure!" --
she had a little tub (kinda like one of those lip-gloss or hand-lotion small circular tin containers) of a lightly-scented semi-solid-spreadable substance, and smoothed her finger (thumb, I think) across its surface, then put it to my forehead --

and made the sign of the cross, perhaps by force of habit, although I'd asked for a blessing that was appropriate for us as Jews -- but since I'd just been at the National Powwow, I decided to interpret it in good ecumenical style as indicating the four cardinal directions, a sacred symbol in many cultures...

and began saying "in the name of the Father, and the Son--"

I shook my head.

"oh!" (realizing her mistake) "just the Father, then, just the Father..."


...and she proceeded to hold my bowed head in her hands while creating a very beautiful spontaneous prayer on my behalf.

who loves her synagogue but can appreciate any "house of prayer for all peoples"

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