Sunday, March 28, 2010

Food, and Worship (and more Sara Miles)

Up half the night two nights in a row with a kid and his virus. Up again at 5:22 this morning in anticipation of the alarm, and the 6:20am pick-up headed for church and Palm Sunday Breakfast prep. I made batches and batches of Gingerbread Pancakes this morning for 80 or 90 congregants (who also ate French Toast and sausages and fruit); got a few good reports (always nice), and only had a couple administrative "fires" to put out before stumbling home and crashing for an hour.

Tonight: Timberwolves tickets, our first trip to Target Center with the boy. Hope he doesn't suffer a relapse from all the excitement. We're going with my friend Jon and his boy (also a first-timer) and who knows whether we'll even make it through a half. I'm still so tired my head is swimming.

I worked alongside a tall skinny guy with glasses named Chip, one of the Sunday School dads, not a guy we see much in the pews but a professional short-order cook and fairly amusing character. Though he complains about his wife ALOT, it's in a manner recognizably reminiscent of my husband's, and therefore oddly tolerable. Chip knows how to mix up the five-gallon bucket of eggs -- just like Sara Miles -- and set up for loaf after loaf of Wonderbread "French" toast. We started cooking at a little after 7am, had a nice supply laid in by 8:45am when people began arriving, were out of everything by 9:15am, hauled ass to replenish and wound up with too much by 9:45. But gauged the size of the crowd fairly accurately, so few eggs were wasted. Jon helped with dishes and around the dining room, Penny organized everyone into teams on fruit and beverages (and obsessed over the temperature of the syrup), Alison prepped fruit cups and wiped dishes, and so on. Some of the Sunday School students helped serve. Chip, not in a hurry to head upstairs, relaxed by washing utensils and bowls and pans after we shut down the kitchen for worship.

I'm not a cooking pro by any means. I make great desserts. Left alone with a single task, like pancakes, I can figure out a system and turn out something tasty after an initial test-sample or two. But I like a recipe, and don't get turned on by meal preparation generally. I admire people who can set up in a kitchen, light a few burners and quietly turn out something great without seeming to strain or make mistakes. I especially admire the folks who cook the regular Monthly Community Dinners (attended by a larger crowd than this morning's), who know the recipes best suited for dining rooms of 100 or more, who can make a good hot meal without resorting to hot dogs and chili and spaghetti. (Foods I love, but poor loving when feeding the spiritually impoverished.) I am not confident enough in the kitchen to be watched -- I like a solitary project that takes a couple of hours. Holiday deserts. Breads, trifles, cheesecakes. That sort of thing.
In that way I am not one of the gang; as in most areas of my life, I'm just a little outside the gang, but I make an effort.

Yesterday at the office, while assembling worship bulletins, I YouTubed St. Gregory of Nyssa church in San Francisco, Miles' church, and spent an hour viewing clips from their Holy Week services -- a really appealing though slightly cloying mixture of traditional vestments, choirs chanting and incense burners with hippy tie-dyed robes, strings of paper cranes and Buddhist temple bells. (I also found Miles' website for The Food Pantry; unbelievably, that domain name was still around when they built the site.) I found our Palm Sunday/Passion reading and service today a bit stodgy by comparison, though I'm not really certain I'd want worship like St. Gregory's every week -- with the dancing around the altar during hymns, the lack of pews, the amateur drumming. But there is a passion for worship in those videos -- an emotional expression that transcends Protestant habits of restraint and codified ritual. On Maundy Thursday their sanctuary is filled with long tables of worshipers re-enacting the Last Supper, with bottles of wine and loaves and laughter as well as weeping. They lay tulips on the altar until they cover an icon of Christ crucified, and pass around baskets of hot cross buns during Good Friday service. They observe the Easter Vigil by candlelight, and raise Christ with praise on Easter morning. "We have two seasons at St. Gregory's" they say, "Easter, and Easter's coming."

All of this makes me think, makes me wonder.

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