For those of you who regularly check-in here, sorry for the absence. I have been slammed to the wall with the preparation for this past weekend's Mickee Faust Club cabaret show (which runs again next weekend). It has taken every ounce of my energy, and free time, to prepare for the show. And we had a PFLAG meeting. And I'm fighting with car insurance companies. And I need to file my taxes. You get my drift...
Oh, and I was asked to read at a wedding taking place at St. John's on Saturday afternoon. That meant attending the rehearsal Friday night before heading off to the Mickee Faust Clubhouse for opening night.
I only casually know the bride. She and I are friends on Facebook, so I was surprised and honored that I was asked to participate in the service. She attends St. John's and has heard me read lessons and lead prayers; hence I became a designated reader at her wedding.
I was asked to read a passage from the Song of Solomon, one of the most beautiful love poems and highly evocative books in the Old Testament. The Episcopal Church only designates one reading from that book for weddings, which I think is strange because there are lots of places in the Song that would be appropriate. Jews, for example, use the portion which says, "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" for their weddings. The Episcopal Church chooses the part that talks about being "set as a seal upon my heart, a seal upon my arm." And how "many waters can not drench love." At the rehearsal, I read through my portion aloud and then went to sit down in the pew. One of the bridesmaids stopped me.
"Solomon? As in King Solomon?"
"Yes, I think that's who they are attributing that book to, yes."
"Y'know, he was a magician!"
This then led to an explanation of how Solomon wasn't Christian etc. etc. (which he wouldn't have been, since Christ came much later in the scheme of things...) I took note of the woman's necklace which appeared to be a faery star.
"Are you pagan?" I asked.
"Yes, for forty years!" This was followed with information about God and Goddess, something that she said took "too long to explain for you to understand."
"I know pagans, so I'm familiar with what you're talking about."
The woman seemed surprised and smiled. I was clearly not the kind of Christian she thought I was or perhaps had ever encountered before. After the rehearsal I made some more inquiry about her particular practice, and let her vent some more about what the Christians had done to the pagans throughout the course of time. Again, having friends and also having studied the history of the Church in EfM, I was not ignorant to those things that we have done that we perhaps ought not to have done. And I didn't want to get into a fight by reminding her that before Constantine decided Christianity was super cool, pagans were slaughtering those who were followers of "the Way." Those in power are always going to be the bad guys in the story.
The next day, the day of the wedding, the woman thanked me for having listened to her. She was glad that she had been allowed to express herself and that I had heard her out. I was glad that she was in that place and was hoping in my heart that if she felt so strongly about Solomon's pagan roots, then she might hear the inherent paganism in the words I was reading and maybe take some of that away with her.
Thinking more on her, I could understand how someone who is viewed with disdain and distrust by the local clergy, as I have learned through recent conversations, would have been on edge and arriving at the church with a chip firmly in place on shoulder. What she didn't realize is that, as a lesbian, I was also,oddly, an outsider in this setting. Even though this is my church, and my tradition, this particular sacrament is one in which I am routinely told through the language, "You are not welcome." And when you live in Florida, a state where the voters decided to prohibit marriage equality in the constitution, every mention of joining the "man" and the "woman" in the service is like another slap across my cheek. But then, Jesus did say if you are slapped on one cheek, offer the other. Not as an act of pure passivity, but as a show of passive resistance to the prevailing Roman authority of the day, who would have been shamed for slapping a second time.
And the Romans were pagan, she writes with a sly smile.
Some of my concerns with our wedding sacrament will likely be addressed by the delegates at the General Convention this summer. Or at least they will be addressed for those people living in jurisdictions that have marriage equality. For those of us in places where we are second-class citizens, the actions of the national church will be a lovely show viewed through the gauzy haze of continued discrimination. And we will likely be the lost and forgotten ones as those in New York and Boston and Burlington and DC and Des Moines and Manchester and Hartford rejoice and sing a new song.
Some day, I hope that I will get to sing along in that chorus of "Free at last!" Some day.