May 7th, 2011


A thought for Mothers Day

Sunday, May 8, is my Mother's birthday. She would be turning 90 if she were still living. I loved her intensely, though we fought like cats and dogs for years. We were far too much alike.

Margaret Collins (nee Shirley) was a traditionalist and a trailblazer at the same time. She was a patriot. She served her country as a Staff Sgt. in the WACs in New Guinea during WW II. She believed in the ancient verities, while at the same time she refused to occupy the various boxes that lazier minds wanted to put her in. She was a forceful leader in her community -- and she did not suffer fools gladly -- yet she was also kind and friendly with those who were struggling with poverty and with other conditions. She had been poor herself, and never forgot it, nor did she feel herself better than those who hadn't found their way out of their predicaments. She volunteered for many things, but in her latter days she was most involved in Red Cross work helping soldiers get home when their families were in crisis.

She was proud of me, and I am proud of her. That about says it all.

Three Cheers for the Happy Couple

Well, we had the Big Wedding today. It went well, but it had its moments, including a personal First: This was the first wedding I have ever done requiring me to use a pocketknife during the ceremony.

Now, I always try to tell couples that the more bells and whistles they add, the more things can go wrong, but they mostly don't listen. In this case, they desired to have the actual rings brought in by the Ringbearer (Matthew, not Frodo, in this case); usually, I have them on my pinkie and there are fake rings on the pillow. But Matthew was a sturdy eleven years old, and capable of discretion, so they wanted the rings entrusted to him. Instead of a pillow, they were tied to a top hat with decorative black and white ribbon.

I made sure I got a peek at the knots before the ceremony. They looked like standard shoelace bows, and I was assured they would give way with a mere tug. When I called for the rings, however, we had an Awkward Moment: the bow came loose easily, but someone had tied each ring into some kind of double overhand knot that I couldn't easily loosen. My one hand was full of service book, Bible, and glasses. There was no place to put things. The groom started to move out of position to help me untie the rings. I decided the time had come to act. I pulled my knife out of my pocket and had the ribbons slit in half a shake. The Bride, wide-eyed, said under her breath, "You GO, Pastor." And the Show Went On.

The whole secret of performing liturgy is to never show that you are flustered. Whatever odd, unplanned thing you find yourself having to do, you always do it with grace and dignity, as if you did it in full vestments in front of two hundred people every day. After thirty-five years of ministry, I think I could peel and eat a banana and make it look like we'd rehearsed it.

Anyway, it all worked out. Everyone was beautiful and handsome and smiling. The music was wonderful. The sun broke out to make a beautiful day. And the photographer got all the pictures ahead of the ceremony, so everybody got to go straight to the reception without waiting for the bridal party to show up (now, that's being a good host and hostess!). Yay! for everybody. It was a great wedding.