Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday 2014

"It was certainly our sickness that he carried, 
and our sufferings that he bore, 
but we thought him afflicted, 
struck down by God and tormented." 

-- Isaiah 53:4

This is the graphic from Episcopal Church of the Ascension's Good Friday bulletin.

We attended the 7:30 service; there was also a noon.  This is our first Holy Week at Ascension, we started attending in July.  

It was an interesting combination of Wednesday's Tenebrae service -- including the responsive reading of a Psalm -- and last Sunday's Palm Sunday (Sunday of the Passion) service -- including another dramatic reading of the Passion.  

It was strange and hard to see the altar and all behind it stripped bare -- especially as last night's Stripping of the Altar (at the end of the Maundy Thursday service) had so powerfully reminded me of the closing of Episcopal and other churches, including my own home church back in Boston.  How much more so, to see the more than half life-size plain wooden crucifix lying against it.  I noticed that the Book Of Common Prayer said that you could bring it in at some point during the service, but I don't think that that would be good, or at least not as good.

It was also very striking to see the cupboard in the wall where part of the communion supplies are kept with its small wooden door wide open, revealing the empty white box of its inside, like a tiny tomb.  

I think a lot could be -- and probably has been -- done with Isaiah's description of the Lord's servant as 'ugly', "inhuman, his appearance unlike that of mortals", disabled, ill etc. (our first reading was 52:13 - 53:12, the Common English Bible version). 

I appreciated that the sermon started with a long bit about the anti-Semitism stemming from the misunderstanding of the Judean / Jewish authorities' role in Jesus' death.  

And of course it was all a very interesting way to begin Shabbat!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday 2014

Maundy Thursday 2014 at Episcopal Church of the Ascension.  The choir sings the Anthem at the Offertory (collection), “In A Borrowed Tomb” (text J. Paul Williams, music Patti Drennan).

“As servant, then, he knelt at their feet, at their feet,
As servant, then, he knelt at their feet;
As servant, then, he knelt, a servant’s towel for belt,
He showed the love he felt at their feet, at their feet,
He showed the love he felt at their feet.

“‘What I have done for you in my love, in my love,
What I have done for you in my love;
What I have done for you, so you are called to do,
To be a servant true in your love, in your love,
To be a servant true in your love.’”

What Wondrous Love Is This
Gather 2nd edition #295
Our Hymn at the Procession

This service was quite emotional and challenging for us – mostly unexpectedly so, and more so than any other part of Holy Week so far.  

This was partly because there was footwashing – in front of the altar, members washed each other’s feet as they felt called to; behind the pews, the priest washed the feet of anyone who wished it – but though we wanted to participate, we didn’t feel ready.  On the one hand, we know that's part of the point -- but on the other, we are still new to this church / Church, and to this ritual.  Julia has never been part of it, and I only have once -- at the late great Saint Luke's & Saint Margaret's, also known as "SLAM", a lovely little Episcopal church in Brighton / Allston MA that was closed a year after I began attending.  SLAM was in the parish where Rita Hester was murdered in 1998 -- leading to the creation of the international Transgender Day Of Remembrance -- was led by Rev. (Dr.) Cameron Partridge, one of only several out trans priests in the Episcopal Church, and was otherwise a rare and precious thing.  But the SLAM footwashing is actually a funny memory, too, as the water we used turned out to be far too cold!    

It was especially emotional and challenging -- and especially surprisingly so -- to witness the Stripping of the Altar, as we sang "Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom" over and over (Gather 2nd edition #293).  I was powerfully reminded of the past and potential closures of Episcopal and other churches, and so of course of SLAM again.  I didn't participate in any of the closure-preparation stripping at SLAM, though I was asked to, and I wish I had.  

In the silence afterwards, as the last things were stripped away, and we were free to stay or depart in silence, the little boy in the pew behind us, who had mostly been busy with the coloring books the church provides, asked his mother "Why are you crying?"  

As Julia said to me as we made our way home:  "Sometimes it's just a story...and sometimes it's real."

Here is the bulletin.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tenebrae (Shadows / Darkness) service 2014

We continued our Holy Week tonight with the Tenebrae (Shadows / Darkness) service at Episcopal Church of the Ascension.

