Friday, July 8, 2016

Lancaster County Three Day Immersion Excursion Day One: Getting my Amish On

This is the sunset at the end of a wonderful day spent learning about life and ministry in our Lancaster Convocation of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania...

and what a day it was.

At least a 3,000 calorie day, for sure.

We began the tour with a fabulous breakfast at St. Paul’s Church in Columbia where I was met by our Convocation Convener, and Rector of St. Paul’s, the Rev. J. Patrick Peters.  Patrick assembled a group of clergy and lay people from the Convocation and the local Roman Catholic priest from down the street for an amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, ham, pancakes, juice, fresh fruit and coffee.  Wow.  Apparently, St. Paul’s can turn out these breakfasts with one hand tied behind their backs-  they do it on a monthly basis for about 60 guests.  The church also hosts a very large food pantry (I saw it on my last visit to St. Paul’s) on the upper level of the parish hall; the parish has discerned a focus of feeding-  both the physical and spiritual types of feeding and nourishment- and does a wonderful job of both.

Our breakfast was followed by a short driving tour of Columbia, (I’m going to have to go back for my Turkey Hill Experience and a trip to the Clock Museum!) and we had a stop at the new, impressive River Trail Heritage Center where I learned about the railroad history of Columbia, the burning of the bridge in Civil war times (and the subsequent 5 bridges that have stood in the same place, since) and the phenomenon of the May Fly (something new to this New England native.)

The Rev. J. Patrick Peters at our breakfast at St. Paul’s

Our next stop was the new home of the Lancaster Council of Churches on Queen St. in Lancaster.  This impressive operation is a social services center that offers a variety of programs:  a food pantry par excellence (it is a 96 pallet facility with a giant walk in fridge and walk in freezer); a car “dealership” that makes low cost, used automobiles available to clients for purchase; a clothing distribution center; a special clothes closet for a PA WorkWear project,;and an Education Room where classes in personal finance and cooking classes for refugees and immigrants are held.  It’s pretty great.  The Director of Service Ministries, Lindsay Hess, gave our small group a tour of this sprawling place where 100 families a day are served and more than 160 local congregations assist the effort by volunteering and/or offering donations.
Clothing Distribution
Food Pantry Warehouse

Work Wear Project

We needed to keep our strength up- and so we headed over to St. John’s for a lovely luncheon prepared by the ECW of the parish. The Rev. John Morris, Rector, The Rev. Barbara Seras, Associate Priest and several other Lancaster Convocation clergy joined us for this relaxing and convivial hour.  We enjoyed a cold luncheon of shrimp salad, fresh blueberry muffins, cold brewed iced tea and rainbow sherbet.  It absolutely hit the spot on this blistering day.  We had a special treat in seeing Emma Di Pace, one of the youth from St. John’s, who came to help with the meal and spend a bit of time with us before heading out on a family trip to Italy tomorrow and then a  St. John’s J2A pilgrimage to Peru right after that!  

The ECW luncheon cooks at St. John’s, Lancaster

beautiful garden centerpieces at St. John’s luncheon

The Reverend Canon Stephen Casey and Mrs. Rayelenn Casey joined us at the Barshinger Cancer Center where we met Chaplain Pete Jupin and had a tour of this extraordinary facility that opened in 2013.  The Barshinger Center offers full service treatment for all types of out-patient and therapeutic cancer care in a compassionate, aesthetically stunning and peaceful setting.  We met Peter in front of the “green wall,” a hydroponic wall hosting ferns, ivies and other plants that lend a serene note to the surroundings right upon entering.  Peter talked about the challenges of ministering to patients in this facility where they come and go quickly, stopping in only for treatments and how the opportunities for connection are different than the usual chaplaincy jobs.  He also told us about the depth of relationship at Barshinger and how the team approach for holistic health and care extends to the spiritual care of the patient as well as the physical; Peter’s entres in to the lives of his patients may be brief, but the chaplain is considered an important , collaborative partner in the healing work of the center.  At Barshinger patients can receive acupuncture, massage, “image” or cosmetic care (including wigs, cap fittings, cosmetic application, manicure and pedicures), sit in the mediation center, stroll in the healing garden, eat at the cafe that serves locally grown and sourced foods, as well as receive the traditional radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  Here are some pictures 
of the center:

The new "cyber knife” radiation machine
The meditation room overlooking the healing garden

The Rev. Canon Stephen Casey and the “green wall”

Following the tour of the Barshinger center, it was time to re-group for the evening’s activities of a visit at an Amish farm and a service of Evening Prayer  at Bangor Church, Churchtown.

It’s hard to describe the Amish experience and do it justice. 

I have long had a fascination and respect for the Amish and their focused and hardworking approach to life, and their faith.  Years ago, I spent some time studying the Amish tradition and visited Lancaster County tp explore the culture and her people.  Our daughter designed a school project where she came to PA on a school vacation and lived with an Amish family for some time.  I find the dedication and community minded spirit of the Amish very attractive, but I am not naive about the isolation, the endless work and the difficulties that they face.  I told one of our companions today that I have an “Escape Fantasy” that features living on a Farm... but I know that it is much, much more difficult than I could ever imagine.

The farm that we visited this afternoon was a dairy farm-  about 70 head of cows/heifers and 45 acres of farm land.  We watched a few of the boys in the family work with their dad to prepare the cows for milking (while it is all “automatic” there is no short cut to cleaning the udders, hooking up the machines, pouring out the milk and getting around to all 70 cows... twice a day.)  We were invited inside- about 12 in our party- and we had a farm dinner of salad, roast beef, garden beans, zucchini casserole, garden new potatoes home baked bread, fresh chicken and... pie. Pie. Oh, the pie.  Apple. Lemon Sponge. Blueberry. With gobs of luscious, creamy vanilla ice cream.  It was delicious.

The peak of my Amish Evening was when the father of the family invited me and my husband to ride in the buggy back to Bangor Church. The family’s two daughters joined us ( ages 19 months and 9 years) and we had a delightful ride down a long country road, over a covered bridge ( no kidding!) and into the churchyard where the congregation was assembling for evening prayer. 

A note:  the Amish do not usually participate in having their pictures taken and so, in respect for them, their privacy and their way of life, I have declined using their names or posting photos of them, here.  We enjoyed good fellowship at the table and I had the best conversation in the back seat of the buggy with the 9 year old who told me matter-of-factly what it was like to go to school in a “plain” school with Mennonite and Amish kids.  She also reflected on life with several brothers (I could relate) and on having a little sister to chase after (I knew that, too.)

#55, a.k.a. “Rose.”

And then, the final event of the day-  Evening Prayer at Bangor Church in Churchtown ( the "Mother Church" of our Diocese) in a liturgical format using the Book of Common Prayer 1662 which is the prayer book that would have been in use in this church at the time of its founding in 1765.  

The Rev. Canon Mark A. Scheneman, who serves as the Priest in Charge at Bangor, (and has spent considerable time as an historic re-enacter)  was dressed in period costume and led us (along with his faithful clerke) through a grace-filled service that included a two lessons, the traditional “Mag” and “Nunc,” collects and the singing of two hymns in the Welsh style-  a cappella with men and women taking alternate verses.  In the solemnity of the day’s violence in Dallas, where 5 police officers were shot and killed, the congregation gathered in the candlelit church in Bangor took solace in God’s all powerful presence and healing balm.

The Clerke

The Country Parson and his bishop (minus her miter)

The Parson at prayer

the service bulletin

There’s another big day awaiting tomorrow-  and so, it is to bed.

With gratitude for the day’s blessings- people, places, deep faith-  and prayers for peace.


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