The Organ Chamber

In most of my years as a pastor I've worked inside church buildings. Spending hours each day inside these intricate and labyrinthian buildings I've found a way to get into the corners and crevices of each one. In Winona I visited the bell tower and had a habit of taking the confirmation class up to sit on the bells in their last class session. We climbed the circular staircase, up the wooden ladders, past the bats, and out into the open air where the bells -- who survived a fire decades ago by being coated with water which froze -- rested. (I made sure no one was scheduled to ring them at that time.) This now seems like foolish thing to do, but I think it was a highlight for all of us. (This was the time of my life when I climbed Sugar Loaf freehand, too.)

At Centennial I wandered through the construction project at night with my colleague, checking everything out. And when I discovered the Boy Scouts on the roof I surprised them by joining them.

At Hope I found my way up the ladders and into the hidden storage room, into the off-limits elevator control room, and, when the roofers invited me to inspect the water damage on top of the roof, I scurried up the ladders and peered into the sanctuary from the skylight.

And today, at Fairmount, I got to climb into the organ chamber. Steve is refitting the organ with a new switching system, a project taking much longer than he expected. But he invited me and my camera in to see the mess. It was very dark, but here are some of my photos:

This is the back of the console, where the key hammers connect to the first of the wires.

Here are some of the pipes in the lower level of the organ chamber. I climbed into the second level, but it was so dark my flash just bounced off the pipes. However, there are long pipes and rows and rows of tiny ones up there behind the screen.

This looks like a mother board. It's inside the organ chamber. I don't know what it does, but Steve knows.

This is a macro shot of one of those little hammer thingys.

And a macro of the intricate wiring mechanism.

And the inside of the organ console.

These are details. When all the wires are connected, all the hammers working, all the pipes singing, it is an amazing instrument that fills our sanctuary with joyful sound.


Resurrecting the Roses

Every fall (October 22, it is) I bury my roses (now that I know better.) Then on April 22 (or thereabouts) they come up. I have help, from a surgeon, burying them, but I brought them up myself this year. It is frightening, trying to change the direction of the bush from horizontal to vertical. I think one limb is damaged, but most of the five are going to make it.

This one couldn't even wait. Small leaves were curling out of crevices in the ground.


Easter Wordle

A wordle for my Easter sermon may be found here. The blessings of Easter to you all.


Easter Lily

This year instead of using the stock lily bulletin paper you can buy for Easter services Sharon asked me to photograph some lilies for to make our own cover. I took about 40 shots and came up with several I liked. Finding a blooming lily three weeks before Easter was the hard part, but Como Conservatory came through again.

We decided on this last one. It has some motion, and the light makes me think of the resurrection, coming out of the dark center of the bloom.


Stone Soup

My congregation begins its observance of Maundy Thursday with a Stone Soup dinner. Last year, my first in this congregation, I decided to follow the congregation's traditions for the first year to see how they worked, and then to think about making changes. (I did add a Way of the Cross walk for Good Friday, and I did rework the Tenebrae a bit.) I didn't get Stone Soup at all.

Footwashing, communion, tenebrae -- these are all traditional Maundy Thursday observances. Stone Soup is a nice folk tale, a good story of community and the abundance of gifts, but I didn't quite see how it fit with Maundy Thursday.

The first year at a new congregation is a whirlwind. During Holy Week last year I was trying to take in so many details and worrying about how it would all go; I'm not sure I really took it all in. I didn't even write myself notes for the next year's planning, something I always do.

This year I decided to continue with tradition again. But I made one change; instead of reading Stone Soup during the meal to everyone over the microphone I asked each table to tell the Stone Soup story itself. I took a version of the traditional tale, rewrote it a bit, printed it on cardstock and put a copy on each table. Then I asked the eldest person at each table to read it.

I ate my soup (there were three kinds -- beef, chicken noodle, and a vegetarian) and bread. I noticed, perhaps for the first time, the lovely tureens that held the soup, a bargain find from someone on the worship committee for just this purpose. I saw the pottery plates and chalices, commissioned for just this annual event, gracing each table. I looked around at all the different generations of people sharing this meal together.

Then the eldest at my table picked up the story and began to read it. It is a familiar story. I read it as a child and I crafted this particular version. But I have to admit I got caught up in it, listening to Bill's voice, how the villagers found a bit of food to share together, and how it turned into a lovely meal. There were a few moments when I was lifted out of my worry over details, when I was transported to some other place.

Then we continued with the rest of the evening: communion around each table, processing to the sanctuary, sharing the Service of Tenebrae (shadows).

I still can't quite say what Stone Soup has to do with Maundy Thursday. Since it isn't appropriate to share a seder together as Christians (that's another conversation) it serves as a good community meal on a night where food is foundational. But last night I was glad I had the sense to experience the congregation's traditions before suggesting we change them. The surprisingly delightful community meal, made out of an sometimes-hoarded but now-released part of ourselves, says a lot about what it means to worship together, to be church together, and how this particular congregation lives together.

I did ask about footwashing. Someone said, "What is it with you clergy and footwashing?" I don't know. But I've made my planning notes for next year. I'll be planning on Stone Soup.


Isn't Easter Yet...

Wednesday of Holy Week.
I had the youth act out the passion narrative from the Gospel of Mark tonight. They seemed to enjoy the detail of the young man running away naked, and went for a little less than realism at that point (they also held back on the beatings and crucifixion.) One said, "Not the most cheerful story, Michelle," but that is the point of it, I suppose.

Spent all day fussing over the details of the bulletins for the rest of the week, and of the services. Changed my mind over the scripture to use for Sunday. It was suddenly clear that, much as I love the Gospel of Mark's version of the resurrection, John is called for this time. My sermon suddenly seems possible, if not riveting (I have a few days to get to riveting.)

After a full day and full night I slipped next door with my boys to put them to bed, reading a book about a man trying to trap and kill a beloved squirrel and another about the eating habits of sharks (am I worried about the violence of the passion narrative? Kids know this stuff) and then sang songs and had prayers. Then I went back next door where the sanctuary was all ablaze to go over the Tenebrae service details with Rich.

I walked in just as the brass was practicing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." It's a few days early, really, I thought. But then the choir processed in, walking very carefully in their Wednesday night clothes. I sang along from the back of the sanctuary (who can resist?) Then Steve pulled out "The Hallelujah Chorus" and the sopranos waved me up so I joined them, standing behind the trumpets, straining to hit the A.

The moon is full, the night is almost warm, the air is fresh, and there is nothing like singing "The Hallelujah Chorus." It isn't Easter yet, but I can smell it.