Thursday, July 31, 2008

Loaves Abound!

Here we are after a whirlwind of wonderful worship: Sean was lector, assisting minister, usher and communion assistant (whew!) and I preached and assisted with communion. None of it would have happened at all without my dad, who designed and produced a handout (Gospel text on the front, Fan Pu's paper cutting of the Loaves and Fishes on the back), gathered loaf-looking pretzels and goldfish snacks for the after-worship fellowship, and made a DVD of a MOSAIC segment on Slovakia for us to use as part of our presentation after the service (he also ushered and assisted with communion ... Super Dad!) The Thursday night service is more informal--the sermon is usually dialogue-style, so I was able to use some of my teaching techniques. Sean's working on editing the audio file now to post on our website--I'll add a note here when it's up.

I'm tired and happy, looking forward to getting a good night's sleep and a good day's work in on Sunday's sermon. I've gotten great ideas and input from people, from the many insights of the folks at the service tonight to Carmen, who gave me a haircut this morning. She had me retell the story in my own words and narrow down what was most important to me about it--so helpful!

The presentation we gave after the service tonight went really well and I found myself reflecting on how nice it was to have a partner-in-mission to present with. Sean was great: very well-researched and knowledgeable as he talked about the Lyceum and the ELCA's relationship with the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia. It felt good to put some of that orientation training to such immediate use ... and it is good indeed to be a team.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Ketchup on my hot dog*
While I catch up on my blog
To fill this screen
I need lycopene
Or a quick trip to Prague.

Yeah, the last line was a stretch for the sake of rhyme scheme. I'm open to suggestions. I was actually considering: "Or maybe just a nap," but that wouldn't scan AND would drive my parents crazy. We're in heads down, all-productive mode here at the Edison-Swift-Albright house: tomorrow I preach at the Thursday evening contemporary service, and then at the Sunday morning services at St. Luke's. Sean and my parents will also serve at these services in various roles: lectors, communion assistants and ushers. After the services Sunday morning we'll be hosting a rather large number of family and friends back at the condo: it is exciting, wonderful and there are preparations to be made. But first! A quick ketchup on the past month.
From the ELCA-specific orientation at the Lutheran Center we went to Hyde Park and the Ecumenical Orientation, joining missionaries and staff from the Presbyterian Church USA and the Reformed Church of America. Many in our group got a nasty cold, which we dubbed "missionella" or "missionaires' disease." Sean got it and it eventually made its way to me--luckily there was a sweet spot for noodle soup nearby.
After going to see The Dark Knight at a theater near Navy Pier, a group of us took the el home. It was pretty late at night and all was subdued on the red line heading south--until a women screamed, clearly distressed. The anxiety in the car rose as she screamed again--and just as suddenly all broke into laughter and relief as someone reported to the packed train: "It's a moth!" It was a huge moth, and, still laughing (and screaming a little,) we all spent the space before the next stop dodging and swinging at it. The moth made its way to the door and was liberated by a CTA employee as he exited, smiling and shaking his head.

It could have been a real emergency; it wasn't and I was grateful. Both for the safety the woman and all of us on the el, and for the chance to laugh together with friends and strangers.
At closing worship for the Ecumenical Orientation, Rachel (who will have a communications position in Cambodia) reflected on this ee cummings poem:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Rachel said that orientation was helping her to realize that this poem applies not only to the people we love and will leave behind in the US, but also to the people we will meet and walk together with as we journey. We will carry them in our heart; they will carry us in theirs. It was one of the most touching, meaningful moments of orientation. Healing, too, for hearts like ours that might feel heavy with carrying--healing like the leaves of "a tree called life."
From the University of Chicago and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in Hyde Park we went north by limo (!) to Kenosha and Carthage College, site of the Summer Missionary Conference. There we enjoyed swimming in Lake Michigan (brrrrr!), challenging the young women of the volleyball camp to a beach volleyball game (winner: the mosquitoes), playing pool and the occasional polka.
Sean and I were particularly lucky in that my supervisors, David and Carla, and Josh (who is returning to the US after being the associate pastor in Bratislava), where all also at the conference. We're also particularly lucky to be going where we're going, learning from such great people! But more on that throughout the year. =)

We were blessed and commissioned as missionaries--while I have to admit to some orientation fatigue, there was a sense that everything we'd learned, experienced and reflected on had led up to that moment. And even with a month of preparation, that moment was a little overwhelming for me: such a blessing, such a gift, such a responsibility and a privilege! After closing worship we were quickly herded onto a bus to back to Chicago, where most got on planes to begin final preparations for their departure. Sean and six others stayed in Kenosha for 18 hours of intensive training and certification for teaching English as a Second Language. After a month of serious bonding, it was hard to see our friends scatter. It is good to know we'll be seeing many of the other Horizon interns in November, and this Internet thing is nice, too.

