Fat Tuesday is coming. Again this year we will be inviting our friends from the Islamic Civic Society of America (ICSA)/Dar Al-Hijrah.
I am disappointed that I didn’t write about it last year. It was actually the first time Trinity had done anything regarding Shrove or Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras since I came to Trinity. And it was a first for the people of ICSA/Dar Al-Hijrah, to be sure.
It came together as a kind of Stone Soup event. We don’t really have a functioning kitchen, except for a dishwasher. So we gathered griddles for making pancakes and people brought syrup, fruit, jams, whipped cream in cans, chocolate chips and other basically unhealthy food. Before we knew it we had a feast before us.
Some precautions were necessary. Griddles had to be spread through out the building to avoid blowing a fuse and we didn’t want pork in any form.
It was a great evening. The griddles were plugged in and pancakes were kept warm in crock pots. The buffet table was set and the smell of cooking oil filled the building. When our guests arrived we were ready. Many had never eaten our version of pancakes before. They have their own equivalent, kind of like sweetened crepes. But I don’t think they put the same things on them. The ones I have had were plain, and quite tasty.
As our guests went through the buffet line they were braver than I tend to be, trying new things. They were amazed by the spray can of whipped cream but weren’t quite sure at the same time. And, of course, being the gracious and generous people they are they brought some food to share as well – Somali rice and beef with onions and spices– yum.
We ate. Conversations happened. New friends were made and some old unexpected friendships were rekindled.
As a part of the evening I led a short discussion, “Christianity 101 and Lent 101.” Just the basics. When I do that I am always struck by the fact that it is impossible to do either of those topics. Not all Christians, not even all Lutherans understand things in the same way. I did mention that Christians are not nearly as good as fasting as they are, but we are really good at eating fat. That got a laugh.
As Wali translated I was aware that Muslims use most of the same words we use – mercy, forgiveness, etc. – but I am always quite certain they understand all of those words in a slightly different way. So I never really know what Wali has told them!
But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we had come together and have eaten together. And in some way we were all aware that it iwas a gathering based on a faith tradition, this time ours.
After a hearty meal, many words of thanks, hugs and handshakes, our friends left, heading to the mosque to pray. I would have loved to be a mouse in the car to hear how they processed the whole thing.
I have no doubt it was a holy moment in these divided and fearful times. This coming Tuesday we will gather again. The griddles will be hot and the food will be fatty and delicious.
It will be another moment of seeing God in Little Mogadishu.
Original journal entry date: 2/27/19
©Jane Buckley-Farlee All rights reserved.
Bob and I went to see mom and dad. While we were there the pastor from St. Peter (the town’s LC-MS church mom and dad were considering joining) was going to be doing worship at the nursing home, including communion. Dad suggested that we go with mom. In all honesty, the idea didn’t excite me much, but the idea of going to communion with mom was a good one. From the start I had my doubts that they would serve me – I know their ‘qualifications’ and I don’t qualify. I am a woman, an ordained pastor. But I also thought, hoped that maybe things could be a little looser in a nursing home setting.
We gathered in the chapel/theater. There was a great amount of energy around making sure everyone could hear, plugging in of mics and other sound devices. That seemed very hospitable. The pastor seemed quite nice. We sang Christmas carols and the sermon was quite good, in fact, it felt like home. The words of the liturgy were from The Lutheran Hymnal, p. 15. At first I was annoyed, but quickly realized that that was not only what they are probably still using at St. Peter’s, but more importantly, it is what the residents know.
Anyways, time for communion came. Before hand, Viola had asked dad if was going to take communion. She never asked me. A bad sign. For the distribution we all stayed seated and the pastor and Viola began making the rounds. They served a small group on my right, including my mom, and then they walked behind me and served a small group on my left, including my dad. There was no indication that I even existed. My mom wondered why I wasn’t served with her, but I was able to convince her it was alright. For her sake I was glad she wasn’t really aware of what had just happened. When they didn’t serve me with my dad’s side he looked at me and raised his eyebrows.
At the end of the service the pastor said how nice it was have me join with them along with some other small talk.
Mostly I had all kinds of snarky remarks floating through my head. I was a bit shocked, even though I wasn’t surprised. I was hurt. It is never fun to be excluded. And I surely was. Quite blatantly. Amazingly, actually. All the theological stuff ran through my head which at the time I boiled down to wanting to ask the pastor exactly what he had hoped to accomplish by doing that. Of course it was upholding purity (of something or other), but what’s the point of that. What does that even mean and what’s the point of the Gospel anymore if that is the case.
But perhaps for me there was a bigger irony and hurt. I remember as a little girl going to St. Peter’s with my grandma to help with her Altar Guild duties. While she worked I was able to explore the chancel and go in places I never could otherwise go into. The pulpit. Close to the HOLY altar. Behind the communion rail. I especially remember the red carpeting. And it was really neat. I always felt moved/inspired/called(?) when that happened. And then to have that same church turn me away because of the way I have followed that call is incredibly ironic. And painful. All for the sake of purity.
I don’t know if my grandma ever knew how neat that was for me. And how now I think of it as a bonding time and this has made me think of it as an early time when I ‘heard’ the call.
