It was not a normal Sunday.
For starters, I was at church for the early service, and my task was to assemble rainbow ribbon pins. In between fighting with right-handed scissors and stabbing myself with safety pins, I was listening to the musicians practice from inside the sanctuary, rather than from my office window.
Plonk-a plinka chinka, plonk-a ching!
Plonk-a plinka chinka, plonk-a ching!
The band, such as it was, gamely tried to find a key in which the novice guitar players and drummers could operate AND still not trash the range of the main singers, whose adolescent altos had not settled yet on which notes could make consistent appearances. They were all trying their best. Then there was the matter of the lyrics that needed singing, and that was the point at which my jaw dropped, because it was clear that none of the people in this band knew them unless they were reading the printouts.
…Chances are, if you’re in the target audience for this blog, the mere snippet of lyrics in the post title and the banjo riff have been enough to evoke the earworm.
All together, now: 1, 2, 3 —
Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide… [Paul Williams, 1979]
We don’t think about where to take a breath, or which words fit to which strum in the music: you hear the intro, you inhale, you sing.
No, this isn’t usual church music. The early service is a casual event, with kid-friendly music, a short sermonette, and sometimes communion. The week’s theme was a celebration of this church’s inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered folk in the congregation….
The service starts, and we work out a system for getting as many programs and ribbons handed out as possible. Rainbow stoles decorate the sanctuary and assorted people in the pews. The music is joyful. Then the pastor calls for everyone to form a circle outside the rows of pews for communion, and the elders move forward down the center aisle to collect the elements.
Two elders. I know they need four to carry everything.
A third elder taps my partner on shoulder, and gestures: Come with me!
And off they go down the aisle, probably before she realizes what’s she’s been summoned to do. I can’t hear her protests, but I know exactly what they are: “I’m not a minister!” [as would be proper for her home tradition…] “I’m not even a member here!” [which you think might have let her off the hook…] I explain this to the person standing next to me, who asks if I wanted to go switch places.
“No,” I say, “I’d just start to cry.”
The service and the actions wouldn’t be emotionally charged for me if I didn’t take them seriously, and yet I want the church to change enough to let me serve ‘legally’. That’s the big contradiction in a nutshell. For me the rituals matter, even if we’re just pretty much passing around mini-shot glasses of grape juice. My parents have served as elders for decades. I used to help train youth delegates for major meetings [my tradition is very fond of Robert’s Rules of Order]. Despite my skepticism about many things, I have occasionally considered attending seminary. [There are obvious overlaps here with “If I didn’t take marriage seriously, it wouldn’t be such a big deal whether or not the law recognized the genuine structure of my family.”]
The specific tenets of religion don’t always ‘work’ for me, but I do believe that while human organizations have set up elaborate iron gates between me and service the supposed Gatekeeper keeps right on smiling and pointing to a wide open entryway that the organizations are trying hard not to notice. “Over here! Come with me!”
It was a wonderful upside-down moment to watch someone who didn’t think she had the right to serve Communion do so at spontaneous invitation.
I don’t think I’d stretch the scripture to say “And a little Frog will lead them”, but the song fit the spirit of the day beautifully.
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