No, I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West (though some may think so). I’m just a short, fat girl who has no tolerance for heat and humidity.
So it seems to me that God has a wicked sense of humor sometimes. I’ll explain. This is going to be a multi-part post, so if you find one part isn’t your cup of tea, please sample the others before passing by. They are connected, but can also stand alone – like most of us!
This weekend had a lot of big services and celebrations at my church. Saturday brought the ordination of the woman we have called to be our next priest. Since I serve as a lay Eucharistic minister (passing the chalice) and was participating in the service, I had to vest – cassock and surplice. Usually not a problem. I even got some lighter, new vestments recently.
This was a special day in the history of our parish. Never before had a priest been ordained in our church. We have had a past parishioner become a priest, then eventually a bishop in the Episcopal church. But never had we had the opportunity to celebrate the new life in God that ordination brings an individual.
All week the weatherpersons had been predicting rather damp weather until Friday morning. Then it was to become sunny by Friday afternoon. Saturday (ordination day) was going to be hot and humid, into the high 80’s or low 90’s. The next few days were to be about the same. The bandied about the term “heat wave” was though it was a great thing. They were obviously working in an air conditioned building.
Perhaps a few words about our church building are in order. We have a lovely old church, built in1870 and consecrated Jan 3, 1871. It was built by members of the Slater family – as in Samuel Slater, the spark behind the industrial revolution. After all, those God-fearing mill workers needed a place to worship. It had gas lights. It has an oil furnace now. It has beautiful stained-glass windows — that don’t open!! It does not have air conditioning . . . you can see where this is leading.
Back to the weather. We never did get the sun on Friday and it never did get really warm that day. I thanked God many, many times on Friday. I foolishly thought that, since it was relatively cool Friday night and the ordination was Saturday morning, we might make it through the service fairly comfortably. HA!! Although it was still a bit cloudy when I got up early Saturday morning, God saw fit to make it a beautiful, sunny day by 9 AM. As the clergy and lay participants gathered outside the church to await the formation of the procession, they started hunting for the bits of shade available. It began to get muggy and by 10 AM the temperature was well over 80.
We had planned for this, of course. We had small bottles of water available and small hand fans. But the church building retains heat well (great in the winter, but . . .), so as the sun baked the roof and nearly 200 people radiated heat on the inside, the temperature rose. I think it’s a good thing we didn’t have a thermometer inside for people to see the temperature. It would have made them even hotter.
The service itself was beautiful!! Well planned, well executed, full of the Holy Spirit. And we did manage to complete it without anyone fainting – not even poor old heat-intolerant me.
The reception was steamier. We have a parish hall that has two floors. Although the upstairs hall had the added ambiance of the “Slater Silver Service” being used to serve tea, I opted for the lower hall (same food, sans tea service). Since the lower hall in partly below ground, it tends to stay cooler. I wandered upstairs once to look for someone – big mistake – and decided that it was probably 10-15 degrees hotter up there. I got myself back downstairs as quickly as I could.
We have an air conditioner in our bedroom. With my fibromyalgia and sleep apnea and the CPAP mask I use every night to sleep, there is no way I could manage the hot, muggy weather without it. So when I woke up this morning, I thought – Hey, not it’s not so bad. Then I walked out of the bedroom. Oops – I must have been drifting in fibro fog for a second there. Dingbat! Of course it’s cool in the air conditioned room. The rest of the house – not so much. By the way, you’re really aching this morning after standing so much yesterday. Take some Motrin – it’ll help the pain and maybe it’ll keep your temperature down (after all, it works for fever).
Today is Sunday. It is my good fortune to be lay Eucharistic minister for this morning’s service. I truly mean that. I feel so blessed to be able to participate in worship in that way. This morning was particularly special because it was the first Mass celebrated by our new priest. She pronounced her first absolution of sin today and consecrated the Communion sacrament for the first time.
