A little more than 2 weeks later... more adventures!
I finished up the class I was auditing at Union... I actually enjoyed the last few days the most, because the students gave presentations on books they had read, ranging from a feminist perspective of the Gospels and Paul, to one concerning Revelations and African-American religion. People had picked different books to read so I wasn't behind in anything, and we had really good discussions about the issues the presentations provoked. Everyone was so nice and really made it fun for me to be there.
I finished out the week with Eleanor while the swine flu was ebbing away from my original house (all affected are fine!) and really enjoyed getting the chance to stay with her and get to know her better (and sample-- by that I mean eat 3 with every meal-- her amazing oatmeal cookies with almond icing!). I moved back to Ann and Bob's nearly 2 weeks ago and they've also been out of town, so I enjoyed a week with just me and Samson at the house. This dog is hilarious. I have nicknamed him Samsonox (Samson...Knox). I love him.
Eleanor had the privilege (haha) of watching the 2009 NBA Draft with me, and I'm sure she now thinks I'm insane... I sat, never taking my eyes off the TV, punching my phone like crazy texting Kruse/Rachel/Carrie/Rachel/Mason/Dad/Rob/etc etc etc, shrieking every time Stephen was onscreen, muttering "oh my god oh my god" under my breath... you'd think it was a game or something. Later, at dinner, she prayed "Thank you for the passions of our hearts..." ...like Davidson basketball. Amen! (see blog below for more detail on that historic night)
I've gotten to see multiple Davidson folks which has been absolutely wonderful! Elizabeth came to stay the night on her way up to her job in NJ, and we had a great time going to get ice cream and then looking back at old Odyssey pictures... oh the memories! I talked with dear Ann on the phone, and then I got coffee with Sally a couple of days later; it was so good to catch up with her especially since I didn't get to see her at graduation. It's always so refreshing to see Davidson people outside of Davidson... like it makes it real somehow, in a different way than being on campus. And then I got to see Carrie last week when she came home from DC! We joined Eleanor, David, Carla/Brint and two other families for a 4th of July concert/picnic/fireworks extravaganza on a lovely green field near downtown. Afterwards, Carrie and I went back to the house and spent a good two hours watching MM15's excellent Davidson basketball highlight dvds-- first up 2009, which I'd gotten in the mail that day, and then, of cousre, 2008. I'm heading to DC to stay with her tomorrow and I'm planning to see Mike and Tory too, which will be great. Yay for seeing good friends!
As far as work goes, I've been at the office a good deal, trying to get a start on my sermon (July 19... AHHH) and also getting volunteer opportunities in place (which has been successful, YAY), and finishing up the book "Take This Bread"-- I'll be leading discussions about it during my last week here (read it, and watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PwKqzmnuEc). We have a staff meeting/lunch every week and those are full of laughter-- Doug, Roxanne, Carla, and me. I have discovered the joy of Ukrops ready-made paninis and mini chocolate chip cookies.
I've attended several more meetings at the church, including a Session meeting, and I also went to the first training we had for members who are going to be joining the Session as elders in August. It's a really great group and ranges from people in their first year at GPPC to folks with over 20 years of membership. I've made some visits, both on my own and with Carla, and have really enjoyed getting to meet people in that capacity as well. I've sung in 2 more Compline services, and am really thinking about trying to get a Compline tradition started at Davidson... it's just so refreshing, in a different way than Taize. It's really great to share in that. On Sunday I attended a panel discussion about vocation/call geared towards high schoolers that are at Union for a couple of weeks, but it was very interesting to hear people's stories about how they came to be where they are-- not just preachers, but actors/non-profit workers/Christian education leaders too. Leading in church has been going well... I feel comfortable up there and everyone has been very supportive. It's really neat-- I looked out at the congregation this past Sunday (my 5th) and realized I knew probably... two thirds of the people sitting out there. Not a huge crowd, but still! I've made so many connections.
