I don't normally get all wigged out by Friday the 13th. But maybe I ought to start.
Since Fr. Lee Graham retired from actively serving as a celebrant at noon day services, Fridays have become a new adventure every week. Two weeks ago, I was standing in the clergy vesting room doing a one-minute speed read of the gospel of John to the priest who was filling in at the last minute and had no idea what the lessons were. Last week, our priest arrived from his day job of monitoring the closing hours of the legislative session and preached a decent homily... although it was on a reading and saint assigned for another day. That brings us to today.
Paschal candle lit. Check. Altar candles lit. Check. Lessons in Bible marked. Check.
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
(Where's the priest?)
I went into the vesting room. No priest. I went to the main office to inquire if anyone had seen the priest.
"No. Is he supposed to here?"
The rector-to-be was coming from his office, and I explained the situation. He looked extremely pained, especially when I asked if he was prepared to step in again. Clearly, he had somewhere else to be.
"Well, I am prepared to do Morning Prayer," I said. I'd actually done it that morning, but was willing to share it with the congregation at St. John's.
"No, just do the noon day service," says the rector-in-waiting.
OK. Back to the chapel where a half dozen people were waiting for the beginning of an Eucharistic service. So sorry to disappoint, but while I am licensed to be a chalice bearer, my duties are not that of a Eucharistic Visitor. And they are not allowed to consecrate the wafers and wine, either.
I quickly glanced at the order of service for Noon day. Much to my surprise, there were no instructions for any Scripture lessons anywhere. Too bad. I was personally attracted to the Ephesians reading that had been assigned for the Eucharist. After offering apologies to the gathered assembly for their lack of person in plastic collar due to some "missteps", I instructed everyone to turn to page 103 in the Book of Common Prayer. And off we went.
When we reached the point of intercessions, I did my standard MP invitation for people to offer prayers for themselves or others either out loud or silently. After a few beats, I bid that they remember the people who are unemployed and underemployed. This is a growing concern in our community thanks to the hatchet job done by the state legislature and Governor. I had come to church from having coffee with a friend who shared the woe of having been promoted, but with no pay raise and actually a pay cut because of the rise in health care costs and the requirement that state workers contribute to their own retirement fund. More work for less money. Great!
My prayer was answered with a few more people volunteering their own prayers out loud. Glancing at the service rubrics, I felt it was going to end much too abruptly under the circumstances. And so, thinking on my feet, I offered that people turn to page 101 and join in reciting the General Thanksgiving. We did. We blessed the Lord. And I gave a dismissal. Lights out.
It wasn't what folks had come for, and yet everyone seemed to be OK, and at least nobody walked out. God was praised, and that's what was important.
Certainly, I felt God was with me. I didn't fall apart, or get too flummoxed even though I hadn't marked certain spots in my prayer book. And I don't think anyone would have known that I had never ever read the noon day office before! Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer: yes.
Still, I hope my services as the Friday noon day celebrant at St. John's will not be required again for awhile. Let's just leave that to a Friday the 13th phenomenon.