I might have a conversation with the pastor (I don’t even know his name). Maybe. I’m pretty sure it would be pointless, except for maybe causing him to think for one second a little bit about the implications of upholding purity. Where was the grace? Where was the pastoral care? Where was Jesus’ message in all of that? WWJD?
I did want to tell him I have prayed with Muslims and that they pray in my office all the time. And that those have been some of the most sacred moments of prayer I can remember. I’d tell him purely for the shock value. I don’t know if I’ll follow through on a conversation, but maybe. I have a feeling my dad has already given him a call.
Original journal entry date: 1/8/09
©2019 Jane Buckley-Farlee All rights reserved.
I am on the verge of aching, have been for a couple of days. I’m not quite sure why. There certainly are enough viruses going around to contribute to the aches. But my guess is that it’s not that, or at least, not only that. I often ache when things have been stressful.
I have been obsessing over the 9+ baptisms on the 18th. It is partly the logistics of the whole thing – how do we do 9+ people? Ray and Elizabeth and I agreed to figure it out next week. I am trying to let go of that part of it.
I’m just not sure the pastoral wisdom I think I’ve used justifies the theological and liturgical issues. The ones that most get in my way include the fact that we haven’t talked about what they will be committing to, all of things about worshiping, educating, etc. I met with them all on Saturday and my conversation with them was all grace – the gift of it all. God’s unlimited grace and love. I never mentioned the responsibilities or what they’ll say they believe. Some people would be very upset over that. And the baptism candidates might be a bit surprised. I haven’t figured out how to let them in on that part.
But still, given all of the context including: the black family and a white female pastor dynamics; the recent history of the funeral of J, killed in a drug deal gone bad; and not least of all, the Spirit’s work in this, I still believe that to have said ‘no’ or to have put demands on their process would have been a travesty far worse than the looseness (grace?) with which we will be going about this. I’m not sure I expect to ever see them in church again. On the other hand, I never expected any of them to ever be interested in baptism either. I was pretty certain that I’d never see them after J’s funeral – perhaps until the next funeral. So, I guess I’ve decided to err on the side of grace. Surely that is forgivable!
Original journal entry date: 1/9/09
©2019 Jane Buckley-Farlee All rights reserved.
Every year, perhaps since time began (at least at Trinity) the Sunday School Advent/Christmas program has been an opportunity for members to gather hats and mittens to give to those in our neighborhood who need them. A Christmas tree in the Chapel serves as the collection point. Some of the gatherers have been holding onto their hats and mittens since the previous January, having bought them during the post-Christmas sales. Once in a while Trinity kids, some of whom may not have hats and mittens of their own quite yet, fight over who gets to put the hats and mittens on the tree. By the end of the day the tree, as scrawny as it may be, is covered with warm hats and mittens, all bought and shared with love. Some are hand knit by members. It can be a colorful sight to behold.
As people pack up the left-over food from the pot-luck and the scenery for the pageant gets put away, the mittens are put in grocery bags to be taken, at the earliest convenience, to the Brian Coyle Community Center in the neighborhood. The thinking is that it would be wonderful, perfect if the hats and mittens could be handed out right before Christmas. After all, who wants to spend Christmas without warm hats and mittens? What child doesn’t love finding colorful hats and mittens under the tree?
Except for one thing. After talking with Abdirahman to find a time for me to deliver them it turns out the best time to drop off the hats and mittens is, in fact, for the Fire and Ice event on January 23rd. The Fire and Ice event is a winter safety event for people of the neighborhood, especially those who are new to Minnesota. It is a chance to learn about how dress in cold weather and how not to fall on the ice and snow,
The people attending are mostly from Somalia and Ethiopia. Many have never experienced winter before, so it is not unusual to see recent immigrants out and about in the neighborhood on a cold winter day with bare hands and wearing sandals.
They also are almost all Muslim. Which means Christmas is a non-event for them. They see all of the consumerism, the frantic shopping and preparing around them, but the day itself is not important. What is important is the event scheduled for January 23rd, where they will learn how to stay safe in their new home.
So, the bag sat in my office until January 22. That is when Abdirahman suggested they be delivered since he has no storage room in his office. A number of people who stopped in my office asked why the mittens are still there. It is, after all, more than a month since they were collected and Christmas is long forgotten. We are long past the twelfth day of Christmas.
No one was upset or angry, only surprised. It was to be as much about Christmas as it was about providing warm hats and mittens. For us. But not for the people of the neighborhood. For those who would receive them it was about the hats and mittens that would keep them a bit warmer and safer in the cold days ahead.
For over a month every time I walked in or out of my office I saw the bag sitting there, reminding me of the amazing place in which Trinity finds itself. A place where language and culture often do not mesh, where even the calendars that guide the rhythms of our lives are different. Even though the hats and mittens were a part of the frantic pace of the time-before-Christmas for us, they were simply much needed gifts for those who received them on January 23rd.
The Christmas hype and consumerism were long over with and the gifts were received as pure gifts. The true meaning of Christmas happened in spite of us, in spite of the calendar. In the midst of people who were simply grateful to have warm hats and mittens.
Original Journal entry date: 2/2/15
© 2019 Jane Buckley-Farlee. All rights reserved.