Poem for the New Year: “In the Candleroom at Saint Bartholomew’s on New Year’s Eve” By Heather Sellers

ImageThis poem moves me and impresses me with its sense of almost-but-not-quite arriving at connection. Everywhere I turn within the walls of this poem, I come face to face with human need and the world’s shortcomings in meeting that need. Mourning her mother, the speaker attempts throughout the poem to do a simple thing: light a candle. Instead, she finds herself confronted with failure and dampening hope. In the candle’s failure to light and in comparing herself to the other mourner’s open grief, the speaker sees the distance between herself and her mother, some final failure to connect or satisfy. Struggle, longing, and love are three threads tightly woven through stanzas of vivid detail and painful confession. Formally, the linked sounds, repetition, and snatches of rhythm give hints of the familiar, adding to a feeling of déjà vu that is mirrored by the narrative itself. The final stanzas push the walls of the cathedral outward, identifying this one speaker’s pain with a bigger wound shared by us all, and perhaps offering, there, the possibility of solace.

—Melissa Reeser Poulin [Read more…]

Stiff Necked Church Lady

red-pews-by-charles-clegg-on-flickrChurch Ladies.  Most of them are pretty darn good souls. They’re at the church every day, bent over pews, cleaning the sanctuary, baking pies, and keeping all the committees peopled. They’re also gorgeously individual souls with their own private concerns, loves, and extracurricular interests.

But everyone’s probably known at least one church lady like the iconic Church Lady rendered by Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live: easily scandalized and convinced that even benign things are the property of Satan.

I’ve been that Church Lady. [Read more…]

Eat

By Kelly Foster Lundquist

Episcopal ChurchSince birth, the rhythm of my week has been set by church.

Both my parents have held leadership positions in the varied churches we have attended over the years. In one of the many commonplaces of the evangelical testimony, I could easily say that I was indeed trained to be in church “every time the doors were open.”

In my adolescent years, that meant Sunday School, Morning Church, Sunday afternoon choir practice, Evening Church, Youth Group, and Wednesday night Bible Study.

When I went to college, I realized what I think many of my Christian peers began to realize at the same time: it takes quite a bit of effort against the inertia of life to make it to church on Sundays. And for a very long time, I wandered in and out of the occasional church the same way I wander into restaurants. Today I feel like Mexican. Next week maybe it will be Chinese. [Read more…]

The Cult of Emotion

6342521726_1709c6f3f5_zAs a newish, struggling Christian recovering from two years in a fundamentalist youth group, I committed to starting afresh in college. I was going to get fellowship right this time.

My high school church had been all about the rules: No secular music (unless oldies from the 1950s). No shorts with hems higher than the ends of your fingertips. No left-leaning politics.

But the people I met at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of California, Riverside, were all about the heart. As I started spending time in Bible studies where I learned to read the scriptures for myself, I wished I had understood all along that Christianity was about following Jesus, not a list of don’ts.

But even the heart seems to have some rules. The heart can quickly become an idol, our emotions, laws. [Read more…]

Pieces of Resistance

Stained Glass Window and LightWe’ve beat records for rain this year in central Minnesota. The sidewalks are pillowed with lilacs, and Saint Paul’s hundred-year-old storm sewers bring up syringes and squirrel tails and fish dropped by eagles over the Mississippi’s shore. The rain stains the sides of old high-rises; I love to walk in it and look at the patterns it makes, the grey sky that affirms the crumbling capital city’s true Goth self.

When the lightning peeks over the limestone cliffs that cup downtown, I calculate resistance to its strike: 100,000 ohms of denial mounted by the human body, less in bone, more in fat and muscle, but almost none when skin is wet. Water creates a parallel surface, an attractive conductor to lightning, but we work with what we’re given, our oscillations of resistance and susceptibility, and I walk faster.

I’ve been going to church lately. I hate church. I hate the pretend understanding of what is incomprehensible and ridiculous, I hate never knowing the proper procedure for any ritual, I hate that women are often treated as fractions of whole people, and I hate that I always drool my Communion wine.

I am judgmental and contemptuous in the absence of experience, a trait that keeps me frozen and perpetually terrified. [Read more…]