It was our first Tenebrae ever, too. Very different, and very good. Our priest, Senior Warden, and Mission Area Leader for Worship led us through responsive readings of several Psalms, readings from Isaiah, Hebrews and John, and other texts, while gradually extinguishing the candelabra on the altar and the other lights. Then a great noise was made, the one candle that was hidden lit was restored to its place, and we all departed in silence. Here is the bulletin (the location of the soft copy is one of the little mysteries of the faith, so I’m experimenting with our home office; it's too large for Google Drive to preview, oy, but I'll figure that out or of course switch to the church's link if they upload).

The Tree Of Life necklace I wore is from the Goodwill Boston (MA) in Jamaica Plain last year – amber cabochons in six colors, sterling silver, black leather cord; no maker’s mark.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pesach / Passover 2014

Chag Sameach!!

This is our first Pesach / Passover living together.  We considered sedering at Bet Mishpachah (the queer shul of DC) or maybe elsewhere, but decided to celebrate at home.  I was tempted to overthink and overdo it -- as I so tend to! -- but didn't, instead keeping it pretty simple and spontaneous, and it turned out nicely.  I didn't even buy or unpack much, but put it together at the last minute from our recent supermarket finds -- including the good old free Maxwell House haggadah -- and things we already had around the house.  It did help that I've attended and co-led some seders, including the Pride Seder (held in June) invented by my home shul Congregation Am Tikva (the queer one of Boston).    

I had thought to try one of my new jars of gefilte fish tonight, but Julia's mum felt like Chinese food, and we decided to join her -- J and her mum have a tradition of Chinese delivery on Friday nights, and we half-joke that it makes my Jewish self feel more at home here.  We kept it otherwise informal too, and didn't seder per se, but talked about the process and the rest of Pesach -- partly at the request of J's mum, though she knows a fair amount.  The pastor at her former church was actually a former Jew who brought some of his traditions with him, including using matzah for communion and as a Sunday school snack with peanut butter. 

Here is our Pesach table:

A fringed cloth batiked with suns/moons and stars that I found at Boomerangs last year but hadn’t used yet;
Julia’s mum’s Pfaltzgraff Yorktowne plates, silverware and measuring cup (behind the seder plate flowers, containing the traditional salt water);
our seder plate – close-up photo and detailed description in a bit;
Manischewitz egg and Osem dark-chocolate-covered matzah;
Mullingar Pewter goblets depicting Queen Maeve and Brian Boru for our sparkling white grape juice and Miriam’s Well;
the dried purple flowers J's mum saved from the arrangement we took home from J's paternal Gran’s memorial event last month;
a stained-glass ball candle that belonged to my late Mum resting on J’s green glass ye olde Jamestown Virginia souvenir;
and the crosses we made from the palm leaves we were given at Palm Sunday yesterday (we’d never done it before, but found tutorials on YouTube).

Here is a close-up of our seder plate:

Again, the plate is one of Julia’s mum’s Pfaltzgraff Yorktowne ones.

Our maror / chazeret is spinach (though we actually eat it quite often);
Our charoset is cashews, dried apricot, date and cranberries, and a prune (my in-between-meals snacks, especially when I’m working away from home; Prune was one of my childhood nicknames because my name was June);
Our karpas is henbit deadnettle/ greater henbit from our yard in a Lenox crystal vase that was a prize at a dog show when J’s late father used to show dogs;
Our zeroa is two kinds of our dogter Ursula’s treats – a classic bone-shaped biscuit (which she got to eat afterwards, and we particularly like that it says “WOOF” because we’re Bear fans in the queer sense), and a Himalayan Dog Chew’s Yaky Nugget -- a sort of hard-candy made of yak and cow milk with lime juice and salt that you can microwave to make into a chewy puff;
Our beitzah is the usual hard-boiled egg (boiled with several others so we can make egg salad this week), and the egg cup is a panda one I found at Boomerangs for J's birthday;
And we have an orange, inspired by Susannah Heschel’s 1980s creation of a new tradition to further the inclusion of queer and other marginalized people (a Halo-brand orange, no less).

Our poor dogter Ursula didn’t appreciate being passed-over (ha!) for dessert – Osem dark-chocolate-covered matzah – not to mention everything else.  (She's a Pugston Terrier / Bugg -- a Boston Terrier / Pug mix, brindle with a white chest and paws.) 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday 2014

Palm Sunday (Sunday of the Passion) today at our church, Episcopal Church of the Ascension (Gaithersburg MD); just after we of the procession had seated ourselves amidst the rest of the congregation.  