Gratefully, she was not so gung-ho on doing things “perfectly” that she insisted that everyone wear full vestments for the service. She wore an alb and stole. The acolytes and I wore our “street clothes.” I was really grateful. It was even hotter in the church this morning at 10 AM. Yesterday, I had remembered to bring a dainty little hankie to mop my brow. Today I forgot – must have been the heat frying my brain. Lucky for me, we had quilted paper towels in the rest room. The sweat was pouring off me. Without that paper towel, I’d have left puddles wherever I stood. I don’t remember the last time I sweat that much – oh yeah, last summer in church. But that time I had vestments on. Anyway, I don’t think the Motrin helped.
Fellowship and coffee hour followed – in the lower hall, of course. It felt so good, at least for a while. But HOT coffee? Where’s the iced tea?
When I got home, I spent a half hour in the air conditioned bedroom. The heat had made me a bit dizzy. Now that I’m cooled down a bit, I’m sitting at the computer in the living room with the fan blowing on me. It’s 85 inside and 85 outside, with not much breeze except for my fan.
The first thing I did when the computer woke up was to check my e-mail. One of the new items was my newsletter from ONE Spirit, the organization through which I sponsor my Lakota “godchild” and her family. It had a lot of news (or they wouldn’t call it a newsletter, I guess – duh). But it was the irony of the topics that really hit home today.
As I sat here sweltering in the face of the burgeoning heat wave, there were articles about: the Youth Ride (which occurred on Pine Ridge Rez during a blizzard in early May), how well the electric space heaters we sent to the rez last winter worked, and the need to raise funds for more space heaters (to supplement the propane gas many rez homes have – especially with the rising prices) for the coming winter.
It struck me as incredible that God would put that newsletter in my face at a time when I was so very uncomfortable and weary of the heat. Okay – God didn’t literally send the e-mail with the newsletter, but you know what I mean. How could I possibly think about heat on a day like today?!!
As I read the newsletter, I realized that you have to think about heat before it gets cold. And to be truthful, all I have been thinking about – or maybe I should say whining about – is the heat. As I looked at the photos from Pine Ridge, I remembered my visits there. The homes that weren’t insulated (some had holes in them). I remembered the kids that didn’t have winter coats and went out in tee shirts and thin coats at Christmastime in South Dakota. I remembered the young girl coming to a youth center to get some diapers for her baby because she couldn’t afford to buy any. I remembered my friends asking for help with the propane for heat last winter and help paying for food last week.
I decided that it would be a good thing to let you all know about the needs out on Pine Ridge Reservation NOW, while many of you feel the heat that I am feeling and can retreat to air conditioned homes, workplaces and cars. Since none of us can “bottle” this heat for use next winter, let it at least serve as a reminder that there are many who will have none when winter rolls around again.
So go on over to ONE Spirit’s web site ( www.nativeprogress.org ) and check out the newsletter and the photos. Imagine not being able to feed your family or keep them warm – not because you’re lazy or stupid or slothful, but because you were born into the “middle of nowhere” – a place that you love and that has been in your family for generations; a place where there are miles and miles between homes; a place where jobs are scarcer than hens’ teeth; a place where you have to walk most of the time because you can’t afford a reliable car, let alone the gas to power one.
I don’t feel guilty over the “white man” taking the land from the Indians. I didn’t do it. In fact, it was done before most of my ancestors got here. I do feel guilty over the condition we find them living in the United States of America in 2008D!! We are all experiencing financial pressures – due to the national economic climate or due to personal excess spending on stuff and nonsense. But truly, we don’t know what financial pressure is in comparison with those who live on the rez!
Does it sound like I’m preaching? Well, what do you expect after 2 sweltering church services in 2 days? And this is one sermon you’ll hear from me again and again and again . . .
I’m going to keep turning up the heat until you’re so hot you want to get rid of some of it – maybe then you’ll do something to keep our country’s first citizens warm and fed next winter.