June 6, 2023

From the Rector…

Archibald, our male basset hound, has found his voice. His favorite game is to run from the backyard to the front window whenever someone walks or jogs by the house barking his head off all the way, Petunia fast on his heels. Archie has no idea whether he is barking at friend or foe. He has just gotten it into his head that his job is to bark and so his voice rings out for all the neighborhood to hear. I don’t really mind, actually I like it. He has a beautiful, deep, resonating quality to his bark. In his mind his bark gives him purpose. And in my mind, it lets anyone who might be lurking around with poor purpose know that we have big dogs. But, my favorite thing about Archie’s bark is that it often elicits Petunia’s bay.

Petunia has a terrible singing voice. Her bay is somewhat disturbing, but she is the only one in the house who can bay at this time and so we continue to encourage her to sing her heart out. Archie may run to the window to bark, but Petunia jumps up on the sofa as if it is a stage for her to perform. She perches on the edge and stretches out her throat giving call to her ancestor’s melodies though not very harmoniously. Often Cuthbert will get in on the act and attempt to sing along though he sounds like something between a dying coyote and fingernails down a chalkboard—I LOVE it! Obviously it is not the beauty of the music that the three of them aspire to make; it is the joy in their joining together to make an offering to the world. Archie may bark by himself, but the singing always happens in community. Archie’s bark is an invitation to gather.

The church offers invitations to gather. Every Sunday and on weekdays, before worship begins, we ring the bells. The ringing of the bells is a call to worship, a call for us to gather.  Everyone who hears the bells in our neighborhood knows something is happening at church—whether they are a member of CoA or not. Imagine what the world would be like if all the church bells were silenced. Maybe we wouldn’t notice, until we did, and then we would know that the world was a little less joyful, a little less hopeful without its bell-song. The bells are more than a call to gather, they bring hope and joy to a world that can easily fall to darkness.

Gathering together and hope seem to be connected in some way. Not because a dog barks and another bays or a bell rings and church begins, but because when we come together with one another, we are no longer alone. That may sound trivial, obvious, and elementary but after years of being told to stay at home, to not gather together, to be warry of others; it is time to remember that we are created in community—that we need one another for our good health be it physically, mentally, even spiritually. The quality of our gatherings matters but simply to gather with others—in whatever venue—reminds us of the purpose of human connection.

Of course I will tell you that gathering together at church in physical presence is one of the best ways in which to remember our purpose. But the importance of coming to church is not simply to fill up the pews. It is in the filling up of the pews and joining our voices one to another in worship and prayer, song and praise that we grow in the riches of God’s gifts to us. Those gifts encourage our hope and it is in the place of hope that we find the courage and strength to gather with others. 

When you aren’t present in church, the body of Christ feels a little lessened, a little weaker—it yearns for its other members and desires their presence. It is the start of summer—a time when we head to the lake and the beach and the mountains; when we travel and go overseas or across the country. Enjoy those opportunities, see new things, go on grand adventures. And, if you can, go to church and bring back a bulletin from wherever you may have gone to help us feel connected to our other Episcopal brothers and sisters. And, when you are home, come to church. Re-member yourself to the body of Christ that gathers and worships and celebrates one another at Ascension. We need you, we miss you when you aren’t here, and we love you always.

Light and Life,