L is for

April 14, 2014


L is for…

Lent without church.

It was not intentional.  I know my responsibilities as an Anglican.  Certain events in the church are known as days of obligation—meaning you’re supposed to go.

But I missed Ash Wednesday this year.  I missed the beginning of Lent.

It wasn’t intentional, as I’ve said.  But scheduling and timing and traffic all conspired against me, and I couldn’t make it…and I’d missed my opportunity to go to an earlier service closer by at an unfamiliar church…and while I could have attended an even later service at a church near my house, it was the service my freshly unpartnered partner of 18 years was attending, and perhaps God disagrees, but I felt I needed to give space and give place.

And so I sat at home and felt bad, wrote, made phone calls.  I wasn’t stricken dead—I knew I wouldn’t be.  And anyway, no matter; I would go on Sunday, as usual.

Except I didn’t.

I didn’t go to church on the first Sunday in Lent.  I think I slept in, exhausted.  I think I stayed home.

I didn’t go to church on the second Sunday in Lent.  I think it was more of the same.  I was in the mood to drive and see the coast, so I did, never really alighting anywhere to write.

I didn’t go to church on the third Sunday in Lent.  I think I got up in time, but moved so slowly through my breakfast and newspaper that I ran out of time.  And anyway, I had just spent hours the day before at a parish quiet day, in which I’d done some good discussion with God, good reading, good writing.  I just made it to the Sunday matinee play, though, and then wrote at a bar with a friend.

I didn’t go to church on the fourth Sunday in Lent.  I was meeting for coffee with another friend whom I hadn’t seen in two years, and whose babies I adore, and our time extended far past what we’d planned.

I didn’t go to church on the fifth Sunday in Lent.  I was driving back from my spring break trip, back from paradise with precious dogs in tow, returning them to their master.  I had just had a surprisingly unpleasant brush with solitude and isolation, and the rest of the long drive was spent crying and praying, sobshouting with God, and long-talking with humans.

I didn’t go to church on Palm Sunday.  I had a tax appointment that went long.  But I made it to my writing appointment at the nearby British pub.

Today I find myself at a Holy Week silent retreat at St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo.  I attended this retreat a year ago and found it quite beneficial.  I have a little more hesitation this year, given that brush with near-madness in enforced separation over spring break; given that I’ve spent an entire Lenten season not really observing any disciplines beyond the food-, movement-, and writing-related disciplines I’d already taken on; given that I’ve not been attending church.

However, I’ve found, for whatever reasons, that I’ve been communicating with God more openly, more honestly, more frequently than I have in…well…perhaps ever.

I haven’t gone this long without experiencing the grace of the Sacrament (Holy Communion) in many years.  Today, at the Abbey’s noonday mass, I partook for the first time in over six weeks.  Nothing magical happened—I didn’t think it would.  But it felt right; and because I believe the Sacrament is grace, it is grace.

And along the way throughout this churchless Lent, I have found that grace comes in many forms, through many different conduits, and from many different directions, if only I am paying attention to see it.

I talked with a friend this morning before leaving for the retreat.  We were talking about how love is such an inadequate word to convey all that it actually entails.  She paused for a moment, then came back:

“Well, there is one word.  It says, Stop looking.  And just accept.  And that’s grace.   […]  No, grace is…grace is powerful shit.”

Indeed it is.

3 thoughts on “L is for

  1. Having gone through a separation from a long term pastor in which I chose to back off from the church we attended together, I understand that idea of finding something else that gets in the way. I am glad you have those you can turn to. In leaving my church, I left possible resources I my life. It took me years to find the place where I could feel that sense of worship in a church setting again. It took a church that opens its communion to all. It has been 3 off and on years since I began going there. Sometimes, there is a grief element in our lives that is a Lent all on its own.

  2. First of all, I’m a ministrer and I didn’t go to church once during Lent. Not this year, or last year. Thast’s my confession. I love God no less nor does He love me any less. What a relief.

    I really liked this statement “I have found that grace comes in many forms, through many different conduits, and from many different directions, if only I am paying attention to see it.”

    What a discovery. Sounds like your “Lent without church” was spiritually beneficial.

Overheard at a kiln: "The main teaching of all religions is, don't be a dick." You heard the man--comment away, but...you know...

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