Thursday, March 23, 2006

“Let Us Praise God Together . . .” (Thursday, 23 Feb.)

As the people of Lui greeted us and marched us to the Cathedral, it was clear that we were participating in a ritual of hospitality that had been carefully, thoughtfully choreographed, and our only job was to be swept into it. Without a word of instruction, it was clear we five were to process into the Cathedral in advance of the Bishop, priests, deacons, and other dignitaries, and all the other people. It was a very powerful experience for me.

Readers, please note: The “pews” here are empty because we – their honored guests – were directed to lead the procession into the Cathedral. By the end of the procession, I believe every seat was occupied. And as you scroll through this blog, you will see that they do not have anything nearly as comfortable as our "pews." What I saw -- in parish after parish -- was logs straddled across braces. And many of those logs were worn shiny by the many "behinds" that had occupied them.

I wish I had not been so tired and jet-lagged. Or that I had been making journal entries at that point. Because I honestly cannot remember anything (with one exception) about that service. Did we celebrate the Eucharist? Were there Scripture readings? I don’t know. But I don’t think so. I think that it was just a time of joyful welcome and introductions. But I do not remember, and am hoping that others from our group will share their recollections by clicking on the “Comments” button at the bottom of this entry. Friends, help me out!

There are only two things I remember clearly about that wonderful celebration of welcome.

1. We (the “honored guests”) never got to sit out in the congregation with the people of Lui. Whether we were in the Cathedral, archdeaconry, or humblest parish church, we were seated in “places of honor” in the chancel section of the church. On that first day, miserably hot and sweaty from our travels (after being jetted from Missouri’s winter), I just remember how hot those velvet-cushioned “seats of honor” were!

2. The Bishop introduced us somehow. Maybe Archdeacon Robert made some words of greeting. I don’t remember. I only remember this. Deborah was asked to make words of greeting and introduction. She was seated in the congregation with some of her Moru friends. Here’s what I remember (roughly) as her statement. She spoke of the strong bonds the Moru all have – within their families, with the community, and with the larger diocese. Then she made the point that in the U.S., she and Sandy live within a very few miles of one another, and yet they had never met until they met in Lui. She said, “To the Moru, this is inconceivable – that we could live so close and not be friends.” The Moru cannot conceive of the isolation in which we live – cannot imagine (and would not want to imagine, much less experience) the distance we experience from one another.

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