I've just loved getting to know more people better in the congregation. I've gone out to dinner and over to people's houses and everyone has been so friendly and fun to be around. Josh got together a group of Union students for dinner one night, which was really fun, and the other night I went to Charlottesville for dinner (such a pretty little town! Its mall actually reminded me of Peterborough, but not effing freezing cold) with Andrew, Jess, and Noell. I've gone to the historic area of Church Hill twice-- once for dinner with Doug (music director) and his wife Jennifer, and a professor from Union and his wife. The next day, I went to see the reenactment of Patrick Henry's famous "GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!" speech at St. John's Church, the actual location of the speech (sometimes I do feel like I'm back in England... all this history!). The performance itself was really great... gave me shivers at some points! I still couldn't quite comprehend that I was in the SAME BUILDING that these words were first said... too much to take in. It's a performance that has been going on for over 30 years-- crazy! Beforehand, the organist of the church (which is still an active congregation) played for us, and my favorite part was when he played all 5 military "fight songs"-- Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force. It's kind of surprising how many I know... I know I've heard all of them before at least once. It really moved me to sing them (I think of my great-uncles, of my grandfather, of Joe, of Robert Reed, of Candler...) and they had veterans from each stand up for their particular song, which was also cool to see. I think one of the best things about our country is that we can argue against what we think our government is doing wrong, but I absolutely love singing patriotic songs. Anyway (can you tell this is a much more rambling blog than the first?), after the reenactment I went to dinner with some lovely older ladies from church at a woman's house in Church Hill that has a reallly cool "English basement"-- I think that's what it's called-- with the kitchen and dining room downstairs, nearly underground! Richmond reminds me a lot of New York in the sense that you drive through town and the types of houses and buildings and streets changes over and over again with hardly any sense to it, at least in my mind. It's cool. Last week, I had dinner with the Dails, a great family with husband/wife Davidson grads (woo hoo! I wore my PERFECTION shirt), and we went to Carytown, a really neat area of the city (I might describe it as a mixture of Decatur, Little 5, and Virginia Highlands)-- they have a store called For the Love of Chocolate and I think that every single city/town/street in the world should have one. It. is. AMAZING. The smell is unbelievable and they have every kind of chocolate... ever. I got a humongous peppermint patty with dark chocolate and it was SO good. Oh man. Then we went to dinner and they drove me around downtown, down Monument Avenue where there are all the statues of Confederate heroes (and Arthur Ashe... who I'd take over Jeff Davis any day)-- these monuments are pretty spectacular, no matter who they're dedicated to. It seemed very European. It is strange though-- I know Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, so obviously the war history there is much more visible-- Atlanta's certainly isn't as pointed, except for Stone Mountain (and the laser show, where Lee, Jackson, Davis, and whoever the 4th guy is charge off the mountain to "Dixie"...)-- and I guess the fact that it got burned to the ground has something to do with it too. But it's much easier to forget about the Civil War in Atlanta than it is in Richmond. We also went into the lobby of the Jefferson Hotel, which was beautiful. Earlier this week, I got to go to the James River again, but this time to an area with more rocks and rapids-- Heather and I went and had lunch there and lounged around for awhile (and got sunburned in the process) and it was just gorgeous! There were huge rocks to sit on and you could dip your hands and feet in the water at the same time... ahhh so refreshing. And on the 4th of July, David had a great cookout at his house, with about 15 people from church-- the kids played kickball (along with some adults!) and David read from the Declaration of Independence and we kept hearing fireworks and it was just a lovely night of friends and food.
Earlier that day, I went to The Palace (adult group home near the church) to help give out watermelon to the folks there and just to hang out with them for awhile. Re-met some of them that I recalled from Bingo Night, and met two new guys, Frankie and Jace, who were very talkative and enthusiastic. They want to start a choir over there, and Nurse Thomas (I believe that's her name) is going to be the director. I hope it works out, and I want to hear them. Nurse Thomas kept saying how they want to make it a better place to live, a better place to be, and it felt so uplifting to hear her say that because I can't imagine living anywhere near the conditions they do. How did they get here? Where are their families? What made them get to this point? These questions keep popping up in my head. And what moves me most about these people are that many of them still believe in a God. Inside the Palace, the first time I went there, I saw a paper chain taped to the wall that must have been from Thanksgiving-- and all of them were inscribed with things they were thankful for... health... God... And that blew me away. And so outside, eating watermelon on the 4th of July, Jace prayed. And... I just don't know if I could pray or believe if this was my life. Maybe I could, maybe I would. But it just bowls me over and moves me greatly that they can and they do and it means so much to them. "I'm proud of you, Jace," Nurse Thomas said when he finished (and she added some herself).
I definitely feel like it's normal to be here now, which is good-- driving places, knowing faces, feeling comfortable in the church... it's all fallen into place well. Everyone on staff continues to be fabulous and Carla is just wonderful. I could not ask for a better mentor and I'm so glad she came my way. It's very VERY strange that I only have 3 1/2 weeks left! And they're going to be extremely busy. But it's going to be a lot harder to leave than I may have ever thought... because these people are wonderful.