Sunday, February 27, 2011

view from the pew

i'm not a front pew sitter. left side, five pews from the back, right on the aisle is where you will find me on Sunday. But this weekend, at least for a little while, my view was from the front pew.

my friend melanie had the vision, and i joined her with a dozen other women to make it happen. We  planned for almost a year, to gather women in our church and their friends to celebrate story, the story found in each of us, as a way to connect to our God-created creative center.

and it finally happened. and  for two days we talked. shared. wrote. drew. listened. celebrated. sang. ate. wept. laughed.

patti digh, our keynote speaker, gave us challenges. one was to turn around to the person behind you and ask: what do you love to do? the young woman behind me looked lost when i asked her, had no clue how to answer this question. i'll tell you what i love to do, i said. make yeast rolls. get my hands in the dough. turns out she loved to dig in the dirt, and though the rabbits were eating everything she put out, we shared a love for peonies.

another exercise: look into the face of the person on the pew behind us. for two minutes. the woman behind me was elderly, my mother's age. as i stared into her green eyes, watched her eyebrows lift into sly smile, dip into frown, i pondered the story in her wrinkled skin.

then, patti said, said, close your eyes, think of your favorite childhood game, your first love, a place where you feel safe. open your eyes. see the woman before you. she has the same remarkable story as you. introduce yourself.

i asked carmen, my new friend, about herself. she is the wife of a retired priest, was there with her daughter, and when i heard of her husband's occupation, looked at her name again, something struck. could she have spent time my hometown, been friends with my mother? yes, in fact, she did. was.

and there were other stories. a young woman with colored dreadlocks came from south carolina to meet patti digh. when she left, she left behind beautiful drawings to remind us of her presence. mothers who came with grown daughters. cancer survivors hoping for a fresh start. mothers caring for young children. others caring for aging parents. all eager to renew purpose in their lives. to learn how to live their lives as art.

jill staton bullard, was one of our breakout speakers. she started a movement when she watched a fast -food company throw out good food because the day shifted from breakfast to lunch. Jill asked this question of her group: tell each other about someone who has changed your life. the room soon filled with babble. next question will be harder, jill said: now tell each other about people whose lives you have changed. we don't own that one, she says. other speakers talked of the angels in their lives, how God works in the garden (i hoped my gardening friend was in that one), feeling God's presence in art, in the pew, in the world around you.

the weekend ended with a eucharist, a celebration of all things woman, with kites and candles,  hymns and wine, bread and prayer.

as i sang, i looked around, at my friends mel and barbara and martha on the pew beside me, lee and linda and sandy and charlotte in pews or standing all around, nell and patti, a generation apart, singing in unison from their own pew. somewhere behind me i knew were grace and diana and katherine, dawn and lynn and sally, frances and diane, marty and laurie and countless other women who are important to my life, and i could not keep from weeping.

it was the kites i noticed then. two young women, sisters — twins — flailing dove and spiral above as  all our heads lifted, watching them soar.


please check back tomorrow, as I will post more pictures.