02 May, 2009

Astonishing

It's astonishing to me that only one week ago tonight, I was having one of the more important nights of my professional life:

The official name change of our church to the Chico New Thought Center for Spiritual Living; and my installation in that community as their Pastor and Spiritual Leader.

How is it that such a seminal event can take place in ones life that requiring weeks of preparation of planning and then that event transpires so quickly that you can hardly believe a week has already passed? I am barely catching up with the glimmer let alone the thank you notes.

Before we moved to Chico, people always commented immediately "Chico? Yeah, that's the party town." They were right. Chicoans (and a whole bunch of robed up revs) know how to throw quite a party.

It was pouring rain last Friday night. Not what I would have chosen for this gala event but such as it was, it was perfect and the ions in the air added to the electricity. My friend Evelyn later comforted me by reminding me it was just "God juice blessing me." I remembered that God was pouring the blessing on me on the night of my Ordination in September, 2000, too. Hmm.

There were 20 + ministerial colleagues in attendance including dear long-time friends and new associates. Dr. Kenn Gordon, the president of International Centers for Spiritual Living flew in from Canada to be the keynote speaker and "installer." Revs. Bonnie Rose (now from Ventura CSL) and Marc Laponce, were both my buddies from North Hollywood Church of Religious Science. My Anam Cara, Rev. Michael Kearney came in from Palm Springs; Rev. Georgia Prescott from West Sacramento Center for Spiritual Awareness; and the past president of United Church of Religious Science, Rev. Dr. Margaret Stortz joined the parade. Rounding out the processional were many of my new local ICSL colleagues: Revs. Bob Luckin and Judith Churchman from Redding; Rev. Christine Jeffers (who used to be the assistant minister in Chico) and Rev. Lani Howard, my fellow hybrid who would be installed the next day and many other ministers.

I was especially touched by the fact that I had several other 'civilian' friends who travelled north to be with me. From San Diego, Sunshine Johnson had arrived on Wednesday and in her gregarious and generous way, had already put herself to work helping the teams set up. Ken and Jeannie Brown flew in from Carlsbad on Friday. And two people who I have known since being in the Glendale Church in the late 80s, Joy & Lorin Cary drove up from Cambria on Friday to stay the weekend.

The decorations were glorious. Daisies were present everywhere and were even strewn by our flower girl, Macy Boyle who walked down the aisle before the procession of ministers. Everyone was dressed up including our Choir wearing elegant black finery to match our black robes.

And speaking of the Choir...they were awesome. They began the evening with the dramatic "Light Chant" written by the Drs. Beckwith-- I was so proud. All my invited presiding ministers were so well-behaved and professional and never shared any personal anecdotes. Whew.

The proceedings and readings and blessings, oh my...all went so quickly. It was no time at all before Dr. Kenn was 'charging' the congregation to embrace me as their pastor and I was being 'charged' embrace and accept my role and position. I was more than ready, willing and oh so very able. And in honor of my now being a fully-charged Eveready bunny of God, I had requested to have the ICSL Ordination stole included in the ceremony. As I am already an ordained United minister, it was important for me to accept the stole from the organization for whom I now pledge allegiance and this was an opportunity for The Stole Man (insert the theme song, Soul Man from Sam & Dave here) aka, my husband, Don Converse to join me on the stage to place the stole upon me.

Not long after I arrived at this church, I approached our wonderful musical director, Larry Sill and asked him if he could possibly create an arrangement of a song from the Broadway show, "Little Women" for my Installation ceremony. Larry said he would look into that for me and see if the extraordinary in-house songbirds, The Dalai Mamas would be willing to learn and perform the piece, Astonishing -both the title of the musical number and the performance.

In addition to the musical talent of Shelly Andrews, Joan Bacchus, Julia Bryant, Karen Kahn, Anne Pace and Kathryn Wright there was an added astonishing element. Just one week prior to this event, Shelly was at UC San Francisco having a gamma ray laser procedure on cancerous lesions in her brain.

Yes, you read that correctly. Shelly was dealing with a recurrence of cancer and having tumors removed a week ago and had already had one chemo treatment only days before.

These women never sounded better. They were singing from their hearts in a way in which could not have been predicted or rehearsed because not only were they offering a musical blessing to me and our congregation, they were singing the blessing that Shelly was with us.

There was nary a dry eye in the house and the majority of attendees did not even know the information about Shelly. Fortunately, for me, the ginormous size box of tissues was under my seat and I had no qualm about using them or sharing them.

Somehow I managed to return to the microphone and say a few words of acknowledgment and appreciation. Truth be told, I was nearly speechless. I made some lame comment parodying Sally Field's (in)famous Academy Award acceptance speech when she blurted out, "You like me. You really like me." I was humbled and well, astonished by the outpouring of love and joy of the evening and I didn't know what to say other than thank you.

The Choir sang "Thank God, for Being God" and Rev. Karen benedicted us before the recessional of ministers completed the ceremony.

It was over.
The ministers put on their street clothes. Guests filed over to the table to share refreshments and I didn't sit down again till we got home after 10:30 that night. I did feel a bit like Eliza Doolittle without the dancing.

There were wonderful people, hugs, music, cards, prezzies, smiles and a good time was had by all.

The funny thing is that I had worked myself up into almost a frenzy in advance of this night. I was nervous and anxious. It was kind of an ego trip in reverse. My little human self wanted to lay low and not have so much attention focused on me. Yet, I knew not only was this important to my spiritual community to share in this celebration, it was an important ceremonial event that would acknowledge in intention and ritual this rite of passage. My ego was squirming at the thought of this Big I.

And then it hit me as I was writing to my friend, Mel about the apprehension I felt surrouding my upcoming Big I (the Big Installation): this was about the Big I all right -- the big, I AM that I AM. It really had very little to do with the little human me, that I thought it was about. Once I was able to see and feel that the Big I was exactly what this night was about, I was able to step aside and allow this ceremony to be what it was meant to be . . .

. . Astonishing.


n.b.-If you are interested in reading about and supporting Shelly Andrews Buta, here is a link to her website:
http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/shellyandrewsbuta
This organization, Caring Bridge is a wonderful group doing wonderful work.

Also, a UCSL practitioner from San Diego has been severely impacted by the job market and today's economy and has asked me to post this link on my blog to allow people to lend their support to her as well:
http://www.digitalcharity.com/m.php?id=70517

Please remember that first and foremost what we teach in Science of Mind and Spirit is the power of prayer.
As both these women are practitioners of Religious Science, I know they would very much appreciate your prayers. In addition, I know that many of us are also moved to take action as well. Thank you.

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