IT'S DRIZZLING on my 55th birthday as I leave at 7:30 for the church, and I wonder what effect it will have on attendance at the three services, already down because of summer vacations. As I swing into the church driveway, I see that the doors haven't been unlocked by our building manager and that four or five early mass-goers are waiting patiently in the drizzle. Sunday
As I enter the nave, Steve is unlocking the doors. Nothing has been done by the altar guild to ready the chapel for the early mass, so I put out the altar service book and stand, plate, chalice and paten, cruets with wine and water and ciborium with bread, then light candles.
Reflect for the one-thousandth time that many laity want "power" in the church far more than they want responsibility for important details. Vest and lead the service. A good congregation in spite of rain and summer -- interestingly, all black save one.
In my office after the early service looking forward to a quiet hour of reflection on my sermon for the 10 a.m. service -- not quite satisfied with it as it came out at 8. Find a young woman waiting for me in tears. We talk of a personal trauma she's going through and finally we pray together; she leaves in better shape, but immediately it's time to hurry into the church and vest. A good congregation for the 10 a.m. service, not huge but encouraging. The sermon goes well.
Make sure the priest who is scheduled for the 12 o'clock mass is on hand and getting vested and then head for home. I find my car blocked in the parking lot and have to spend 15 minutes locating the car's owner (a parish member who knows better) who is working hard in the dining room serving the 400 poor people who have come for our free meal.
Home at 12:30 and a welcome cold, tall drink and a chance to talk with my wife, Lucila, and look over the paper. She's unable to keep herself in a chair for long since she's fully into her hostess role for the birthday party she's giving me that afternoon and evening. I put off hospital calling until the next day and clean up the front yard.
Wonderful party, incredible food and cake, good friends and animated conversation. The woman from the morning pastoral session is there (Lucila called her and asked her to come; she brought a warm loaf of homebaked bread).
Later, not able to unwind, I stay up too late watching TV after the kitchen cleanup. Monday
Time to get my newsletter column written between a staff meeting and phone calls. Main administration problem this morning is getting out the drifters who began living in the building when Vietnam veterans were hunger striking here three months ago. No problem except with one who's not a vet. He gives me an argument about leaving and I tell him he's got an hour before I get police officers to bust him for trespass. I go out to my car and he follows me, giving me a bad time. I lose my temper and slam the car door with the keys inside. Dispose of the troublemaker and waste 30 minutes with the neighborhood lockpicker trying to get in the car.
We fail, so I call Lucila and she agrees to ride the bus to the church so we can use her keys and take off for our dinner date.
The afternoon goes to writing grant proposals for new programs to better serve the neighborhood -- I think we'll get some of them -- then a letter asking repair of a wall damaged by construction near the church. Send word to the day care center director saying we're going to charge her $50 the next time her staff leaves the window air conditioners running overnight.
Dinner with Lu trying out a restaurant; food and service are disappointing.
Home to read the biblical texts for next Sunday and begin my "living all week with them" process to develop the sermon. Tuesday
Go to the National Cathedral offices for a conference on inner city mission strategy cooperation among St. Philip's in Anacostia, St. Stephen's in the 14th Street area and the diocese. Hopeful results, but again thoughts about what a shame it is so few parishes have any genuine interest in reaching out to poor people.
Picked up a mike stand to replace a stolen one and some breakfast bars to keep in my desk drawer for when I have to miss lunch.
Three pastoral sessions in the afternoon.
I'm somehow getting a name for being a precohabitational counselor (as distinguished from premarital counseling). This is a couple in the process of making the decision seriously to live together but not (at least yet) wanting to commit to marriage. This not the first counseling like this I've been asked to do and probably not the last.
A young woman who lives in a religious community is thinking of going on a four-day camping trip with a young man. Some of her community had come to her and challenged her about going on the trip. she wants to reflect with me about whether she ought to go and whether her community had any real right to challenge her about it.
An attractive black couple around 30, he a lawyer and a Baptist, she an artist and a Catholic, tentatively deciding to compromise (as many do) on the Episcopal Church and wanting to be married her later this year. I tell them that we take only matrimony every bit as seriously as either the RCs or the Baptists, but have different canons. We make a tentative agreement to do the wedding here in November.
Home in time to meet Lucila coming in from work. A birthday present from youngest daughter, a picture at 4 months of my new, first granddaughter, whom I haven't yet seen.
Evening at home; only three phone calls, one a pastoral emergency. Chance to sit quietly and talk with Lucila and to watch TV. To bed tonight at a sensible hour. Wednesday
More writing of grant proposals and work on draft of joint proposal to diocese with St. Philip's.
Presente with two enormous zucchinis from a neighborhood senior citizen garden. Briefly wonder if they had been ripped off someone else's garden, but don't think so.
Our part-time bookkeeper demonstrates a new check writing machine we've been given. He's very proud of it, but did my anxieties no good when he says, "Watch me print a check for $45," and then proceeds to print $450. A couple like that and we're finished.
Spend an hour with a fiftyish woman who escaped the Liberian revolution and has moved into this neighborhood. Asks me to take commumion to the husband of a Liberian friend, gravely ill in Georgetown Hospital. I'll go this afternoon.
A draining but hopeful session in the afternoon in a hospital room with a man who has nearly died from alcoholism. We pray together and I lay hands on him, joined by the family, as a healing ministry. I leave believing that he just might come out of it.
Lucila and I have the senio warden and a friend for dinner tonight. Stimulating conversation but not much covered between him and me about parish affairs so schedule another evening. Thursday
One interruption after another today, largely, because my assistant is off for two days. Main emergency this morning: A rally this evening in support of PATCO turns out to be scheduled to start before a wedding rehearsal, large and complicated, will get finished. Many phone calls and finally and shaky compromise which I don't think will work.
Also, the Washington Free Clinic is open until 10 and that means a stream of people.
Give the invocation at noon in the International Inn to a NAACP/labor/churches luncheon planning the Solidarity Day march Sept. 19 to demonstrate mounting opposition to Reagan policies. Come away having heard a rousingly good speech by a NAACP regional director, and encouraged by the large number of black clergy who turn out.
Arrange a new electrical supplies source on the way back to the church and say no to three prostitutes.
Find several emergencies and a ringing phone in the parish office. The nearby Catholic parish calls and I agree to join them in helping a man with two boys and a new job but no money or food.
Give a collegel professor out of work some supportive ministry time. Have a session with the director of the Washington Free Clinic about fund raising and we come up with some new ideas. If she can't find some big money quickly, it's going to be curtains for the free clinic, which would be a tragedy for the people who have no alternative.
Off to the wedding rehearsal and the PATCO support rally. Friday
Up on a ladder in the church this morning showing our building manager how to rewire a light fixture. We're changing many fixtures to fluorescent to fight rising energy costs.
Lunch with a graduate of a prestigious seminary of another denomination who wants to explore becoming a priest of the Episcopal Church.
Afternoon session with one of the seminarians assigned to st. Stephen's for field training. He was with us last fall, winter and spring and is outstanding.
Wedding at 6, a joyful, well-donw service. Then a real party of a reception over at Virginia Theological Seminary. Lucila involved in pouring wine. When we arrive home, the phone rings; it is a woman telling me her husband has been placed in intensive care. She and I pray on the phone. Saturday
Lucila and I call off our country trip so I can take the woman who called last night to the hospital. Then I spend the rest of the day doing chores around the house.