Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Faith Works 7-7

Faith Works 7-7-12

Jeff Gill


Notes from the apocalpyse, junior version



One of the aspects of the pastoral role is that of "ritual specialist."


That's a kind of anthropological look at being in charge of ceremonial occasions, and in ecclesiastical terms it means you've had the training for and the theological background to know what service parts go where when, and how you are allowed to change and rearrange depending on various circumstances.


In some religious traditions, the acts and words around the observance of communion are set and inviolable, and in others you have a great deal of latitude, while some would prefer to avoid communion as a ceremonial event altogether, keeping it to certain occasions . . . and so on.


Weddings are one time where, whatever your own ordination or certification, you are called on to be a "ritual specialist" for sure, even if no one would ever throw that odd title around.


"Can we do this? Is this appropriate? Can we change this and add that?" The questions are myriad, and if I get specific I know there are lovely married couples in central Ohio who will think I'm talking about them, so I'll just let you use your imagination. But things happen at weddings that you just never used to have to consider, let alone have a plan for response to, and they sure didn't talk about this in seminary in the 80's.


So I understand clergy who retreat in a sort of formalism, and say "if I'm presiding at a wedding and signing the license, then the service takes place in a church, in my church, and the outline is *this* and no, I don't allow substitutions, this isn't a Chinese buffet." There's a certain calm and clarity to that approach.


If you say, as many do and I'm one of many, "Sure, happy to preside at an outdoor wedding," then you do, in fact, lose a certain amount of standing to object or require. You still can, but the negotiation is now no longer with you in the driver's seat.


And then there are wedding planners, who often are on a whole 'nother playbook.


What I say is "Do you have a Plan B?" Because if this is outdoor as in "I'm sure the weather will be fine in Ohio in [name month here]" and without a nearby option confirmed and reserved, I will say "No." Not often, but under those circumstances, I will and do.


Which is how I ended up driving on the bike path getting back to the Bryn Du Mansion just after the storm, where I just had been before it hit, looking at all the lovely decorations hanging around the plaza by the fieldhouse, which was both Plan B and the site for the reception dinner after.


Storm Night was the rehearsal (& rehearsal dinner) and the next Day of Chaos was the scheduled wedding day, and let this ritual specialist tell you: it was beautiful, and no doubt memorable, and an awesome example to a newly married couple of how a wedding, like a marriage, requires the co-operation and involvement of a whole bunch more than two people.


The respective families of the bride and groom jumped in with everything from generators and chain saws to hauling gear and toasting without notes by candlelight. The teams at Cherry Valley Lodge, where they let us run an ad hoc rehearsal in their lobby by lantern light, and fed everyone as if this happened most weekends; Bruce Cramer and the Bryn Du staff who steered and sorted and flexed to make this work out; Susan Kaiser at Faire-la-cuisine and her crew who somehow managed to feed 250 people in a pretty dark and rapidly heating room with food that I'm sure would have looked as good as it tasted if we could have seen it; and most of all the bride & groom, Natalie & Josh, who handled themselves with all the grace under pressure you could ask of a couple.


They did, however, immediately leave the scene of devastation for an area with more advanced technology and infrastructure: Mexico.


Meanwhile, I'm sitting in a respite of air conditioning five days later, typing this courtesy of MickeyD's wifi, thinking how you simply can't, and probably shouldn't plan for something like *this*, but there's an element of flexibility and adaptability that you can practice, and that allows the Spirit of God to jump on board and be part of the plan.


We've all gotten some serious practice time in this week, I think!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; tell him about your serendipity and Spirit-filled moments in the midst of the maelstrom last week at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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