This is our first Holy Week at AscensionJulia began attending in July, I accompanied her a bit during my visits, and then much more so since I moved here from Boston at the end of January.

As often, we chose the 11:15 service (as every Sunday there were several; we've only been to the 5:00). Along with parts of the English and Spanish congregations, we picked up our bulletins and palm leaves in the church, then gathered at our neighbor the new incarnation of Gaithersburg High School -- the previous was Julia's alma mater -- with Rev. Randy and Rev. Sister Elena Thompson (part of the interim leadership of our Spanish services).  There we started the service -- including reading Matthew 21:1-11 in English and Spanish, then processed singing and tambourining -- we were given small white and maroon plastic ones with silver zils – to the church's sanctuary.

Click here for the bulletin.  Highlights included the perfectly Summery Spring day after a very unusually Wintry Winter, half-joking with the other early bird couple at the high school about whether we were in the right place, comparing Pesach plans with another fellow congregant (Passover begins at sunset tomorrow), remembering / learning what else a burrito is, the tambourines reminding me of prophetess Miriam (Moses’ sister), a palm leaf tied into a cross* and attached to the head of the guitar -- we're going to learn how to tie our leaves into crosses too, the red threads of the red-and-purple Jerusalem crosses cross-stitched on the white altar cloths continuing into their fringes reminding me of tzitzit, a woman playing Jesus, another woman Passion player's little son playing the tambourine during every song in his pew -- and doing it well, and  yet another woman's red dress printed with large black and white ye olde keys.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Shabbat shalom and Steynovitz!

Shabbat shalom!!

Look at what we just received from the ever-astounding Marcia Garber! Thank you so much!!!!

The late Zamy Steynovitz’s “Shabbat Bouquet” (signed artist proof). Marcia had e-mailed us that she’d donated in our honor at Mass Trans Political Coalition (MTPC)’s annual benefit event Lawyers For Transgender Rights, and that she had something to send us, but we had no idea--! She saw this in the LTR silent auction and thought of us. And her enclosed card was lovely in every way as well.

And how especially bashert that it arrived as we were preparing to begin Shabbat, and in the same delivery as a flowering tree that Julia's mum had ordered!

Monday, April 7, 2014

TransEpiscopal fundraiser

TransEpiscopal, of which I am a grateful member, is fundraising to lift our work to the next level. TE is the organization for trans* and allied Episcopalians and has a special partnership with Integrity USA, the organization for LGBT people and allies in and around the Episcopal Church.  Click here to visit the below post on TE's blog.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Moving our work to the next level

Dear Friends:

In the last seven years, TransEpiscopal has achieved a number of remarkable successes. We have supported trans people throughout The Episcopal Church, brought trans people into the foreground of the church’s national conversation, built strong alliances with other progressive groups both within The Episcopal Church and in other denominations, and driven the passage of pro-transgender legislation at two General Conventions and in a number of diocesan conventions.

We have achieved all of this while remaining a small, informal, unincorporated organization without officers or formal rules. Our ability to do this has depended on the generosity of our members and friends, who have given unstintingly of their time, talent and treasure to keep us going.

We are now at a moment when we need to start building the material foundation that will hopefully take us to the next level. We currently have a few hundred dollars in our account with Integrity; against that, we owe $800 in dues to the Consultation, the umbrella group of progressive Episcopal organizations, covering last year as well as 2014. Beyond that, General Convention 2015 is only about 15 months away, and we still have much to do.

  • We need to encourage the church to fully assimilate and internalize the measures that it has already passed, particularly concerning nondiscrimination in access to ordained ministry and in the rights of the laity; 
  • We need to familiarize the church with non-binary gender identities, and help church leaders understand and welcome genderqueer people; 
  • We need to persuade the church to drop transgender health insurance exclusions for clergy and other employees, which remain a substantial barrier to trans people’s full participation in the life of the church; 
  • We need to help develop liturgy that will celebrate the experience of trans people. 

To do all this, we need to start rebuilding our finances soon and so we're asking for your help. Please go to TransEpiscopal’s Web site,, look for the donate button on the left side of the page, and make a contribution.

With your help, TransEpiscopal can continue to do God’s work.

Donna Cartwright