Sunday, June 19, 2016

3-Day Immersion Excursion: Southern Style DAYS TWO AND THREE

What a weekend!

I am writing this on Sunday afternoon from our back porch as I listen to the drone of the lawn mower;  Glenn is celebrating Father’s Day by doing battle with the overgrown nature trail and weeds in the back lot.  We moved into our house in early November (2015)  and inherited an immaculately manicured nature trail in the back yard complete with berry bushes, lots of wild life, (room for a chicken coop!) and an elevated “putting green” that serves, really, as a septic field.  We’ve been poor stewards of this part of the property and are now learning, first hand (or at least Glenn is) about the amount of time and energy needed to maintain it.  As he learns about the contour of our back lot, I’m going to reflect on the contour of our last two days in the Southern Convocation.

I started out on Saturday morning in the custody of The Rev. Doug Smith of All Saints’, Hanover. Doug took me to the new home of a newly received Syrian refugee family that his church is sponsoring and assisting in Hanover.  There are not words.  This young family (the parents are in their late 20s) have 4 young boys and arrived in this country just last week.  They know very little English and, exercising a great deal of faith, have put themselves in the hands of our government and, more specifically, into the hands of the good people of Catholic Charities (Harrisburg) and All Saints’, Hanover.  The house where they are staying, temporarily, is clean and bright and furnished with donations from the congregation.   As we arrived, the 4 boys were sitting in a sea of picture books on the living room floor, pouring over the pages and watching, at the same time, the movie Shrek on tv.  Mom and Dad were in the kitchen receiving volunteers - two of them fluent in Arabic- who helped to translate our good wishes.  The Koran was displayed in a place of prominence in the dining room and we were reminded that it is now the season of Ramadan which calls for fasting from sun-up to sun-down.  I was overcome by how gentle and trusting and calm these young parents appeared to be considering all that they have seen and been through in their journey to America.  A volunteer told me that one of the top wish list items are toys for the boys  and... bicycles.  Next on the list are finding jobs for the parents, enrolling the children in school and language lessons and beginning the slow process of enculturation.  I was grateful for all that the church in Hanover was doing and for leading in this way in which we care called to care for the stranger.

a welcoming sign on the living room mantelpiece

back door of the house where the new Hanover family is living.

Next, Doug took me to a “quintessential Hanover event:” the Codorus Summer Blast.  Codorus is a State Park in Hanover that is built around (and includes) a big man made lake.  The Summer Blast is a town fair that includes water sports, retail booths, displays of all sorts, games for the kids and every type of “fair food” that you could ever want.  We steered clear of the fried-this-and-that area and, meeting some parishioners, made our way around some of the displays.  My favorite activity was the dog jumping contest where the dog owner throws a floating dog toy off of a dock and the dog’s jump is measured.  It’s kind of like the long-jump for dogs. In the water.  This is a new “sport” to me.  Is this a Central PA thing?

Doug sent me on my way ( but not before I’d picked up a bag of BBQ beef jerky for a Father’s Day gift) and I was transferred to the care of The Rev. Canon David Robson, Rector of St. Andrew, York.  David and I had a quick driving tour of some of his favorite sites in downtown York including the cemetery where there is a moving tribute to our fallen troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and then we headed over to the OEM Bunker.  The OEM Bunker is the municipal Office of Emergency Management-  the place where our civil servants manage any type of disaster that befalls us-  storms, nuclear accidents, terrorist attacks, etc.  Bill James, the director of the center showed us around and described the various protocols for the different types of disasters.  I was fascinated by the vast control room  and was happy to see it not in use. (It’s a strange thing to see such a beautifully equipped space that one hopes never to put to use.)  Also on the site is the 911 center which we observed through a window as the 20 or so employees fielded the numerous phone calls coming in, even as we were watching.  I was surprised by the relative youth of the phone attendants, the number of people at work and the very calm atmosphere.  Bill explained the extensive training that the staff must complete in order to earn their seat at a desk.  Upon leaving, I felt quite confident that if I ever had to use the 911 function on my phone, that I would be well cared for.
Bill James (l) and The Rev. Canon David Robson (r)

The "nerve center” (my words)

We zipped over to St. Andrew just in time to... do a wedding!  Mr. and Mrs. Harry Snell, IV were married at St Andrew at 3 PM with The Rev. Robson and yours truly officiating.  It was a joy to enter into this happy pastoral occasion.
Lori and Harry Snell 

From wedding clothes... to ... shorts, sneakers and a baseball cap.  Next stop on the tour was the York Revolution game where... I got to throw out the first pitch.  What an honor!  I was a nervous wreck.  Glenn had made me practice earlier in the week on our town’s high school diamond.. but who knew what would happen when the pressure was on?  Well, it was fine.  Episcopalians of Central PA, you can all exhale.  I did not embarrass you.   We enjoyed a great game (though our boys lost), a great stadium supper (dogs! burgers! corn!) and even a fireworks show at the end.

play ball!

a York sunset
I crawled into bed just as it was threatening to become Sunday.

This morning I made my way back to York for two wonderful services at St. John the Baptist.  The Rev. Canon David Lovelace was our host and I got to meet both the 8 and the 10 o’clock congregations, preside over both services, confirm five folks and enjoy ones of Central PA’s best coffee hour receptions ever!  St. John’s has been in the middle of a major building renovation for months now that has changed the shape of their parish hall, education and office building and chapel and has added a labyrinth to the courtyard.  The renovation is outstanding and the ability of the vestry and leadership in negotiating all of the various curve balls that are part and parcel in any construction project has been unparalleled.  My advice to any parish considering a major renovation:  call St. John the Baptist, York and invite their guidance.
the chancel of St. John the Baptist, York

St. John the Baptist (on the rood screen)

It was a full day.  We finished with a vestry conversation which affirmed for me the faithfulness of the people of our diocese on a local level ... and  the need for our diocesan leadership to work towards a greater awareness of each other and diocesan unity.  We are the Body of Christ-  both in our congregations and also as a diocese.  One of my goals is to enhance our understanding of that larger body.  A “body building” program, you might say.

Time for the Sunday afternoon pilgrimage to Wegman’s where I hope to find a special Father’s Day steak to toss on the grill.

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