Friday, June 13, 2008

Rural musings

I haven't posted in a loooooooooooong time; here's an update in the form of the paper that I wrote for my first Field Ed reflection paper:

I didn’t know what to expect, so I wore pearls. Classy, timeless, non-intimidating and uber-feminine. My greatest fear was of being “that girl.” I had heard that a former intern at the charge had worn a too-short skirt and had thus been asked to wear a robe when leading worship for the rest of the summer. There was no way I was going to suffer that embarrassment. I adjusted my knee-length skirt in the mirror, clasped my pearl necklace, and slipped my feet into my not-too-trendy, not-too-stodgy, medium height heels. There. Non-threatening, no cleavage and not too much leg. They should love me.
We drove down 15-501, unsure of where Durham actually stopped and bucolic proper began. It wasn’t hard to tell. The gas stations and food marts were quickly replaced with silos and barns right out of a Winslow Homer painting. It was beautiful: sweeping pastures, clear-as-glass ponds and white picket fences as far as you could see. I took it all in: packs of horses grazing, tobacco and soybeans planted in neat rows and even a group of farm animals gathered as if reenacting a scene from Orwell. And then I wondered: what in the world would it be like to live out here? Where’s the Target? Where do you get good coffee? How far do you have to drive to see your friends? It’s not that I disapproved of this life; it was just so stinking unfamiliar.
We turned into the gravel road that led to Union Grove United Methodist Church and I soon saw the appeal of this tiny, white church. It was set back from the road in a grove of trees that shaded it from the already harsh morning sun. When we got out of the car, the sweet smell of grass greeted us and a soft wind blew by. It was picturesque, serene and holy.
My first service at the charge took place at Union Grove that morning. I helped to lead worship in front of a congregation of about 8. Still, with such a small crowd, I stumbled over my words, rushed through the Scripture reading and sang all of the hymns completely out of tune. When it was time to stand and sing something that the bulletin called the “Gloria”, I looked at my husband in nervous uneasiness. What the heck was this? I know I’m not a super-Methodist by any means, but I thought I was pretty well versed. I knew the doxology and had a good hold on many common hymns; I even knew most of the Great Thanksgiving liturgy! So, I turned toward the cross (thankfully, away from the congregation) and moved my lips like I knew what was going on. Luckily, the service ended fairly smoothly and with no other major mishaps. After the service, we met the congregation. Everyone was welcoming and wonderful. I didn’t ask, but I think they approved of my skirt length and no one mentioned the sweat that formed on my forehead during the service.
We continued on to the 11:00 service at Rougemont UMC. By most standard, Rougemont is a small church, but compared to Union Grove, it is massive. My co-intern Rett helped lead worship at this service and I (quite content to be out of the spotlight for now) sat with my husband and observed the people and the feel of the church.
That first Sunday at Rougemont also marked my first church homecoming. Maybe I’m not as good of a Methodist as I thought, because I had no idea what comprised a church “homecoming.” In my mind, homecoming was relegated to high school and college realms and included things like pep rallies, football games and dances. At Rougemont, homecoming meant one thing: food.
As we gathered in the fellowship hall, it was clear that everyone had been planning and baking for a good part of the week. The long, checkered-table clothed tables were lined with casseroles, salads both fruit and otherwise, several choices of deviled eggs and at least four varieties of ham. I repeat, four varieties of ham. It took me awhile to get over that. I thought of ham as more of a sometimes food. But to the people of Rougemont, ham equals celebration.
As you might be able to guess, my first weeks at the Rougemont charge have not always been easy. I am not familiar with rural living, with the twang of southern accents, or the style of worship they enjoy. Too often, I have found myself criticizing one aspect of how they “do church” only to be quickly humbled by the obvious and tangible presence of Christ in their fellowship and care of one another.
Since that first Sunday, I have experienced 2 other homecoming lunches, learned to see the perks of country living, and am much improved on my singing of the Gloria. I have stopped stressing about wearing the perfect outfit or making the best impression. Most importantly, I have received the great gifts of hospitality and grace from all of the congregations as they help me navigate the tricky, but fulfilling course that it my first field ed placement. They have supported me through a surprise illness and surgery, written me letters of encouragement and opened their homes and lives to me. I may not yet completely understand rural life and ministry, I may never understand the need for four different types of ham at one lunch, but I am already forever grateful for the love and care of my country family.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

Hey boo - loved the post... about 55% for the beauty of the writing and the sentiment, and about 45% for the fact that you were able to tag a post with both "ham" and "pearls." Well done. :-)