There's so much more I want to write about, but I can't justify another moment away from sermon-prep. I'll just have to work on my blogging discipline. And my poem writing. =) We didn't take very many pictures during orientation (we have to get in the habit of taking photos when there aren't any nieces or nephews involved!) but the ones we got are nice, and you can view them here.

*For the sake of realism, I actually did eat a hot dog with ketchup as I composed the poem. Delicious!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Orientation Day One: What's (in) your baggage?

Another title I considered: "Orientation Day One ... This is for real, y'all."

I think this poem from opening worship says it all better than I can right now. Steve Nelson, director for ELCA global service, told us that it was written to mark the first ordination of women Episcopal priests. I did some searching, and found that the author was one of the Philadelphia Eleven: women "irregularly" ordained (one might even say extraordinarily, to make a cross-denominational present-day parallel), and then denounced, two years before women's ordination was officially approved by the national church.

Passover Remembered
by Alla Bozarth-Campbell

Pack nothing. Bring only your determination to serve
And your willingness to be free.

Don't wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey,
but eat standing, be ready to move at a moment's notice.

Do not hesitate to leave your old ways behind--
fear, silence, submission.

Only surrender to the need of the time
--to love justice and walk humbly with your God.

Do not take time to explain to the neighbours.
Tell only a few trusted friends and family members.

Then begin quickly, before you have time
to sink back into the old slavery.

Set out in the dark. I will send fire to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire and I will be with you in the cloud.

You will learn to eat new food and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert to guide you safely
to that place you have not yet seen.

The stories you tell one another around the fires
in the dark will make you strong and wise.

Outsiders will attack you, and some will follow you,
and at times you will get weary and turn on each other
from fear and fatigue and blind forgetfulness.

You have been preparing for this hundreds of years.
I am sending you into the wilderness to make a new way
and to learn my ways more deeply.

Some of you will be so changed by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.

Some of you will not change at all. Some will be abandoned
by your dearest loves and misunderstood by those
who have known you since birth and feel abandoned by you.
Some will find new friendships in unlikely faces, and old friends
as faithful and true as the pillar of God's flame.

Sing songs as you go, and hold close together.
You may at times grow confused and lose your way.

Continue to call each other by the names I've given you,
to help remember who you are. You will get where you are going
by remembering who you are.
Touch each other and keep telling the stories.

Make maps as you go remembering the way back
from before you were born.

So you will be only the first of many waves of deliverance on these
desert seas. It is the first of many beginnings--
your Paschaltide. Remain true to this mystery.

Pass on the whole story. Do not go back.
I am with you now and I am waiting for you.

My dad forwarded me a blurb that the Church of England has taken steps toward consecrating women bishops. One of the things I love about this poem is that it names the pain in the midst of celebration: the hurt of gaining ordination but losing the blessing of a loved one, the inherent loneliness of navigating new roles and transitional times. So, this one's dedicated to the Anglican men and women who are taking big risks to make a better church, as well as to the recently-graduated women of Yale and Berkeley Divinity Schools who taught (and teach!) me how to preach, pastor and "pass on the whole story." Love to the Future Clergy of America!

We've managed to unload a lot of stuff lately, but I've got some, um, baggage: it's nice to have networks of folks who understand, old friends to reach out to and new friends like we are making these orientation days. It's becoming real, y'all, and that's a good thing--we're making the transition in good company!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Annie and Sean: Also safe and sound

We made it!

We sold or gave away all of our furniture, Goodwill-ed or threw away or stored or packed our stuff, cleaned and moved out of our apartment, and drove from Westmont, New Jersey to Park Ridge, IL with many wonderful visits with family and a mini-vacation in Amish country along the way.

We are tired but happy, safe and excited to begin orientation on Tuesday. Sean bought two new suits, a sport coat, and great shoes to start his teaching career off right. I got a new swim suit and a great pair of jeans, which doesn't sound as impressive but those in-the-know will realize that, in terms of difficult things for Annie to shop for, this is quite an accomplishment. Also, while my parents and I do pretty well keeping close while at a distance, it makes a huge difference to actually hold them close, to hold their hands and pray "Come, Lord Jesus" with them. And to then go out as a family and see WALL-E, which was AWESOME. =)

A more complete story of our road trip is up on flickr: you can see the photos and read the narrative here. Below I've posted pics of some of the highlights. I hope I'll be back to more regular posting soon--thanks for checking in on us!

With Brian, Jill, Eli, Bella and Gus in Collingswood, NJ.

A family portrait of Andrea, Jimmy and Casey in Thorndale, PA.

Two of my beautiful cousins--Leah and Rachel--in Rochester, NY.

Me and my Grandpa Swift.

An Edison-Albright self-portrait at a rest stop in Erie, PA.

Happy to be home with the Edison-Swifts on July 4th in Park Ridge, IL.